West Ham United striker Andy Carroll has been challenged to prove his fitness on a long-term basis after scoring in successive games upon his return from injury. Since moving to Upton Park on a permanent basis in the summer of 2013 Carroll's career in east London has been plagued by injury but a recent return to fitness has been accompanied by a rediscovery of goalscoring form.
Questions have often been asked of Carroll's lifestyle away from football, which coupled with his fitness record and failed spell at Liverpool has seen his reputation take a substantial hit in recent years. Reports have been rife that the Hammers would look to offload the striker in the January transfer window but they have been ended by the recent goal rush.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has challenged Carroll to build on this brief purple patch and justify recent speculation he could go from the West Ham first team into the England squad for the European Championships. "Now he looks fit to me," said Bilic. "Basically we are talking a lot about him; 'Andy this, Andy that, Andy for England', but now he is fit and it is all about him now.
"Is he going to look after himself, work hard, train, rest, to maintain his fitness, or to even make it better? Then, and only then, he will become a great asset for us. It is up to him. But I expect him to stick to what he was like recently. He would be very, very stupid to do otherwise."
The 2-0 win over Liverpool was accompanied by contrasting injury news for West Ham however in the form of forward Manuel Lanzini, who picked up an abductor problem during the game and was replaced by Pedro Obiang after 39 minutes. The Argentine, who has spent four weeks out with a thigh problem, is now set to be absent for another month with a similar problem.
West Ham co-owner David Gold wrote on Twitter: "We will know more about Manuel's injury after the scan on Monday (4 January) but it could be 4-6 weeks. He was superb today."
Bilic added after the win over Liverpool: "They have told me a little bit. It is not big. It is the same, it is not the hamstring or the muscle, it is some kind of abductor and the tendon. I hope it is going to be like they have said now, just a little bit (of time out)."