Parker's return boosts Zola

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The Independent Football

The return of Scott Parker and Carlton Cole's willingness to play despite continued problems with his knee provide a timely fillip for Gianfranco Zola as he seeks to ensure West Ham's survival in the Premier League before his seemingly inevitable departure from Upton Park next month.

There is a universal acceptance that the Italian will leave come the end of the season, and victory today against the visitors Wigan will at least offer him the chance of departing with the club's short-term future assured.

Parker has been Zola's most consistent player this season and his presence at the heart of the midfield after completing a two-game suspension should not be underestimated. "For this team, he is a reference point and when he is on the pitch he makes a big difference," Zola said.

Cole, who has not netted in nine league games but remains the club's leading scorer with nine goals, will play despite being less than fully fit. "Carlton hasn't scored for a while but he's keeping an important one back for us tomorrow, possibly a winner," said Zola hopefully. "I'm relying on that."

It has been a trying campaign at Upton Park, on and off the pitch. But three more points than Hull, who lie 18th, a significantly better goal difference – minus 19 to minus 40 – and better recent home form give West Ham an advantage that should be telling.

"It's a massive game," said Zola. "We have had so many problems this year. We don't know what's going to happen [at Hull] but it is important we focus on winning our game. That is the start."