Bilic: Andy Carroll must stay fit to salvage West Ham career

Injury-plagued striker Andy Carroll faces a make-or-break season at West Ham.

Bilic: Andy Carroll must stay fit to salvage West Ham career

The 28-year-old has two years left on his current contract, but he needs to stay fit to stand a chance of earning a new one.

Otherwise West Ham may cut their losses on their one-time record signing next summer, rather than risk him leaving for nothing 12 months later.

Carroll, who cost £15m (€17m) from Liverpool, has missed 114 matches through a catalogue of injuries since he signed for the Hammers in 2012. He is currently fit, however, and poised to lead the line in today’s lunchtime London derby against Tottenham.

Manager Slaven Bilic said: “He’s got two years and this is, to be fair, his season to be fit, to stay fit.

“Because if we are talking about his contract, the question mark about him is his fitness, about how much he is available during the season.”

Although Carroll has yet to find the net so far his return to the side — after missing the start of the campaign with a thigh problem — has coincided with West Ham’s upturn in form.

The Hammers lost their opening three games but beat Huddersfield on Carroll’s first appearance and then earned a battling goalless draw at West Brom.

Having been rested for the midweek Carabao Cup win over Bolton, the burly frontman will be raring to go against Spurs.

Bilic, though, has seen it all before. Carroll has made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, but the next injury setback never seems to be far away.

“He was always in good shape,” Bilic added. “Of course, when he comes back from injuries he needs to get coordination back, but he was always in a good shape for us.

“That was a killer, because you see him and you approach him in training and you see he is good. “Then comes the idea that you will use him on Saturday, for 20 minutes or half an hour. Then it was a curse, because of how well he looked after a long absence.

“Now we are trying to maintain and improve his fitness by managing him, not with caution, but not to rush him straight away if we need him.”

Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen is preparing for a scrap against Carroll but says he is not afraid of the West Ham striker. Vertonghen, along with Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez, will be charged with keeping the Hammers’ powerhouse quiet.

“He’s a great striker, very difficult to play against but I think our defence have shown we can play against every type of striker so I’m not afraid,” Vertonghen said.

“He’s a very big guy. He’s a fighter. He’s very strong in the air and I think he fits the game that West Ham wants to play.

“He’s a good player and a tough player to play against.”

West Ham have struggled to combine Carroll with Javier Hernandez, who has so far been played wider and deeper to accommodate his team-mate. Tottenham faced Hernandez twice last season in the Champions League when the Mexican was at Bayer Leverkusen and while he failed to score in either fixture, Vertonghen is aware of his threat.

“He is totally different to Carroll so I think they can play two styles. Maybe they can even play together,” Vertonghen said.

“Hernandez is tough to play against. Maybe he is not that involved in the game but you can’t lose him, especially in the box. He is so dangerous.”

Meanwhile Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino treated the club to a steak dinner on Wednesday night to help fill it with the togetherness he believes is required to win titles this season.

Pochettino paid for a party of around 50, which included players, staff, and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, to eat at the Beast restaurant on London’s Oxford Street, where the menu boasts steaks from Finland, Spain and Nebraska.

The 45-year-old plumped for the Spanish cut, which came in at £13 per 100g, as well as wine from his native Argentina.

The most expensive dish, a ‘Whole Norwegian King Crab’ would have set him back £120 per kg.

Pochettino said his team outing was aimed at integrating new signings and strengthening his side’s steel for the battles ahead.

“You need time to create a good dynamic, not only tactics but outside too,” Pochettino said. “We had a dinner in a restaurant in London with all the staff and players that I invite of course. I paid the bill at the end! That is true, the one time that I was invited!

“That is important because you prefer to say, ‘Shall we do tactics here in the morning or (would) you prefer to go last night and put all the staff, the players and the chairman too in a restaurant?’ That is tactics too.

“It is so important, just as it is important to work on the pitch, to know better in between them, to speak in a different way. That creates links between them, emotion.

“When you must fight in a competition, there’s willingness more to help your team-mates and care more for your team-mates and care more for the gaffer that pays the bill!”

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