Fingers Crossed

Trevor Brooking feels that the squad should be at its healthiest when Alan Pardew takes over - assuming there are no more injuries.

With Steve Lomas pencilled in for a reserve game comeback next week, and Michael Carrick returning to the frame against Derby recently, Trevor hopes that no further bad luck befalls the squad in terms of injuries.

"I would like to feel that by the end of this month we have a squad that is as strong as it has been so far this season," he says.

"Naturally then you have more difficult decisions - so it is just as well that I will probably be leaving those to Alan rather than myself!

"It is now a case for everyone when they get the chance to try and stake their claim because once you get Michael Carrick back and playing regularly, and Steve Lomas back, and we get one or two hiccups with suspensions out of the way, there will be a little more competition for places - especially if Alan brings in one or two players of his own."

Meanwhile, Trevor is wrestling with his options for Norwich with, of course, Jermain Defoe and David Connolly missing against the Canaries.

That leaves a new combination to play up front, and Trevor adds:

"From an attacking point of view Neil Mellor, Don Hutchison, and Richard Garcia are the three competing for places, and hopefully somebody emerges as really taking their chance.

"It is a case of where you go in the end; you can play with all three, or the two younger ones, or one younger one with the more experienced man.

"There are various options we can try and go with; we will make our decision on the night and hopefully over the 90 minutes we can try and get it right - but it is about the rest of the team contributing as well."

Neil Mellor accompanied David Connolly in attack against Derby in the absence of Jermain Defoe, but with David Connolly also suspended the smart money would be on Don Hutchison starting on Wednesday.

"Don has worked his way back to fitness after being out for a while - he came on for us at Derby, got an important goal and came on again for Scotland," says Trevor.

"We tried the the two up front at Derby which this time was Neil and Conners, and I thought they did quite well in the opening half an hour.

"Then, in the second half, we just went into a spell when the ball kept coming back a bit - whether because of the supply or whether Neil was getting a bit tired, I don't know.

"I just thought Hutch would help hold it up a bit better; I think he did quite well and came up with the bonus of the goal as well."

As it is Trevor's last week in charge, the hope is that his remarkable record - over 80% points per game - continues, and he says:

"I will enjoy it even more if we get a couple of decent results; it is an important week more than anything because if we can get our results right we can see what is going on elsewhere.

"Wigan and Sunderland also have two home games on the trot, West Brom are at home to Norwich after losing at home to Sheffield United, so that is another tough one.

"Sheffield United are at Millwall on Saturday but if we can take care of ourselves that is the main thing.

"Norwich have been unbeaten for quite a while since they got their two loan signings and with us being without our two main strikers it will be very difficult.

"I suppose it will be our toughest test; since Norwich got Crouch and Huckerby up front and Harper on the right, those three have certainly added to them from an attacking point of view.

"They are six or seven without a defeat and it will be difficult but it is an opportunity for others and if you are to do anything in this league you have to have cover in the squad."

The aim is, of course, to hand over to Alan Pardew a team that wins both this week's games, and Trevor adds:

"That has got to be the ultimate target; the home games are the ones you want to make the most of.

"Norwich themselves have won all five at home, we have won three and drawn two, so we want to try and win as many as we can.

"Certainly if we can get a result against Norwich with the two front lads out, knowing they are available on Saturday, everyone would go into that game on the up, so to speak.

"But if we don't get a performance tonight it puts more pressure on for Saturday.

"I watched Burnley lose 6-1 at Ipswich on Tuesday so at least I have had a look at them before they come to us but more than anything the priority is Norwich."