Upson ambition impresses Zola

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola is ready to convince Matthew Upson he can achieve all his England ambitions at Upton Park.

Upson, 29, has warned he may have to leave West Ham if they miss out on next season’s Europa Cup in order to maximise his chances of being involved in Fabio Capello’s 2010 World Cup squad.

Far from being concerned by Upson’s comments, Zola expressed admiration for his captain’s ambition and a belief he can lead the Hammers into Europe.

The Hammers will qualify for Europe for the first time since 2006 if they can hold off a late-season challenge from Fulham to retain seventh place in the Barclays Premier League.

“What Matthew said doesn’t concern me. In fact, it motivates me even more because if a player like Matthew Upson is saying something like that, he is pushing everyone in the right direction,” said Zola.

“I admire people like that. In life you have to be ambitious, you have to look forward all the time. Matthew Upson has that attitude and I like it.

“That is the kind of ambition that makes the player and the manager better. Matthew Upson has been incredible. He is one of the players we will rely on a lot in the future.

“We will talk to him and see that he can be happy staying here. I am the first one to believe that if a player is happy in what he is doing he performs much more.”

Asked directly whether West Ham will look to fend off interest from Premier League rivals by awarding Upson a new contract, Zola said: “We will see in the next few days.”

Zola is already planning the make-up of his squad for next season and this week completed the permanent signing of impressive left-back Herita Ilunga on a four-year deal from Toulouse.

The Congo international has played every league game since signing on an initial loan deal and Zola said: “For West Ham it is a great thing he has signed a long contract.”

With Carlton Cole injured and Craig Bellamy sold to Manchester City, West Ham have been struggling for goals in recent weeks, which has only increased Zola’s hunger to see the injured Dean Ashton back in the first team.

Ashton has not featured at all since Zola took charge at Upton Park.

“He would have made a big difference to us this year. He can give us something extra, especially with goals. We are looking forward to having him back soon,” said Zola.

“It would be fantastic if he could maybe play a game or two before the end of the season. It would be really great not only for him but for the supporters and for the club.

“His finishing is amazing. This team’s build-up is very good. Maybe we lack a little bit of finishing which is something Dean Ashton has in his blood so he would be the perfect player for us.”

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