Zola calls on West Ham fans for help

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The Independent Online

Gianfranco Zola has called on West Ham fans to turn Upton Park into a fortress as he looks to make 2010 a year to remember by guiding the club to Barclays Premier League safety.

The Hammers produced another battling display in yesterday's FA Cup tie against Arsenal, but one which ultimately gave them no reward as the title-chasing Gunners fought back with two late goals to book their place in round four.

Zola, though, saw enough to convince him the players have both the required mental strength and ability to drag themselves clear of a relegation dogfight over the next five months.

Wolves - in 15th place, but only a point above the Irons - are the next visitors to the Boleyn Ground on Sunday.

"Against Portsmouth on Boxing Day, it was an unbelievable atmosphere," said Zola.

"I had friends over watching the game and afterwards they did not stop talking about it. We need that every time we play at home.

"We are going to have a tough run of matches for the rest of the season and we need to create that kind of atmosphere which has always made this place a fortress.

"We have to make teams think they are already one-nil down when they come to play us.

"Against Portsmouth and before that against Chelsea, the players felt that buzz and responded to it."

Alessandro Diamanti's fourth goal in five matches put the injury-hit Hammers ahead just before half-time, only for Arsenal to rally late on with an equaliser from the impressive Wales youngster Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo's headed winner.

Zola feels the Italian forward, signed from Livorno during the summer, epitomises the spirit needed.

"You see them on the pitch, the way they run and the way they chase," said the Hammers boss.

"There was a couple of times Diamanti was chasing back like a crazy man and that shows you how much the players care about this team."

Zola added: "I have told the players to continue what they are doing.

"We are getting to a point where all the hard work and commitment will come back to us.

"It is a matter of being strong mentally and I have no doubt we are destined for many good things.

"We will try to make it a good year for everybody.

"In my experience, every time something has been difficult in my life, I have always achieved what I was aiming for."

Youngsters Fabio Daprela, Frank Nouble and Anthony Edgar all made their debuts yesterday.

Zola is hoping to be able to have senior men Jonathan Spector, Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Jack Collison and Guille Franco back next weekend.

Carlton Cole, meanwhile, is making good progress from a knee injury.

"I don't want to force things," said Zola.

"I think [his return] will be sooner rather than later."

Off the pitch, West Ham continue to look for fresh investment and are confident there will be no need to cash in on the likes of England trio Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Cole during the January transfer window.

AsiaAir tycoon Tony Fernandes, a life-long Hammers fan and team principal of Lotus F1, has emerged as a serious contender to table an offer to current owners CB Holdings - a company arm of Icelandic investment bank Straumur.

Former Birmingham City co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold are also said to be ready to make a move, but only at a cut-price £50millon.

London-based Intermarket Group are also possible investors at the east London club.

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