Zola calls for support

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LONDON, February 9 – Under-pressure West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola has urged supporters to back his team as they continue their fight for Premier League survival in Wednesday's clash with Birmingham City here at Upton Park.The Italian’s job is looking precarious after new owners David Sullivan and David Gold watched their side concede two soft goals in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to fellow strugglers Burnley, plunging the Hammers into the relegation zone.

Despite the painful defeat, the former Chelsea player is convinced his team can turn their season around.

"Birmingham are having a great season but we will go into the match confident that we can take all three points," Zola told West Ham’s official website.

"Once again we will be counting on the fans to get behind us – although we know it is up to us to give them something to shout about.

"I have faith in my players and I can promise that we will give everything for the victory," the former Parma forward added.

West Ham had their fair share of opportunities at Turf Moor, offering some hope for their beleaguered boss.

"There are a lot of positives to take from the weekend," Zola said. "We created a lot of chances and we know the team is almost there. Our new players have settled in more and I am looking forward to it."

England centre-back Matthew Upson, who was at fault for the first Burnley goal, will be extra keen to see the Hammers pull themselves clear of danger in what promises to be his last season with the club.

Zola backed his defender to make amends when he comes up against his former employers.

"Mistakes happen and even good and experienced players can make them," said Zola. "He (Upson) has been excellent in the last few weeks and I’m sure he will make up for it."

Sullivan, who handed over the reins at Birmingham last year to Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung after 16 years in charge, said Upson was almost certain to leave at the end of the current campaign as the London club struggle to contain their 110 million pounds (171 million dollars) debt.

"If we can get a substantial sum for him then we’ve got to take it. It’s business sense," Sullivan told the People newspaper.

Forwards Mido and Ilan, who grabbed Saturday’s consolation goal, are in line to make their home debuts after signing loan deals last week.

South Africa striker Benni McCarthy should also be fit to make his first home appearance despite going off injured on Saturday.

Birmingham, in contrast to their upcoming hosts, have confounded critics who tipped them as relegation certainties at the start of the season.

Veteran striker Kevin Phillips netted twice in the last 10 minutes of Sunday’s derby match with Wolverhampton, consolidating City’s hold on an impressive eighth spot.

The former Sunderland forward hopes his brief appearance will convince manager Alex McLeish he could be the cutting edge his team has been missing.

"In football you soon get forgotten about when you`re not playing," Phillips said. "I believe I can still do a job in this league and I’ve shown that."

His manager promised Phillips he was still part of his plans.

"Kevin did a fantastic job when he came on but that was no surprise to me," the Scot said.

"He is a brilliant player with a great touch and an elusive quality in the box which you cannot teach.

"All I can say is that he will be in the squad as usual for West Ham and I will select a team then."

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