West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce does not expect to have Andy Carroll available until September at the earliest as the striker continues his recovery from a heel injury.
The Hammers sealed a permanent move for the former Liverpool man in May for a record fee of £15m after a successful loan spell at Upton Park last season but his injury, picked up on the last game of last season, means that he will play no part in the club's pre-season tour of Germany.
A return date of September has been pencilled in, just in time for England's next round of World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, but Allardyce insists the 24-year-old will not be rushed back ahead of schedule.
"Andy is still recovering. He has got four weeks or more to go before he starts full training," Allardyce is quoted as saying in the Independent. "His rehab is going pretty well at the moment and will be joining us in Germany, and hopefully he will be available, as will George McCarthy, as quickly as possible."
Carroll's heel injury forced him out of England's two post-season friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil, but he could well play an important role in Roy Hodgson's squad for crucial qualifiers a month in to the new season.
But Allardyce wants to give the Gateshead-born striker as much time as he needs to complete his rehabilitation before bringing his marquee signing back into the first team fold.
"I hope it will be before (September) for both of them, but being fit and being ready to play are two different things - they may be fit from the injury, but they are unlikely to be capable of playing straight away.
"If we are going to put our lads through six weeks of preparation and then Andy gets fit with two days to go, you would not expect us to play him, would you?"
In addition to Carroll, West Ham have added Romania captain Razvan Rat, goalkeeper Adrian and former Stockport County youngster Daniel Whitehead to their ranks. Inter Milan midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic remains linked with a move to east London, but the club today admitted that a move for Liverpool winger Stewart Downing is out of their price range.