Players deserve European berth, says Zola

PUBLISHED: 17:39 25 March 2009 | UPDATED: 14:13 05 October 2010

Gianfranco Zola insists West Ham are capable of securing European qualification this season as the race for seventh spot in the Premier League gathers pace

Gianfranco Zola insists West Ham are capable of securing European qualification this season as the race for seventh spot in the Premier League gathers pace.

The Hammers have slipped below Wigan in the battle for a Europa League berth after Zola's side were held to a draw by battling Blackburn.

But the Italian remains confident that the club can finish the season with a flourish and clinch a seventh-place finish by winning four of their final eight games.

Zola has set his club a target of 52 points to guarantee a spot in the revamped UEFA Cup and the Hammers boss believes a European place would be a fitting reward for his team's impressive displays during the campaign.

"Playing in Europe is a great thing and we will be trying everything we can this year to achieve that," Zola said.

"It would be a massive achievement for the players and they deserve to get a reward because the way they work is unbelievable.

"I believe 52 points should get you into seventh spot and we need to push because we want to achieve that estimate. If we want to go to Europe, we need to push ourselves hard because we have a few injuries.

"But it is achievable - you have to think that way. You have a target and you have to give everything to achieve that."

Zola has fond memories of participating in European competition, having lifted the UEFA Cup with Parma in 1995 and scored the winner for Chelsea in the Cup Winners' Cup final three years later during a decorated playing career.

Now he is desperate for his West Ham squad to enjoy similar highs by securing qualification for next season's Europa League, even though the Hammers boss is critical of the competition's new format.

"I played in Europe many years ago and I know how good it is to play in those competitions, not only for the silverware you can get, but for the players it is an opportunity to improve," he said.

"But what disappoints the managers is the format. It is wrong to play a league system, you should just have straight knock-outs. That would make it more competitive and more interesting for everybody.

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