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The Hammers midfielders are nearing a return to the first team after overcoming long-term injuries, though manager Sam Allardyce expects to use them only sparingly

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is eagerly awaiting the return of midfielders Jack Collison and Alou Diarra following their prolonged absences through injury.

Collison has been sidelined for six months with a knee problem, while Diarra’s summer move to east London has been blighted by injuries, limiting him to just a single start against Crewe in the Capital One Cup.

But the pair are close to a return to action, welcome news for the Hammers who will be without Mohamed Diame for the next 12 weeks, who was injured in West Ham’s 3-2 loss to Liverpool.

Diame’s absence forced Allardyce to field centre-back James Tomkins in midfield, but the 58-year-old is reluctant to rush Collison and Diarra back despite the injury crisis.

"Alou Diarra [is close], but he hasn't played a Premier League game yet, so he hasn't felt what it is like to play there and that would be difficult for him after a three-month lay-off,” Allardyce told talkSPORT.

"Jack Collison might be close in the next couple of weeks to actually start joining in but he hasn't kicked a ball since the play-off final last year.

"At least to have the bodies back and bring them on from the subs bench is going to be important to us."

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