Avram Grant has warned West Ham United's rivals that the best is yet to come from Demba Ba. Ba completed his move to Upton Park from Hoffenheim last month after walking out on the German side, with whom he enjoyed two and a half prolific seasons.
Grant was reluctant to throw the 25-year-old straight into action as he had not played since 18 December, but a calf injury to Robbie Keane meant he was handed his first start against West Bromwich last week.
The 6ft 2in striker did not disappoint, scoring twice to help the Hammers rescue a vital point in a six-goal thriller against their relegation rivals. He is likely to start alongside Carlton Cole in West Ham's FA Cup fifth-round clash against Burnley tonight.
But while Ba offers West Ham options in attack, there are mounting problems in defence as it was last night reported that captain Matthew Upson is out for the rest of the season with a damaged achilles. The centre-half was withdrawn at half-time against Birmingham on 6 February, and that could represent his last action for the club as he is out of contract in the summer.
The Hammers have scored just 30 times in 27 matches this season but Grant thinks Ba has the right attributes to make a big impact on the club's attempt to move out of the Premier League relegation zone.
"He is a very good player. I followed him for a long time in the German league," Grant said. "He always scored, he is always moving. It is very difficult to mark him and he hits the target. That is what you want from a striker. Those are the most important things for a striker – movement and being able to hit the target – and that is what he did against West Brom.
"I think they cleared off the line from him twice last week. He can play anywhere – right, left, behind. He is good and he is not in the best shape yet because he had a break from 21 December and we are building him slowly, slowly."
Grant will be hoping to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the third time as a manager tonight when the Hammers take on Eddie Howe's Championship side.