Cole looking for an early return

SUNDAY S clash with Arsenal put the Hammers lack of strikers into stark perspective. With Zavon Hines set to miss the rest of the season, Dean Ashton forced into retirement and Guillermo Franco suspended, manager Gianfranco Zola was forced to blood youngs

SUNDAY'S clash with Arsenal put the Hammers lack of strikers into stark perspective.

With Zavon Hines set to miss the rest of the season, Dean Ashton forced into retirement and Guillermo Franco suspended, manager Gianfranco Zola was forced to blood youngster Frank Nouble and recall Freddie Sears from his loan spell at Crystal Palace.

All of which begs the question - when will we see Carlton Cole on the field again?

The 26-year-old has missed seven games since injuring his knee against Burnley in November, the day he notched his seventh goal of the campaign.


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Stories suggesting that his injury was worse than first feared seem to have been dismissed by his manager though, who is hoping to have him back in the next couple of weeks.

"He's making good progress," insisted Zola. "I don't want to force things, but he'll be back sooner rather than later, it's very encouraging. Don't ask me the exact time because I can't say."

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Sunday would be too soon to hope for, but Zola may well be pencilling in the England striker for the trip to Aston Villa a week on Sunday.

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