sport

Sam strict on Carroll return

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce will adopt a hard-line approach to ensure Andy Carroll returns to action only when he is ready.

Carroll has been sidelined by a foot injury since August and while he is expected to join his Hammers team-mates in training this week, he is unlikely to play before January.

The 15million signing from Liverpool is eager to return, but Allardyce insists patience is crucial to his rehabilitation.

"It's been a long wait to get him to where he is now and I need to be as patient again because he hasn't done any pre-season and hasn't kicked a ball since May," he said.

"It's my job and responsibility to say 'you're not ready, hard luck. We'll tell you when you're ready, you won't tell us, and we'll do that for your own benefit and protection'.

"We want him back, but we want him playing for longevity and to complete the season without picking up any more injuries."

West Ham, who face Premier League relegation rivals Crystal Palace tonight, have struggled to score in Carroll's absence with Modibo Maiga yet to hit the target in 10 appearances.

That form has seen him become a target for Hammers fans and Allardyce insists the best way for the Mali forward to answer his critics is by producing on the pitch.

"Modibo Maiga hasn't scored a goal and that's what they see. That's what they want a centre forward to do," he said.

"He was very, very good against Fulham on Saturday and I think the fans will be intelligent enough to have seen that.

"Fans pick on people on their own team across the board at every team I've played for and managed. They pick someone out they don't like.

"The only thing we can do is support the player to change opinion and show that's not the case.

"You have to blank it out, deal with it, just play your best and focus on the team. Play well and score a goal, then everything changes."