The UEFA Champions League is the pinnacle of club football and has never been tasted by anyone associated with West Ham, but Andy Carroll is optimistic that will change in the near future.
The striker left Liverpool, whom he played in the Europa League with, to sign for the Hammers last year and manager Sam Allardyce assured him he would soon taste European action again.
- West Ham's Europe ambition boosted by new signings
- Sakho perfect for Premier League
- Carroll fully focused on West Ham
It is an ambition which also lured Alex Song to sign for the club on loan from Barcelona in the summer and West Ham are already trying to make the deal permanent. Cheikhou Kouyate, another summer signing, has plenty of Champions League pedigree with former side Anderlecht and these types of players joining demonstrates the Irons’ intent of getting into Europe’s elite competition.
They are experienced at the top level of the game, have won trophies and can provide the team with genuine quality that will rub off on the rest of the side and help them to climb up the Premier League table and into one of the European places. With the Hammers currently sitting in seventh in the league, it is already looking a real possibility.
The Europa League is the more realistic aim for the time being, though, and would be a great achievement for a club that flirted with relegation last term. However Carroll, beaming with optimism, is convinced that once West Ham move into the Olympic Stadium in 2016 they will be fighting for a Champions League place.
The switch from 35,000-capacity Upton Park to the 54,000-seat ground in Stratford will boost West Ham’s financial muscle significantly and Carroll is positive the club will capitalise by qualifying to play alongside Europe’s giants.
“When I first signed for the club the manager said this team could get into the top six and into Europe, and I can see the plan coming together now — it is not out of the question,” said Carroll on the Evening Standard.
“With the players we have I can’t see any reason why we can’t do that. We could definitely play in the Champions League in the new stadium. The quality is there, and with the new stadium coming we have everything else going for us.”
The summer signings of Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho, Song and Kouyate have transformed West Ham’s play and Carroll is itching to get back and join them after being plagued by injury once again.
The 25-year-old damaged ankle ligaments on the club’s pre-season tour to New Zealand and following surgery, he could make a quicker than expected return at the start of next month.
Since his arrival at Upton Park, firstly on loan, the England striker has scored nine league goals in 39 appearances. His persistent injuries haven’t helped, but at £15million his return does not represent value for money.
Place under threat?
Sakho, on the other hand, does. The Senegalese striker has bagged four league goals in five matches so far and he and Valencia are forming a potent partnership up top which could scupper Carroll’s chances of immediately reclaiming his place in the starting lineup.
“I don’t mind a battle, and every team needs competition for places,” said Carroll. “That is one of the things we have here — everyone is fighting for their place.”
The striker, who has been linked with a January return to Newcastle, is relishing the competition and excited for the future at West Ham, admitting he cannot wait to play at the Olympic Stadium.
“It looks fantastic and everyone is looking forward to being there. We cannot wait to be a part of it. It’s going to be one of the best grounds around — both the inside and outside look fantastic.”
This is big hint that Carroll will be going nowhere any time soon and is fully committed to helping the Hammers achieve their ambitious goals while fighting for his place in the team.