Sam: Carroll not guaranteed a start
England forward Andy Carroll should not expect to walk back into West Ham's team once fully fit again, manager Sam Allardyce has warned.
Carroll - signed in a club-record £15million deal from Liverpool in June 2013 - has yet to feature this season after under going ankle surgery, but if he shows no ill effects from a behind-closed-doors match against Southend could come into contention for Saturday's Barclays Premier League encounter against Aston Villa.
However, with the Irons looking to maintain their excellent start to the new season, which has seen both summer signings Diafra Sakho, who has shrugged off a shoulder problem, and Enner Valencia both having hit the ground running, Allardyce sees no reason why anyone should expect to find themselves inked into the team sheet.
"Everybody faces a challenge (to start) compared to last season because of the strength-in-depth of the squad. Our squad has proven to be strong until now," said Allardyce, whose side beat champions Manchester City in their last match at Upton Park.
"Even my trusted captain, Kevin Nolan, has found it difficult to break his way into the side and is extremely frustrated - as are a few of the players.
"Matt Jarvis, having returned from injury, is another player frustrated, so, too, Ricardo Vaz Te and Joey O'Brien. These were my regular players last season.
"But because the other players have done so well while they have been away, it has been difficult for me to put (the regulars) back in based on our performances and results."
Allardyce added: "I have to manage any disappointment. I have to look at the individuals and make sure they stay focused and concentrated. The dynamic can change in a split-second and if players on the sidelines are not mentally or physically ready to step back into the team, then we all suffer.
"My responsibility is to keep the group focused and eager to wait for that opportunity to come."
Allardyce, though, hopes 6ft 3ins forward Carroll will soon be available and provide a different option to an already athletic frontline.
"It depends on how Andy feels when he gets in and trains on Friday, that will be the deciding factor if he gets into the squad or not," said Allardyce.
"Certainly, if he continues the way he is, then if not this weekend but by the end of the international break, he should be okay and ready to join the squad."
Senegal forward Sakho scored in seven successive matches before his injury in the win over City on October 25, while defender Defender Winston Reid is another expected be in the squad this weekend after a dead leg.
Villa opened the campaign with some impressive results, but since beating Liverpool on September 13 have lost six straight Premier League matches to plummet down the table.
Allardyce, though, warned against any complacency.
He said: "(Villa manager) Paul Lambert must be wondering what he is doing wrong at the moment, because I watched the game against Tottenham last Sunday and thought how unlucky he was that he lost that game one to a sending off, and two to a deflected free-kick. That seems to happen when things aren't going for you.
"You have to believe in yourself and your team, which he does, to come back, so we have to make sure we try and continue their poor run.
"We will have to be really aware of not leaving too many spaces to let them play that good counter-attacking game that they seem to adapt to well away from home."