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By ESPN Staff

Zola determined to stick to his principles

Gianfranco Zola insists he will not turn to 'anti-football'' to keep West Ham in the Premier League.

The Hammers are second from bottom in the table after a run of three straight defeats and the pressure is growing on Zola by the week.

The Italian preaches a free-flowing, attacking game but it may be proving his side's undoing as they continue to look porous in defence and without muscle up front in the absence of the injured Carlton Cole.

Some observers believe the east Londoners need to roll up their sleeves and dig out some results the ugly way, starting against league leaders Chelsea on Sunday, but Zola disagrees.

''West Ham want to play football in a certain way - they are not interested in playing differently and that's why they appointed me,'' he said. ''My job is to keep to that plan and get results. I don't see why you shouldn't play good football and not get results. Playing football is connected to getting results.

''The two things cannot be separated. If I play good football, am I going to lose? I don't think so.''

West Ham lost 3-1 at Bolton on Tuesday to slip further into the mire and Zola did not come out to face the press after that defeat, instead leaving media duties to assistant manager Steve Clarke.

Clarke claimed he should be blamed for the club's struggles this season, not the inexperienced Zola, who is in his first managerial position. But Zola is happy to shoulder the burden of the Hammers' current plight.

''Whatever happens here is my responsibility,'' said Zola, who has been in charge at Upton Park for 15 months. ''I am the guy in charge here and if anyone has to take the blame, it's me, nobody else. I appreciate what Steve was trying to do. It was nice, but it's not fair.

''The commitment that people are putting in in this situation has been top. But the team is not working, we haven't picked up the points we should have and I should have done better.''

Zola will be grateful for the return of Matthew Upson to his defence for Sunday's match against the Blues.

The centre-back, who returns from a hamstring problem, is one of four England internationals - the others being Cole, Scott Parker and Robert Green - who are being linked with moves away from Upton Park in the January transfer window, given West Ham's position in the league and the financial problems the club have.

Zola, however, insists the quartet are dedicated to the Hammers' cause.

''I believe these players are committed to what they are doing. I believe they care,'' he added. ''Their attitude tells me they are committed. They want to do a job for West Ham. I trust the players and I trust the men behind the players. I value them very much and they know that.

''I don't know what's going to happen (in January) but before then, I have four games and they are important games for me. My mind is focused on that.''

With the team having conceded eight goals in their last three matches, Upson's return is vital for Zola and the England defender should replace James Tomkins in the starting line-up.

Forward Luis Jimenez is also back from a muscle strain but Kieron Dyer, who came off against Bolton after just 21 minutes with a hamstring injury, is out for two to three weeks, according to Zola.

The former Italy striker added that top scorer Cole is making ''good progress'' as he bids to recover from a knee-ligament injury but the striker should still be sidelined until mid-January.


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