Zola looking for Rovers returns

Gianfranco Zola wants West Ham United to make a winning return to home soil after a couple of tricky away games got their 2010 Barclays Premier League schedule underway.

Zola's side play host to Sam Allardyce's Blackburn Rovers on Saturday hoping to maintain their unbeaten league start to the calendar year, following draws at Aston Villa and Portsmouth. The task of picking up a sixth win in eight league matches against Rovers could be made easier by the return of Herita Ilunga and Scott Parker to his matchday squad.

"Those two games were two games people were afraid of. The first one especially against Villa was a difficult one and the second one at Portsmouth was one of those games you couldn't lose.

"We did very well considering we had a few problems and it's a pity we didn't have more than one point. It's a kind of positiveness that is growing up with this team. We are getting stability on the pitch and off it. We have some players who are coming back from injuries who will give us an extra help."

Rovers have lost on their last ten visits to the Boleyn Ground and their attempts to make it eleventh-time lucky could be harmed by Carlton Cole's push for a place in the starting XI following his successful return from injury at Portsmouth.

"Carlton came on for 20 minutes the other day and looked very good and hopefully on Saturday he will play more than that. It is good that things are coming together and hopefully we will be pushing up soon.

"I haven't decided yet on whether he will start and I wouldn't say as I don't want to give Big Sam any advantages! We will see what to do on Saturday."

Zola is aware of the threat the Blackburn possess, however, and will be all too aware that they will be going for their third consecutive Premier League win.

"They are tough opponents and they work very hard. They will be fighting and I am expecting a difficult game. In the Premier League it is always the same story.

"You go to Portsmouth and you have to fight hard to get something from the game. I am expecting the same on Saturday."

Should Cole not quite be ready for a full 90 minutes, then the West Ham manager knows he can call on Frank Nouble once more, who has offered a pleasant "surprise" with his efforts in a lone-striking role.

"I see Frank Nouble doing very well. He has played the last two games and has got better and better and that is a good option for me.

"It is quite surprising as nobody expected him to do such a good job. We are considering it but have not decided yet."

Saturday starts a run of five consecutive fixtures against teams from outside the top eight, and a win for the Hammers could potentially lift them up to 13th in the Premier League table. A trip to Blackburn's Lancashire neighbours Burnley follows and Zola knows two positive results could have a major impact on the outlook for the rest of the season.

"When you are at the bottom, it is quite difficult. The table is quite close so if you pick up a couple of victories in the next few games then maybe you find yourself in the middle of the table.

"That position is good as I could find myself in the middle of the table with two victories. It will be down to focus and getting a couple of results and will form a positive cycle."

The West Ham United manger, who wished former CEO Scott Duxbury well following his departure from the club, has formed a strong bond with the club's new chairmen and is only looking forward with optimism.

"I have a commitment to the club and the players. I love the club and the players that I am working with, so I will keep my commitment to get this team safe. That is my target and priority.

"I am getting on with the new owners very well. They have their own mentality and their own way to work. They are respecting my wishes, they are close to me and that is the perfect way. We are all working trying to make this club successful and we are on the right way."

Zola also confirmed that Luis Jimenez was set to return to Italy and a deal for South Africa striker Benni McCarthy is "very close".

"The biggest thing is that we are not selling anybody. All the best players are here and we have players coming back from injury and that is the best buy for the club. It is great news for us."

When asked about interest in former team-mate Eidur Gudjohnsen, who had been linked with a move to the Boleyn Ground before his Friday switch to Tottenham Hotspur, Zola explained that he expects people to behave in the same way as he does.

"I keep saying that when I am dealing with people I expect that people in front of me to behave in a certain way - with respect. That wasn't the case so we move on. We have a lot of things that we can achieve and we can achieve them anyway."