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The Hammers' boss believes the 24-year-old is vital to the club's aspirations, while also confirming he himself will sign a new contract when his side are mathematically safe

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce believes keeping Andy Carroll at Upton Park beyond this season is “critical” to the club’s development.

Carroll has scored six times during a season-long loan in east London, with the Hammers' boss lavishing praise on the 24-year-old for his recent form.

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And Allardyce insists signing the target man would be a crucial step towards moving the club forward, suggesting he would need to spend a lot of money on a replacement striker were Carroll not to stay on beyond the current campaign.

"I thought Andy was very, very good," Allardyce told reporters after his side’s 2-0 win against Wigan on Saturday. "Some of his movement was excellent. If he keeps on showing such good form then I believe it improves our chances of signing him.

"He is critical to us moving forward as a club and to our development programme. If we haven't got him next season, we'll have to make a big-money signing in his place."

With West Ham now on 42 points and virtually sure of another season in the Premier League, Allardyce confirmed he will be signing a new contract when his side’s safety is guaranteed.

He said: "The contract is sorted and I will sign it when we are mathematically certain [of staying up]."

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