Cole: Break has reaped dividends

After West Ham slumped to their sixth straight Premier League

defeat at home to Stoke, Zola gave his squad three days off to “get

out of the turbulence”. Zola returned to Sardinia to consider his

future but returned convinced he is the right man to lead West Ham

to safety. When the squad came back together ahead of last

weekend’s game at Everton there was a fresh determination that West

Ham hit rock bottom, that the only way was up. And West Ham have

since produced two performances packed with character and Cole is

convinced they have turned the corner. Zola’s men came from behind

twice to claim a vital point at Goodison Park and backed that

result up on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Sunderland. Cole said:

“The break was good. Sometimes you need a little break to get out

from the turbulence. “We had a lot of stuff thrown at us which is

sometimes unfair but sometimes you need criticism to progress. “We

just needed to get out of the mess we were in and we’ve done all

right in the last two games. “We were very resilient against

Sunderland and the whole team performance was quality. “I’ve got a

lot of praise for the team the way they did their shift and I’m

proud of us. I think we are on the route to doing what we set out

to do.” Cole barely got a holiday as he worked with the physios on

the knee injury that has plagued him this season but the squad

enjoyed a team-building night out. Full-back Jonathan Spector

agreed it was a valuable exercise. “We may have had some criticism

for it but I think the results we’ve had since then prove it was

the right decision,” said Spector. “The manager put his trust in us

and I think we paid him back. I think we all needed to get away and

clear our heads, come back and start afresh.” West Ham were missing

Scott Parker, their midfield inspiration, against Sunderland but

Mark Noble and Valon Behrami combined to fill the void with two

tireless engine-room performances. Cole provided the cushioned

header for his Brazilian strike partner Ilan to score the decisive

goal. West Ham had to hold on in a tense finale as Sunderland threw

everything at them in search of an equaliser but they dug deep and

survived. “This was a massive game for us today and I’m very proud

of the lads. These kind of games do turn your season around and

it’s been a long time coming,” said Cole. But Zola warned his

players the survival mission has only just begun. West Ham travel

to Anfield next Monday and then face a vital clash with relegation

rivals Wigan at Upton Park on April 24. “The team has found new

belief. We are just getting the best out of that. Yes it is a good

momentum – but to make the momentum that we want we need to keep on

top of that,” said Zola. “We have two very good results we are in a

better position but it is far away to say that it is done. We have

Liverpool next week and then Wigan and those two games will tell us

everything.” One more win would move West Ham on to 34 points and

Zola believes that could be enough to secure top flight survival –

but he will not count on it. “It might be enough but we will try to

get more. This is not a championship where you can say it is over.

Nobody was expecting Burnley to beat Hull City. We will stay on our

toes,” said Zola.