West Ham manager Sam Allardyce admits he will be taking a “calculated risk” if he involves Andy Carroll in the Hammers’ crunch Barclays Premier League meeting with Cardiff.
The England international has not featured this season after struggling with a foot injury but could come to Allardyce’s rescue as the club look to end a torrid week with a victory in south Wales that could take them out of the bottom three.
Cup defeats at Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, by an aggregate score of 11-0, have piled the pressure on Allardyce.
A win would take West Ham above their hosts in the league though, Allardyce is prepared to take a chance on Carroll’s match-sharpness earlier than he would usually.
“Andy’s training okay,” Allardyce said.
“We have to talk to the lads who are looking after him. Whether he’s ready or not... it’ll be a calculated risk.
“If everything goes okay and according to plan, I’ll make a final decision from the information I get.
“He’s feeling fine and training well, but he’s not played since last May. He’ll not have his match-fitness. Ideally, we’d like to progress it a little slower but, based on the circumstances and where we are, it’ll be a calculated risk.”
Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga have managed just four Premier League goals between them so far this season so a return for Carroll, who moved to Upton Park on a permanent deal in the summer, would boost West Ham’s goal threat.
But it is in defence where Allardyce has been plagued by injury in recent weeks.
With James Collins, Winston Reid and James Tomkins all missing, the 59-year-old has had to resort to playing his squad out of position.
The loan signing of Wolves’ Roger Johnson, as well as a timely return to fitness for Tomkins, means Allardyce has fewer worries at the back – although Joey O’Brien is now missing.
“We’ll have James Tomkins back in the squad,” he confirmed.
“James Collins is close but not quite there. But we lost Joey O’Brien on Wednesday night as well.
“So it doesn’t clear our problems; they continue due to the number of games and fatigue. We get one back and lose another. Central defensive problems have been the biggest issue in terms of results.”
With Johnson the only addition to his squad so far this month, Allardyce remains keen to add further players – with a striker still high on his agenda.
Inter Milan’s Ishak Belfodil and Lacina Traore of Monaco have been strongly linked with loan moves in recent days and Allardyce hopes to be closing in on new recruits sooner rather than later.
“We’ve been trying for several weeks,” he said.
“I thought I’d be talking about one new player in the country and nearly signed, but that fell into some paperwork problems again on Thursday.
“All the players you [the media] are talking about, we are interested in but we’ve not completed any of them yet. Traore is all about a work permit situation if that’s to progress. It would have to be a tribunal for that situation. That’s what we’re looking at progressing as quickly as possible.”