Zola eyes fast start

Gianfranco Zola believes teamwork will be the key if West Ham United are to beat Chelsea on Saturday.

The Hammers manager takes his team to Stamford Bridge aiming to upset the club he called his own between 1996 and 2003 - and will do so boosted by the return of the fit-again Danny Gabbidon and Benni McCarthy.


To do so, Zola knows his players cannot afford to hand the initiative to the Blues, having learnt the lesson of giving Bolton Wanderers a two-goal start in last weekend's 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at the Boleyn Ground.

"It is important that, in the Premier League, you start the game very well because it really dictates the result a lot. The point I made was that when we played Hull City, after three minutes we pressed and created an opportunity. We got the ball back in their half and we scored a goal and we won 3-0.

"With Bolton it was exactly the opposite. The way that we started wasn't good enough and they won the game. They were better prepared for the game than us and they won the game. That was a big, big lesson, and it's going to be important to start properly."

With his team looking for their first away win since scoring a 2-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers on the season's opening day, the manager has called on his team to show both physical and mental strength against Carlo Ancelotti's title-chasers.

"One of the most important things is going to be the organisation, the desire to be a team. We need to play more like a team which, in my opinion, against Bolton we didn't do very well. That would be vital. We are in a situation where everybody has to play together and everybody has to work hard for each other. If we do that, then we have a very good chance.

"The mental thing is one of the most important things because everything you do starts in your mind first, so you have to be prepared. It's probably the most difficult thing, because the mind can be tricky, but that is what makes the difference between winning or losing, between achieving big things or not, between becoming a great team or being another average team."

Consistency has been hard to come by for West Ham on their travels, and Zola revealed that he has drummed into his players that they must concentrate from kick-off until the final whistle in every away match they play between now and the end of the season.

"We've been very, very inconsistent and very poor. I have no excuses really. It hasn't gone the way it should have gone. The point is that it is part of the past and we have ten games to go and I'm looking forward to getting some more points now that we need them.

"It's not going to be easy as we have difficult challenges ahead for us, but it's something we need to improve. We lost three important points against Bolton and we need to get them back and we're going to start tomorrow to look for those points."

Zola, who has set his team a target to secure Premier League safety, insisted there would be no room for sentiment this weekend - stressing "my commitment to West Ham is massive and total".

He said: "Personally I think 37 points should make it, but some people say less. I want to be sure and 37 would be a good target for us. I think we have enough quality here. We are a good team. I repeat, we are a good team but we have to improve, especially with our consistency.

"It would be fantastic for me to beat Chelsea because, in this situation, we need those points. For me and for my team, I think it would be a big boost if we could achieve that. It would be great."