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Premier League

Andy Carroll could 'sit on the bench' following return from suspension, claims West Ham manager Sam Allardyce

The striker is currently serving a three-game ban

Sam Allardyce has challenged his players to shine in the absence of Andy Carroll and suggested they could keep West Ham's most expensive player warming the bench when he returns from suspension.

The Hammers saw a prolonged appeal against Carroll's dismissal against Swansea rejected late last week, leaving Allardyce once again without the services of the England international.

Carroll had featured in just four matches before his red card, after struggling to overcome a troublesome foot injury.

He played a starring role in the 2-0 win against the Swans before being dismissed by Howard Webb - but his team-mates rallied and won without him at Aston Villa on Saturday.

While Carroll was out injured the Hammers looked doomed to a season fighting relegation but, with skipper Kevin Nolan once again leading the way, Allardyce has his side back on track.

Now they face Norwich at home on Tuesday night and also welcome Southampton to Upton Park during Carroll's suspension.

But for Allardyce, who gave fellow strikers Carlton Cole and on-loan Marco Borriello equal chance to prove their worth at Villa, a scenario which saw Carroll not coming straight back into the side would be welcomed.

"What about this?," Allardyce said. "Andy Carroll comes back from suspension, West Ham haven't lost a game and won most of them and Andy Carroll has to sit on the bench. That would be nice.

"Carlton and Marco played a dual role (against Villa) - 45 minutes apiece - which is what I talked to them about before the game.

"I told them 'today will be 45 minutes each for you so give us your best 45 minutes to help your team try and win'.

"Both made a contribution on Saturday and they will have to continue to do so."

Nolan took his goal tally to four in two games with a second-half brace at Villa Park as the West Ham skipper looks to have turned his own season around.

He was heavily criticised for picking up two red cards during a barren run for the Hammers, adding to the growing list of players unavailable to Allardyce.

The 59-year-old suggested at the time that he was considering stripping Nolan of the captaincy but revealed a private meeting had led him to keep his faith in the midfielder.

"Those conversations happen on a rare occasion for me," he said.

"For me keeping confidentiality is critical in a game and life that doesn't keep confidentiality today."

But, while the fortunes of one West Ham midfielder are on the rise, Ravel Morrison's Premier League season appears to be stuttering towards a premature conclusion.

The England Under-21 man starred for the Hammers earlier in the campaign and was arguably the one bright spark during a poor spell for the club.

A drop in form, as well as a niggling groin injury and the return to fitness of other key individuals, have all played their part in keeping Morrison on the fringes of the first team of late.

Allardyce admitted the midfielder faces "severe competition" to work his way back into the West Ham side once he overcomes his groin niggle, while Press Association Sport understands QPR have shown an interest in taking the former Manchester United prospect on loan.

Allardyce wants to see Morrison's injury cleared up and refuted claims the player is set to depart the club until the summer - with Loftus Road believed to be a potential destination.

"At the moment Rav is still complaining about the problem that he had before Christmas to say he has got these rumbling groin problems," said Allardyce.

"At the end of the day he is going to have to decide if he goes for the hernia operation or not and the answer keeps being no - he doesn't need it.

"What we have got to do is get him back training and back in the squad - I haven't heard any rumours any other way in terms of what is happening with Rav."

With captain Nolan scoring four goals in his last two games, coupled with the loan signing of Italy international Antonio Nocerino, Allardyce conceded Morrison's route back into the first-team picture is more difficult than it would have been earlier in the campaign.

"He certainly needs to get back and train with the squad," he added.

"He has to realise now everybody is fit there is severe competition here, especially with the new players as well.

"That severe competition brings pressure on the players that are playing in the first team, knowing that if they perform poorly they could lose their place, which is certainly the case at the moment with the size of the squad - which is good and healthy."