West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has heeded caution over the fitness of striker Andy Carroll after the England international made his first start of the season in the Capital One Cup defeat to Leicester City. Carroll played the last two minutes of the win over former club Newcastle United in his first appearance since February but the cup tie at the King Power Stadium represented his full return following knee surgery.
Carroll lasted 63 minutes of the Hammers' 2-1 defeat to the Foxes, which saw them crash out of the League Cup, to thrust himself into contention for the Premier League clash against Norwich City this weekend. However, Bilic admits that Carroll may not be thrown in from the start as his fitness continues to be managed.
"He couldn't be working harder in training, but after seven months out, these things take time," the West Ham boss told a pre-match press conference, according to the club's official website. "We have to be patient and we don't want to rush him. Having said that, he can only regain that edge by playing games, so we have to find the right balance.
"We're still in the crucial stage of recovery from Leicester on Tuesday. We have a few knocks that we need to assess, no major or serious but we will have to wait and see. We'll know better tomorrow."
The former Liverpool forward made just 12 Premier League starts last term after his campaign was bookended by lengthy spells out injured. Despite his manager having concerns over his fitness, Carroll is eager to get back playing for West Ham on a regular basis.
"Obviously we're disappointed with the result, but to get 60 minutes under my belt was good," he said, according to Talksport. "I didn't get on against Manchester City and only had two minutes against Newcastle, so an hour is good and I feel fantastic. I felt good before I went out there. I've been training well and trying to get as fit as I can. I've been raring to start and was itching to get on last week as well, so it was pleasing to start at Leicester."
Victory over Manchester City in the club's last league outing was West Ham's third away win of the campaign, following shock results at Arsenal on the opening weekend and Liverpool. Bilic's side can remain in the top four by recording the team's second victory at home this term against Norwich.