Zola relaxed but ready

Gianfranco Zola has reiterated his relief that he is once again able to focus solely on football matters - starting with Tuesday night's game at Portsmouth.

David Gold and David Sullivan were announced as the club's new owners last week and the West Ham United manager has spoken publicly for the first time about having them at the helm. With a key run of games to come, Zola is well aware of the importance of a settled and stable atmosphere.

"It's positive for the club as we will have the stability we have been talking about for such a long time," he said. "I take it as a positive thing for everybody. We will see what happens but it is looking good.

"All the players are committed to what we are doing. They were feeling some uncertainty with all the speculation around, but the fact we are owned by people who want to keep everyone at the club and strengthen it is good for the morale of everybody.

"The main thing they've already done is to bring stability and to keep the players that were already in the team. That already has been a big thing.

"Now they are also trying to strengthen the team and that is good. I think they want to bring someone in and they are working hard to do that."

While there has been positive news off the pitch, Zola is hoping for more good news on it as Carlton Cole could make the matchday squad for the first time since the 28 November meeting with Burnley.

"It is very good, Cole might be on the bench. He has been training with me and he looks OK which is positive news because when you have him back it's a big lift for everybody.

"It is like a massive new signing for us as he's an important player. The whole team looked very good in training this morning."

The manager is hopeful of having Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabbidon and Kieron Dyer back in full training over the next week or so while Guille Franco is making progress from his muscle injury.

The Hammers last met Portsmouth on Boxing Day when they won 2-0 at the Boleyn Ground. It was not until Radoslav Kovac's late headed goal that the points were assured though, and Zola is predicting a similarly tough match at Fratton Park.

"It was a tough game but we did very well. I'm expecting it to be as tough as that on Tuesday but my team is prepared. We are ready to play every game but we will have a go and will see what the outcome is.

"Everyone knows it is a big chance and they have to perform. I am looking forward to the game."

Portsmouth are struggling at the foot of the table but are unbeaten in three games in all competitions and go into the fixture on the back of a 2-1 FA Cup victory over Sunderland at the weekend.

"For them it is a very important match and that is why we need to be careful as they are going to be fighting very hard. They are struggling and the game is vital for them. For us if we want to win, we must match that as we are fighting for our lives as well."

The Portsmouth match begins a run of six consecutive games against teams outside the top six and Zola is determined to take full advantage.

"We've got 17 games to go and the ones coming up are all against teams that are fighting like us. They all count so it will be a massive game."

With nobody having to leave and the transfer window closing in a week's time, Zola reiterated his desire to bring in some more firepower to help bolster his attack. He praised the efforts of the new chairmen in helping to achieve that goal.

"We need some strikers as that is the position that we lack more than anything and then we will see what else we can do but the priority is that.

"The club are looking for some reinforcements but we didn't speak about a budget. They are trying to strengthen the team and that is enough for me."