No doubts for Zola

Gianfranco Zola is urging his West Ham United players to embrace the power of positive thinking ahead of Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to Aston Villa.

As a player, Zola focused both his body and mind on being the very best he could possibly be. Now, as a manager, he wants his players to do likewise.

In recent matches, despite the absence of a number of key players through injuries and suspension, the manager was overwhelmed with the never-say-die attitude adopted by his team.

Should they take the same approach to Villa Park, the manager believes, victory over Martin O'Neill's UEFA Champions League wannabes is an eminently achievable goal.

"I think that mentally, we are better and the team looks more convinced of its qualities and looks better," he confirmed. "The attitude has been spot, on even against Tottenham [Hotspur in the 2-0 defeat on 28 December]. We had some problems, but the attitude was amazing. I have seen that against Arsenal and Portsmouth, too."

"Football is a combination of many things - technical and tactical ability. but also psychology is a big issue that people sometimes don't take into account. It can make a big difference. My team has made a big progress in this respect."

Zola said the positive vibe within his squad had helped him through what has been, hitherto, a difficult season. Less than 18 months into his first full-time managerial job, the Hammers boss believes the current tests he and his players are undergoing have helped him mature ahead of time.

"Trust me, I am blessed as I am surrounded by wonderful players," he added. "I am new in the job and they have been very helpful. The way that they have conducted themselves is brilliant and I am blessed for that. They have helped me out a big deal. I have a very good job around me and they help me. It is a difficult job, but I don't feel lonely."

The collective spirit within the West Ham camp that is so evident to Zola will, the manager feels, be vital to both his own and the club's long-term success.

"It has proved to be much more difficult than expected," he admitted. "For sure, I am a much better manager than I would be if the job was easier. Trust me, I think that I have learned more this year than last year. There were ups and downs and difficult moments, but I enjoyed the outcome, as I know that I can feel I am getting experience for the next five years.

"It is certainly hard for me at the beginning as I am new to things but I am sure that the benefit will come later."

Having emerged from the small town of Oliena on the Italian island of Sicily to become one of the world's best footballers, Zola knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity. As such, he is determined to stamp out any feelings out doubt and lead West Ham up the Premier League table.

"It is normal when things are not going in the right direction, you doubt what you are doing. But then I go back in my history and I say 'Franco, you have been in so many difficult situations and you have always come through' and I rely on that. No matter what comes against me, I am going to come through and bounce back. I have no doubt.

"In this job, there are so many things that you need to look after and be good at. Sometimes it is the tactical side, and sometimes it is the psychology. I keep adjusting and getting better and better. I want to be top in this job. That is for sure. I work on every aspect on the game and one day I will be like that."