Zola hoping to avoid injury jinx at West Ham

September 19, 2008

West Ham United manager Gianfranco Zola is hoping he will be luckier than his predecessor when it comes to injuries.

The Italian takes charge of a team for the first time tomorrow when the Hammers play host to Newcastle United.

Alan Curbishley, who walked out on the club earlier in the month after the sale of players without his full backing, often had to make do without experienced players through lack of fitness

Striker Dean Ashton has already been ruled out of tomorrow's clash and fellow forward Craig Bellamy is unlikely to feature either but Zola, who has brought in a new fitness coach, was confident he would fare better.

He said: "I know that at this club there have been a lot of injuries and we have been very unlucky. We have been working hard trying to improve this and with a bit of luck it will.

"I don't know the training system they had before and I don't want to say we had loads of injuries because of that. When Alan was here he did a great job and I hope I can carry on from that job."

Zola watched last week's 3-2 defeat at West Brom from the stands before taking charge on Monday and revealed he intended to sharpen up the Hammers in all areas.

He said: "Obviously you also have to keep a balance. The idea is to get to the point where we play offensive football as much as possible. But we also have to work on the defence.

"We are trying to look at things defensively but also passing the ball."

The Hammers finished 10th under Curbishley last term and Zola made it clear he expected better come May.

He said: "We need to improve on last season. That is our main target although I have just stepped into the job and I have to work on the team, so I can't say what the possibilities are.

"But I am sure that if the players carry on working as they have been, with spirit and attitude, then we can do a good job."

One area Zola has no plans to revamp concerns the players' diets.

He said: "I went to the canteen and I enjoyed the food very much so I don't want to change that part.

"I haven't had pie and mash yet but I hope I can have a big dish of it after Newcastle. They are very professional here in that way. The food is okay."