Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola is excited about the prospect of adding experience to his young squad this week - in the shape of a new face or two along with several key players coming back to fitness.

By the time the transfer window shuts at 5pm today, the manager will hope at the very least to have added Benni McCarthy to his forward line, while Guille Franco is getting closer to a full training return. The manager can also look forward to a full week's work with Herita Ilunga, Scott Parker, Kieron Dyer and Carlton Cole.

Parker and Cole were late arrivals against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday and, for all their efforts, were unable to inspire the team to more than the point earned from a goalless draw. Parker in particular opened up the visitors' defence with a late run only to see his cross fizz across the six-yard box with no one on the end.

Zola said: "When Scott came on he looked dangerous and did well. It is good to have Carlton and Scotty back. They will be so important next weekend at Burnley. This week they will train fully and that will be good for them. They will be all right for Saturday."

The manager is clear the older heads will be invaluable. The two England internationals were big plusses against Rovers but the manager was more than happy with the contribution of several youngsters on view, not least 18-year-old Frank Nouble and 20-year-old Freddie Sears.

"We are already a very young team," he acknowledged though when asked about the prospect of McCarthy in his attack at Burnley on Saturday. "We have a lot of young players in our squad so I think it is not wrong that we bring someone in with experience, with football knowledge and also goals."

He also spoke about the importance as well of easing the burden of expectation of top scorer Cole, who has battled so gamely to get back to fitness after two months out. "It will take pressure off him. A lot has been on his shoulders.

"It will give him good help and the opportunity to be more relaxed and also the opposition will not only have to look after one player. They will have to look after two and that is a big thing."

With the trip to Turf Moor coming up this weekend before Birmingham City arrive on Wednesday week, Zola knows there is potential for the team to put some real breathing space between themselves and the bottom three. "We are looking for a run of two or three games where we can push out of this situation," he said.

He claimed there would not be a repeat of the nervousness that appeared to affect Saturday's showing. "It won't happen again," he said, suggesting that encouraging the players to express themselves "with freedom" would be a major focus of the next few days.

The transfer window closing will allow him to do just that, adding to the considerable bonus of the ownership situation being resolved. Chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold are fully settled in and working hard in the transfer market. "It has been a busy month for me but we will see what we can do," concluded Zola.