Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola is looking forward to giving some of his promising youngsters the chance to impress against West Bromwich Albion on Monday evening.

With Carlton Cole suspended and Jack Collison and Valon Behrami both out through injury, the West Ham United manger has the opportunity to field some of the younger members of his squad.

Freddie Sears and January signing Savio are possible contenders to come into the team, with the likes of Junior Stanislas and Josh Payne also waiting in the wings. Indeed, if Sears is named in Zola's starting XI it would be his first Barclays Premier League start since the 0-0 draw with Portsmouth in November.

The manager said: "Carlton Cole will be a big miss for us as he is a reference for everybody and one we will miss. But I like to take things as an opportunity all of the time so it is an opportunity to try to play a different way and to try a young player in his position and see what how he will cope.

"Freddie Sears has worked very hard over the last few days and he knows he has an opportunity and will try to take it and I am very confident he will take it."

With some players allowed to leave in January to gain more first-team football, the manager now has the option of blooding the next generation West Ham youngsters in the first team. The likes of James Tomkins and Jack Collison have already benefitted from a run of games and Sears and Savio could now follow suit.

"I don't like having players that were not playing regularly. That's why we decided to sell some players and give some players the opportunity to play elsewhere.

"I didn't plan that I was going to have Behrami injured or Collison injured, that is part of the football. But I believe that the team is good enough and the squad is good enough to end the season and achieve our objectives. It is an opportunity for me to see some young players and plan for the future. It is a good opportunity for me."

Since arriving in September, Zola and his coaching staff have been working hard on the fitness of the squad and the Italian is pleased by the results he is now seeing during matches.

"For what I was asking to do maybe they weren't ready. They used to be able to do it for 70 minutes but then the last 20 minutes they would drop it. There was a statistic that if West Ham games had ended in the 70th minute we would be third in the league. We are talking about five or six points that we dropped and it you add five or six points then you can get the right idea.

"The players are now more used to what we do. They respond well and have the mental strength and the physical strength to carry on until the end and that is making a big difference for us."

The club have the chance to reinstate their four-point cushion in seventh position in the table with a win tonight and Zola is keen for his side to grasp the possibility of a UEFA Europa League spot with both hands.

"When I arrived the aim was to finish ninth. Last year they came tenth and this year we want to arrive ninth. So far we are improving but we have an opportunity in front of us. When you have an objective you have to re-asses and set new objectives. Now we have the possibility to get seventh and to be in Europe and we will try to do that."