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The former Liverpool forward has yet to make an appearance for the Hammers since signing on a permanent basis in the summer, and is still a long way off a return to the side

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has poured cold water on reports that striker Andy Carroll is close to a first-team return for the goal-shy Hammers.

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The England international, a £15 million signing from Liverpool in the summer, has yet to feature this season due to a heel injury and Allardyce's men have struggled for goals in his absence.

West Ham drew 0-0 at home to Aston Villa on Saturday and have failed to score in six of their 10 Premier League outings, but Allardyce has played down talk of Carroll returning in the near future.

"[When] Andy Carroll gets back to full training, it's probably the best part of another four weeks before he gets back on the field in the first team, because he has to start a four-week pre-season, which is the minimum time for a pre-season," explained the West Ham manager.

Allardyce also revealed that Carlton Cole, who recently ended a five-month spell without a club by rejoining the Hammers, has to build up match fitness before he can think about earning a spot in the starting XI.

"We have to use him sparingly, because he's in the middle of a pre-season so he can catch up with the rest of the lads," the 59-year-old added.

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