West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has conceded that Andy Carroll's latest lay-off will be longer than first anticipated. The towering striker, who has been plagued by a constant stream of injury problems over recent years, has not played for the club since hurting his knee in a 1-1 Europa League qualifying play-off draw away to Romanian champions Astra Giurgiu back in August.
Carroll was initially expected to miss at least the first six weeks of the new Premier League season, although subsequent reports in September claimed that his return had been put on hold amid fears that he could be sidelined until the end of October. The player himself later denied those rumours, however, and took to social media to reassure fans that he had not experienced any setback.
"My recovery is going great this was a 6-8 week injury so everything is going to plan!! #NoSetback," he posted on Twitter.
Carroll has since attracted headlines off the pitch after West Ham examined conflicting claims that he and teammate Darren Randolph may have been spotted out drinking the day after a club-sanctioned night out.
Bilic revealed before last week's 1-0 win at Crystal Palace that the club had yet to conclude their internal investigation, referring to the episode as "an old story" and "not very important" but also vowing to punish the duo if it transpired that they had stepped out of line.
Speaking at a press conference held prior to Saturday's (22 October) visit of struggling Sunderland, Bilic said of Carroll's fitness: "It was a very strange injury that happened in a game in Romania. He stayed on the pitch for the whole game and we didn't notice he'd got injured until the next day. Now, it's longer than we had first thought. All I can say is that he's working hard and is progressing, but it's longer than expected. It's not the speed we and he wanted, but hopefully soon he'll be ready to train with us. I am speaking to him and the medical team every day about it."
Disappointment regarding Carroll's continued absence has been tempered by the impending comeback of Andre Ayew. The Ghanaian forward, who became West Ham's record signing after completing a £20.5m ($25.1m) transfer from Swansea during the summer, returned to full training on Monday after sustaining a quad injury on his debut against Chelsea.
"He looks good, and okay it was only a few sessions, but we are going to try and prepare him for games as quick as possible," Bilic said. "But we don't want something to happen in that process at the same time. It's great that he is back. It's difficult to judge when he'll be back on the pitch. He's improving in every session. He was out for a long time and as I said, we want him back, but is he ready for games at the moment? Probably not. He needs more time and intensity in training. I'm sure that it won't be a long, long time now. He probably won't be in Saturday's squad."
Elsewhere for the Hammers, Diafra Sakho is expected to rejoin first-team training next week. Arthur Masuaku, Sam Byram and Gokhan Tore all remain out, while Randolph is said to have picked up a minor knee issue during the recent international break.