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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 23, 2008

Zola to stay true to Hammers' youth system

Gianfranco Zola is determined that his West Ham side will maintain a strong emphasis on youth.

The new Upton Park boss got off to the perfect start with a 3-1 victory over crisis-club Newcastle and will take his squad to Coca-Cola Championship side Watford for tonight's Carling Cup tie, where some of the younger players could be given a chance to impress.

From World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters through to current England internationals Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick, the Hammers' academy has a long tradition of producing top-quality players.

Midfielder Mark Noble, an England Under-21 international, is one first-team regular to have come up through the youth ranks, along with squad men Freddie Sears, Jack Collison and James Tomkins.

Zola - who worked with the Italy Under-21s before taking up his post at Upton Park - is determined for that conveyor belt to continue.

"I believe every club should have a strong youth foundation, and that was one of my main aspirations when I came here,'' he said. "I believe very strongly there should always be the possibility of allowing young players to come through to the first team.

"I know there are some good young players here and that the academy has produced many top players over the years.

"It is one of my dreams to give our young players the chance to play in our first team and become wonderful players for this club. It is part of the project I have taken on here as manager.''

West Ham impressed in Zola's first match, when they played some entertaining football to please the demanding Upton Park faithful.

However, the former Chelsea midfielder is ready to mix things up when needed.

"Obviously we want to play good football, to entertain the fans, but to get the victory at the same time,'' he said.

"However, sometimes that does not always go hand in hand - you have to, at times, try to just get the victory.

"But what we want to do, and will work at doing, is to play good football and get victories which will see us have success.''

West Ham will again be without striker Dean Ashton (ankle) and Craig Bellamy (hamstring/groin) is a doubt, while Carlton Cole is set to be rested after picking up a slight foot problem in a man-of-the-match display against Newcastle.

That means Sears is expected to be given a chance to impress.

Zola said: "For us, the Carling Cup is an important competition and we are going to try to be very competitive.

"We do not give anything away, so we are going to try to play as well as we can.''

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