Cole grateful for Zola support

Carlton Cole has praised the support of Gianfranco Zola as he looks to a playing return in the near future.

The England striker has stepped up his work this week and joined in with the rest of the squad on Friday morning for part of their session. With the manager talking positively at his media engagements about the 26-year-old's efforts to aid the cause, Cole said such backing played a big part in his determination to come back as soon as possible.

"Mister has been very positive as usual," Cole said. "He always is. He talks to me all the time, sees how I am doing. He is always positive and that's great. He is a major influence on me and I owe him a lot. That attention has helped make me a better player and person as well. He's very good with all of that."

Cole has not played since 28 November after limping out of the 5-3 win against Burnley with a knee injury. He has been a constant presence at Chadwell Heath ever since, arriving early and leaving late in a bid to get back. "I have come through the difficult bit.

"Now I have got to get my cardio work up and things like that. I want to make sure I am 100 per cent ready and not still catching up with anything when called upon.

"It's a relief as well that I didn't need an operation when I got my injury. I have been able to work on getting back and get over the injury without an operation. It just shows the staff here at West Ham have been working hard to get me fit and they have helped me to get where I am."