LONDON // Gianfranco Zola was full of praise for his 19-year-old midfielder Jack Collison after the Welsh international ended West Ham's barren run of five games without a win with the winner against Manchester City at Upton Park yesterday. The teenager ensured the hosts went away with maximum points with 25 minutes to go when he guided home a volley from close range after goalkeeper Shay Given had parried a curling effort from substitute Savio.
West Ham now find themselves seventh in the Premier League table and in serious contention for a place in the Uefa Cup next season, and their manager believes the likes of Collison can help them achieve just that. He said: "That is the beauty of football. Sometimes, if you have passion and if you have belief, you can be successful and I think Jack Collison is an example of all of that. Jack is unbelievable, he's getting better and better. He's 19 and he's playing nearly every week. He's got a very good attitude and he's going to get better and better. I feel very lucky to have him."
On West Ham's change in fortunes, he added: "We were playing very well but not getting results. But I'm a positive person and the players make me positive. I was confident we were going to pick up a game. I always look up the table, I always try to focus not on my problems but on the good things that can happen to me. Now we are seventh and we are going to try and stay there as long as possible. "If combinations are right for us we could go into Europe so we're going to be fighting to keep this spot." West Ham were, in fairness, the better side throughout, but City had their chances to take control of the game, most notably after quarter of an hour when Brazilian star Robinho shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
But despite a series of missed opportunities, Collison was on hand to give the East London club a crucial win in their quest for European football. And City manager Mark Hughes admitted his team were wasteful in front of goal, which ultimately cost them the points. He said: "It's frustrating because we created good chances in the game. With the talent we have we feel we can pick off teams in situations like that, but unfortunately West Ham scored first. But the least we deserved I think was a draw, if not a win."
The game was overshadowed by a serious injury to Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami who twisted a knee in a seemingly innocuous challenge and was carried off on a stretcher in agony just before half time. City's Brazilian striker Robinho also limped out towards the end, although his injury did not seem as serious. firstname.lastname@example.org