Zola confident of keeping stars

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West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola is determined to keep the likes of Dean Ashton and Matthew Upson at the club when the January transfer window opens.

With uncertainty behind the scenes at Upton Park due to the credit crunch and its impact on owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, there have been predictions of a fire sale. But although Zola is likely to sell players next month, he insists he will not part with key men such as Ashton or Upson.

"We will consider selling some of them but we are not going to sell the best players," he said. "They (Ashton and Upson) are among the best players we have."

He added: "This club wants to progress so we are not going to sell our best players. This is what I am told by the club and I trust the club 100%.

"Right now we don't need to bring anyone in. When everyone is back there will be many, so maybe some players will go away to play."

Zola is also ready to offer Herita Ilunga a permanent deal, despite the left-back suggesting he is using the club as a stepping stone.

Ilunga, on loan from French side Toulouse for the season, has insisted he is happy playing under Zola but also revealed ambitions to eventually play for a bigger club.

"I know Ilunga very well," Zola said. "He is totally committed to what he is doing here and his answers were taken in the wrong way. He is happy to be here and is looking to sign a contract with the club. As far as I'm concerned, he is a player I will try to sign."

Zola, meanwhile, has reflected on Roy Keane's departure at Sunderland and hopes fellow newcomers as managers will be given time to establish themselves.

"I am sure that he is going to be back soon stronger," Zola said. "Having said that, I know that in football now - even in this country - it's becoming more and more difficult to set up your own long-term project. People are expecting results straight away and I have to say, for the managers, it's becoming difficult."

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Matthew Upson
Premier League
Roy Keane
Dean Ashton
Gianfranco Zola

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