Manager eyes consistency

Gianfranco Zola is backing his West Ham United players to continue their recent improvement by beating Blackburn Rovers this afternoon.

The Hammers have picked up impressive draws in their last two Barclays Premier League matches at Aston Villa and Portsmouth, and the manager believes his team has more than enough quality to overcome Sam Allardyce's side at the Boleyn Ground.

A victory could lift West Ham to 13th place in the table and close the gap to eleventh-placed Rovers to just four points. With that in mind, Zola has labelled Saturday's game a 'six-pointer'. The last time the manager used that footballing cliché, his team responded by beating Portsmouth 2-0 on Boxing Day.

"It is a massive game for many reasons," said Zola. "We are playing better and it will give us, first of all, a consistency in results, and would be a massive thing for everybody involved in the club. Three points against a contender like Blackburn is going to mean a lot. It's a massive game. It's a six-pointer."

West Ham have enjoyed a good run against Blackburn at the Boleyn Ground in recent seasons. The Lancastrians failed to win on any of their last 14 visits - a run stretching back to April 1994.

Zola is hoping that record will stand his team in good stead this weekend. At the same time, the manager is also eyeing a stable future for the club on and off the pitch.

Having dealt with a host of off-field issues since arriving in east London in September 2008, he admitted that the successful takeover of the club by David Sullivan and David Gold had allowed him to sleep more easily at night.

With the likes of England striker Carlton Cole, influential midfielder Scott Parker and left-back Herita Ilunga on the verge of returning to his starting eleven, the manager is feeling upbeat.

"I've always been fighting against problems but that's the nature of the job I've had over here," he said. "I walked into a storm but if you go through the storm you can really say you are strong enough to face all the difficulties.

"Management is like anything else. If you don't give up, you get stronger. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger is what they say over here. That's the principle I'm following and that's it. We've had a lot of problems, but we're still alive and we're looking good."