Walsall playermanager Paul Merson appears to have finally given up on his side sneaking into the play-offs this season by starting to plan for another campaign in League One next term.

Merson had consistently refused to concede defeat in his side's attempt to gain promotion via the play-offs until yesterday.

But with Walsall ten points off the top six with 12 games remaining, Merson, whose side host Bradford City tomorrow, believes it is prudent to start preparing for another season in League One.

Merson plans to field a youthful line-up in his side's remaining games to help the likes of Kris Taylor, Daryl Taylor, Matty Fryatt and Mark Wright gain further experience.

"I have to give them a chance so they can get experience for next season in League One," said Merson, whose side lost 1-0 at leaders Luton Town on Tuesday.

"The more games they play, the more right decisions they will make in matches in the future.

"They did well the other night at Luton and there were several lads out there under 23 which it is only good for the club."

Aside from grooming the club's youngsters for next season, Merson also hopes to recruit three players on season-long loans for 2005-2006. The Saddlers boss wants his full complement of three long-term loans next term as new rules mean Football League clubs must operate within the same transfer window system as the Premiership.

One target is Southampton midfielder Andrew Surman, currently on loan at Bescot.

Merson said: "I've talked to Harry Redknapp at Southampton and I want to keep Surman for the rest of this season and next.

"If I can get a year-long loan next season then I will be happy. The plan is to settle Andrew in now so he can get to know the lads for next season really.

"Andrew is a talent but he needs a year in League One to toughen him up and he has to put on a bit of weight.

"Harry wants him to go out on loan regardless of what division they are in and it is important next season with the new rules we get three year-long loans in so it should work out.

"There is also a centre-half at Southampton who Harry rang me about who hopefully I can get for a month so we can see what he is like with a view to working something out next season."

Merson will be without Marvin Robinson and Mark Kinsella against Bradford tomorrow through injury, but Jorge Leit?o is expected to be fit. n Barnsley have completed the loan signing of 21-year-old Leeds United striker Simon Johnson until the end of the season. He is set to make his debut in tomorrow's home clash with Torquay United.