Having suffered 5-0 and 6-0 domestic cup reversals during the first few days of January, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce faces a formidable task in boosting team morale ahead of several important Premier League fixtures for his relegation threatened outfit. Owners David Sullivan and David Gold have reaffirmed their support for Allardyce in the wake of derision from his own supporters, but it appears that his tenure in the job hinges on a successful comeback from injury by England international striker Andy Carroll.
Carroll was signed by Allardyce in June 2013 for a reported £15 million after a successful loan spell at the club, but it was a move which virtually emptied the coffers at Upton Park. A complicated injury to his foot has curtailed Carroll’s appearances this season with the result that the Hammers have looked woeful at times in attack during a depressing Premier League season.
Carlton Cole has been re-signed to fill the Carroll void but this is viewed as a temporary solution until the Newcastle born striker returns to full fitness. However, there is no guarantee that Carroll will be capable of producing the goods on his belated return to first team action.
Much of Carroll’s prowess in displayed in winning long aerial balls, a hallmark of the Allardyce philosophy in organising football teams, but his foot ailment, likened to that of a ballerina injury, may initially impose mental scars for the West Ham striker. Will he be able to regain the same height as in previous seasons when unrestricted leverage caused immense damage for opposing defences?
Allardyce will be hoping to field Carroll as early as possible in the hope of creating some real menace in his forward line but he may secretly fear that his most senior striker may need some time to readjust to Premier League pace and aggression, time which his team can ill-afford to concede.
There will be extreme pressure on Carroll, not only to help his beleaguered team-mates but also to justify the expensive summer price tag by delivering goals and assists on a regular basis.
Time will eventually prove to be the great healer for the England international with the prospect of seat on the plane to Brazil still very much viewed as a possibility. Yet that length of time may be insufficient to prevent Sam Allardyce from remaining in control at Upton Park.
Already, six Premier League managers have departed since the start of the season and the owners of a team occupying 19th position, which concedes 11 goals in losing successive cup-ties, can only possess so much patience with a manager who is universally unpopular with a vast portion of the hope support.
Carroll’s comeback will be welcomed by many fans but will Allardyce be afforded the time to witness his protracted return to top form.