Belfast Telegraph

Allardyce hits back at Senegal

Sam Allardyce has continued a bitter war of words with Senegal football officials and insists West Ham did nothing wrong in playing Diafra Sakho last weekend.

The Hammers striker came off the bench to score the only goal in their FA Cup fourth-round victory over Bristol City on Sunday, despite having been ruled out of Senegal's African Cup of Nations squad with a back injury.

And the relationship between club and country could also be soured further after Allardyce said he had struggled to communicate with midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate about his return to east London.

Sakho's appearance for West Ham infuriated many inside the Senegal camp, with Alain Giresse's side crashing out at the group stage following Tuesday's defeat to Algeria.

The former Metz striker came in for criticism from fans on Twitter and Giresse also questioned how Sakho could possibly have been deemed fit enough to turn out for West Ham.

But Allardyce defended the decision after the win at Ashton Gate, revealing Sakho travelled by limousine instead of with the rest of the squad and insists he does not expect his top goalscorer to be banned until the end of the African Cup of Nations, as has been suggested.

"I'm not worried at all he could be facing a ban whatsoever," he said.

"We've stuck to every rule and regulation in the book by the FA, by FIFA and by UEFA. We have not breached any rules and regulations whatsoever and I have to say I'm extremely disappointed by Senegal's reaction.

"He (Sakho) is coping fine because he has got enough to burn his bridges with, they (Senegal) are falling out with us.

"If anything we should be falling out with them but we are not, we are keeping it at a very professional level, like we always do and like I said we have done everything in the rules to comply with what is happening."

Allardyce also confirmed Sakho will travel to Anfield for Saturday's Barclays Premier League encounter against Liverpool in the same manner he made the trip to Bristol, but his compatriot Kouyate may not be available for selection against the Reds following a late return.

The midfielder had linked up with Senegal but Allardyce and West Ham had struggled to contact the former Anderlecht man and arrange his journey home - with Kouyate now expected back later on Thursday.

"The other player that we had available has been difficult to find over the last 48 hours," Allardyce continued.

"We know where he is but we have had trouble finding him. If you speak to other managers in the Premier League, if they are honest like I am they will tell you the same story.

"We are expecting him back today after chasing him down for the last 48 hours. He could play against Liverpool."

Allardyce played down reports linking both Sakho and fellow summer recruit Enner Valencia with a move to London rivals Chelsea and insists he will not be looking to bring in any other forwards during the January transfer window.

"By email, text or phone? How have they sounded us out?," the 60-year-old replied when asked about reported contact from Chelsea.

"The only way it has been sounded out is through the media, certainly not through club to club."

"With us having Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho, Carlton Cole and Enner Valencia we have more than enough front men to cope with the demand for the rest of the season. In the summer we'll reassess our aims and the squad but for now we're fine with the four options we've got."

Although a new striker may not be on his shopping list, Allardyce again said he would like to complete a move for Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher.

The 30-year-old Scot has been told he can leave Old Trafford on a free transfer and Allardyce remains interested, whilst also confirming a deal is close for Hamilton full-back Stephen Hendrie - although he would not link up with West Ham until the summer.

"It is still a possibility. It's not dead yet, so it still could happen," Allardyce said of a move for Fletcher.

"You have to be patient sometimes. We're not desperate, as we've got several good options in midfield but we want to add to that if we can."

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