West Ham manager Sam Allardyce would love to build his team around Andy Carroll next season – and maintains signing the England forward on a permanent deal from Liverpool must be the club’s “main priority” over the summer.
The 24-year-old played the final match of his season-long loan in yesterday’s 4-2 win over relegated Reading at Upton Park, where captain Kevin Nolan netted a hat-trick.
Carroll was a thorn in Reading’s side all afternoon, despite not being able to add to his seven goals to mark his recall to the England squad for the friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.
The striker posted a message on Twitter last night saying how much he had “enjoyed every minute of being at West Ham”.
However, with Liverpool set to hold out for a £17million fee for their 6ft 3in frontman, and Newcastle and Monaco also said to be monitoring the situation, the Irons look in for some tough dealings.
Allardyce, though, believes having Carroll on board next season would provide the perfect platform on which to build from their creditable 10th place after avoiding joining Reading back in the npower Championship.
“If we can start with Andy Carroll that would be a great achievement for us as he can only get better and better,” Allardyce said.
“Then we build around that in terms of how we want to improve next year, with better quality.
“It is our target to make it a permanent situation.
“Hopefully we can get somewhere in the near future to do that.
“It’s our main priority. There are negotiations between the club and Liverpool.
“We have to pursue it to the very end one way or another and we will find out as quick as we can if it is a yes or a no.”
Thanks largely in part to Carroll’s tiresome work, the Irons had looked in complete control against Reading after a mistake from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, called up to the England squad for the first time, gifted Nolan the opener on 23 minutes, with Ricardo Vaz Te sweeping home a second.
The Royals, though, responded with two quick goals at the start of the second half through Garath McCleary and substitute Adam Le Fondre.
West Ham eventually made sure of a creditable top-10 finish when Nolan netted again and then completed his hat-trick with a header three minutes from time.
Allardyce paid tribute to Nolan, who ended the campaign as the club’s top scorer.
“Kevin has always been top class. It’s another double-figures scoring job he’s done yet again,” said Allardyce.
“When we needed Kevin again he was there. That’s what he is good at. When he scores his goals they are always very important.”
Reading’s fate had long been sealed and they finished the season in 19th place.
However Royals boss Nigel Adkins maintains there are plenty of positives to take ahead of a return to life in the npower Championship.
“There is a feel good factor going forward for next season, which is important,” said Adkins, who replaced the sacked Brian McDermott in March.
“We have changed the way the club has played football – we are looking to be more in control with keeping the football for longer periods of time and that takes time to get everyone ready to go and do that.
“Like everybody, we will bring some new recruits in for next season and look forward to next season with a positivity.”
Adkins – a former goalkeeper himself – also had words of comfort for McCarthy as the 23-year-old prepares to link up with the senior England squad for the first time.
“Alex is still a young goalkeeper. It’s all a good learning experience,” he said.
“He just needed to clear the football, didn’t he? It was a poor execution and that’s life.
“The big thing I’ve noticed with Alex is if he does make a mistake he can quickly forget it, which is important in a goalkeeper.
“It’s how quickly you can move on and Alex has done that.
“He is going to develop into a really good goalkeeper.”