West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has revealed striker Andy Carroll may be 'just a few days away' from a first team return, as the England striker steps up his training schedule in a bid to recover from a knee injury.
Carroll could be available to take part in the FA Cup third round replay against Manchester United at Old Trafford next Wednesday, but boss Allardyce is keen to play down his imminent comeback as he warns the on-loan Liverpool striker still has some fitness hurdles to leap over.
"It could be a few days or it could be a bit longer than that, depending on his progression," Allardyce said. "We're assessing him day-by-day. He is doing some straight-line running and has been doing that for a few days.
"If he doesn't feel anything, then we'll progress onto interval running and some change of direction work and then introduce the ball. Hopefully he'll come back with the other players as quickly as possible. He won't be fit to come with us to Sunderland at the weekend, but hopefully it won't be long for him now."
Allardyce has confirmed Marouane Chamakh is in contention to make his Hammers debut at the Stadium of Light this weekend after completing his loan move from Arsenal, while he is wary of throwing too much of a workload on new arrival Joe Cole so soon after his arrival from Liverpool.
Cole turned in a sparkling performance as he made his second debut for West Ham in the FA Cup tie against United last weekend, but his manager insists he needs to be given time to rediscover his best form for the Hammers.
"We will take it game-by-game," Allardyce said, when asked about managing Cole's workload as he looks to get back into regular action after a period of inactivity prior to his transfer.
"Part of every manager's job is managing players for their sake. Lots of players don't come together in the squad until Thursday and Friday and then play on the Saturday because they need to do other things during the week to maintain their level of fitness. We'll do what is needed with Joe as we do with many players."
Allardyce confirmed he is 'as active as anyone' in the transfer market and hinted he is eager to add an additional left back to his squad during this January transfer window, even though he had lavish words of praise for Dan Potts after he made an impressive West Ham debut in that role last weekend.
"Dan did a great job last week and hopefully he'll continue in that position (at Sunderland)," Allardyce added. "He is a good young player and I'm sure he will continue to improve and perform as he did against Manchester United."