West Ham United expect Andy Carroll to be playing within “two to three weeks”, according to owner David Gold, meaning Sam Allardyce can shift his focus to defensive reinforcements once the transfer window opens on Wednesday.

Carroll, the club’s record signing, has not played since his £15 million transfer in the summer because of a succession of foot and ankle injuries. But Gold tweeted on Sunday: “AC could be available in 2/3 weeks” and the player posted a cryptic tweet saying “The time is near...” Allardyce constantly bemoaned Carroll’s absence while West Ham were struggling for goals, but now the manager concedes that a new centre-back is a priority with an injury crisis in that position.

Saturday’s 3-3 draw with West Bromwich Albion was the third game in succession the team have conceded three, on top of the 4-1 defeat at Liverpool three weeks ago, and James Tomkins limped off with a groin strain, joining James Collins and Winston Reid on the injured list.
Everton’s Dutch defender, John Heitinga, is Allardyce’s chief target, although he also hopes to soon conclude a deal for former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan, who has been playing in the Middle East.