Zola pins Euro hopes on Hammers kids

Gianfranco Zola will put his faith in West Ham's latest batch of youngsters as he battles to keep the club's European hopes on track

By JONATHAN CLEGG

Gianfranco Zola will put his faith in West Ham's latest batch of youngsters as he battles to keep the club's European hopes on track.

The Hammers boss is facing up to a crippling injury crisis ahead of Sunderland's visit to Upton Park on Saturday after Carlton Cole became the latest first-team regular to join the club's casualty list.

Cole has been sent for further scans on the groin injury he suffered on England duty last weekend, while midfield duo Valon Behrami and Jack Collison have also been sidelined in recent weeks, leaving Zola to cope with a threadbare squad as he attempts to steer the Hammers towards European qualification.


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The shortage of numbers has already forced the West Ham manager to hand senior debuts to teenagers Junior Stanislas and Josh Payne, while 19-year-old defender Bondz N'gala was an unused substitute at Blackburn last week.

Now Zola has pledged to keep faith with the club's young guns amid the growing injury toll after insisting that his squad remains capable of securing a seventh-place league finish and a spot in next season's Europa League.

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"I believe that the team is good enough and the squad is good enough to end the season and achieve our objectives," Zola said.

"We are still there and have a few problems but we will see how they cope. It is a chance for me to see some young players and plan for the future. It is a good opportunity for me."

The Hammers boss added that he has no regrets about the decision to offload seven senior pros during the January transfer window, even though the club could now pay the price by missing out on a place in Europe.

He said: "In January we had something like 24 players and I don't like having players that are not playing regularly.

"That's why we decided to sell some players and give some players the opportunity to play. I didn't plan to have Behrami injured or Collison injured, but that is part of football.

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