West Ham boss Slaven Bilic: Key season for Andy Carroll to stay fit
Injury-plagued striker Andy Carroll faces a make-or-break season at West Ham.
The 28-year-old has two years left on his current contract, but he needs to stay fit to stand a chance of earning a new one.
Otherwise West Ham may cut their losses on their one-time record signing next summer, rather than risk him leaving for nothing 12 months later.
Carroll, who cost £15million from Liverpool, has missed 114 matches through a catalogue of injuries since he signed for the Hammers in 2012.
He is currently fit, however, and poised to lead the line in Saturday's lunchtime London derby against Tottenham.
Manager Slaven Bilic said: "He's got two years and this is, to be fair, his season to be fit, to stay fit.
"Because if we are talking about his contract, the question mark about him is his fitness, about how much he is available during the season."
Although Carroll has yet to find the net so far his return to the side - after missing the start of the campaign with a thigh problem - has coincided with West Ham's upturn in form.
The Hammers lost their opening three games but beat Huddersfield on Carroll's first appearance and then earned a battling goalless draw at West Brom.
Having been rested for the midweek Carabao Cup win over Bolton, the burly frontman will be raring to go against Spurs.
Bilic, though, has seen it all before. Carroll has made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, but the next injury setback never seems to be far away.
"He was always in good shape," Bilic added. "Of course, when he comes back from injuries he needs to get co-ordination back, but he was always in a good shape for us.
"That was a killer, because you see him and you approach him in training and you see he is good.
"Then comes the idea that you will use him on Saturday, for 20 minutes or half an hour. Then it was a curse, because of how well he looked after a long absence.
"Now we are trying to maintain and improve his fitness by managing him, not with caution, but not to rush him straight away if we need him."