'Let's hear the passion'

Gianfranco Zola has backed the Boleyn Ground crowd to play a starring role in Saturday's Barclays Premier League match with Hull City.

The West Ham United manager believes the home fans can act as a 12th man and inspire the Hammers to victory over the Tigers.

Having secured an impressive 2-0 home win over Birmingham City last time out, Zola also stressed the importance of following up that success with another positive result on Saturday.

"This is a massive game because we don't need just one result now and then - we need to put some wins together. That would make a big, big thing for us, so Saturday is important not only in that sense, but also because we're playing against a team that is in pretty much the same situation of us. It's vital that we win this confrontation.

"The crowd is always very important but, in games like the one we're playing on Saturday, they are even more important. I think, if the crowd are passionate the way they always are, it will be massive for the players. They will pick it up straight away and they will respond.

"I think it is normal that the crowd shows you their feelings, but on Saturday, I think it is one of those games when the importance of it should mean they support us all the time, no matter what happens, and I'm sure they will do that.

"This crowd is very passionate. They care about the club and I'm sure they will be pushing us forward. That's what I'm looking for. The players will respond if they hear that support behind them. They will be buzzing."

With Bolton Wanderers due to visit east London on 6 March, the manager said everyone at the club was targeting six points from six from the club's next two home matches.

"The next two games are very important. We start on Saturday. It is a big opportunity because we can make a big step forward. It's going to have a big impact on the psychological side and also on the practical side, with the points we can pick up if we win, so I'm really looking forward to the match."

Zola said the arrival of new chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold had helped stabilise matters on and off the pitch, allowing him, his coaching staff and his players to focus their minds 100 per cent on collecting vital Premier League points.

"I think the situation is much better, yes. There is a better atmosphere. Everybody is more tuned in because there is not so much talking and speculation around us, and that is certainly helping the situation.

"We have more stability. We know what we're doing and we know where we're going. We need to perform better than we've been doing during the year. The players and staff are focused on that and the situation is improving."

On the injury front, the manager has been boosted by news that Mexico striker Guille Franco is fit to return following his recent leg injury, while Kieron Dyer has also been back in full training.

Unfortunately, Herita Ilunga has been ruled out until next month with a back problem, while Benni McCarthy will be unavailable for another couple of weeks due to the knee injury he suffered on his debut at Burnley a fortnight ago. Long-term absentees Danny Gabbidon,  Luis Boa Morte and Zavon Hines are also out.