West Ham manager Alan Pardew believes in-form striker Marlon Harewood is now a force to be reckoned with in the Barclays Premiership.
The 26-year-old is currently enjoying a more productive season than both Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney, according to the Barclays Premiership’s Actim Index, which analyses every second of every top-flight match.
The 12-goal front-man, who netted twice in Monday’s 3-0 home win over Birmingham, is regarded as the season’s sixth-best Premiership performer so far, with Ruud van Nistelrooy the only striker ahead of him.
It is a remarkable achievement from a man who cost just £500,000 (€730,600) from Nottingham Forest in 2003 – and whom many were convinced was not Premiership standard not so long ago.
Pardew pointed to his most recent performances as proof of his credentials after first Sol Campbell of Arsenal and then Birmingham’s new signing Martin Latka failed to cope with his pace and power.
He said: “He has made gigantic strides at this football club. He is our most-improved player. His finishing has improved considerably, as has his awareness in games.
“He has become a very powerful force in the Premiership.
“In the last two games, one centre-half went home at half-time and the other was taken off, which I’m sure says something about him.”
Harewood’s second goal on Monday was snapped up on the rebound after his penalty had been saved by goalkeeper Maik Taylor. The striker had opted for a short run-up and although it almost back-fired Pardew insisted he was not concerned.
He said: “I know there has been a lot of talk about the two-step run-up but it gives the goalkeeper less chance to move. I have no problem with him taking penalties.”
Pardew has also been boosted by the impending return to action of goalkeeper Jimmy Walker, which comes at a time when first choice Roy Carroll remains sidelined by a back problem.
Carroll has been out since January 23 and now faces the prospect of having to go under the knife, Pardew admitted.
He said: “He is going to see a consultant about a minor operation to correct it as he hasn’t seen much improvement.
“I don’t want to say he will be out for the rest of the season because the lad is a bit worried anyway, but I think he will be out for five to six weeks.”
Walker has not played since the last game of last season when he suffered a serious knee injury helping the Hammers to a play-off final victory over Preston to seal their return to the top flight at the second time of asking.
Pardew said: “Jimmy Walker is making fantastic progress and is set to play a reserve game, which is important to us as we are down to two goalies.
“There was a similar period last year where he came in and saw us home. He still tells everybody he got us promoted on his own, which is understandable if you know Jimmy.”