Double trouble

WEST HAM striker Carlton Cole believes that he and Dean Ashton can provide the ammunition to shoot the Hammers up the Premier League table next season, writes DAVE EVANS. The 25-year-old marksman, who has 11 goals to his name this season, returned to acti

WEST HAM striker Carlton Cole believes that he and Dean Ashton can provide the ammunition to shoot the Hammers up the Premier League table next season, writes DAVE EVANS.

The 25-year-old marksman, who has 11 goals to his name this season, returned to action after eight games out with a groin injury at Everton on Saturday and is expected to start against Middlesbrough this weekend.

But the international striker is already looking to next season and teaming up again with fellow England man Ashton in the West Ham attack.

Many pundits have suggested that Cole and Ashton are too similar to play together, but Cole is confident they can combine effectively.


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"We can certainly play together," insisted Cole. "I don't see why not. We did it at under-21 level and I've grown up as a player this year, so I think we can do even better together."

Cole and Ashton teamed up for the first four Premier League games of the season, scoring three goals between them, before the former Norwich City striker was injured in Gianfranco Zola's first game in charge at West Brom last September.

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Ashton hasn't played since, while Cole has gone from strength to strength, earning two England caps before being struck by injury himself.

Cole's meteoric rise is down to a lot of hard work on the training ground, but he also gives plenty of credit to the Italian maestro.

"The manager knows it is all about hard work," he said. "I used to see him training when I was at Chelsea as a youngster.

"Everyone knew he was world class, but he would stay out on the training pitch working on his game, doing things that he is good at and progressing.

"That is what I am here to do as well, so he is a great influence on my career and I just want to prove that I can be - not as good as him as a player - but as dedicated as he was to his game, and get as good as I can be."

The strike pair also played 10 times together last season when Ashton top scored with 11 goals - the same amount Cole has this term - but an interesting statistic is that they have never scored in the same match for the Hammers.

Ashton, whose career at West Ham has been constantly blighted by injury since his arrival in January 2006 in a �5.75million deal from Norwich City, is expected to play a full part in pre-season.

He attended the home game against Liverpool and looked fit and fairly lean and Zola is hopeful of finally getting to work with him on the training ground.

"He's intensifying his training work and it is going very well," revealed Zola. "He is looking very well at the moment and I believe he will be able to do a full pre-season."

Cole is hoping to team up with Ashton, but he also believes that the current strikers at the club have done well enough to stay at West Ham next season.

"We have got Diego Tristan," he said. "I don't know what is happening with him, but I would like him to stay, he's a good guy.

"We've also got David Di Michele who is a good guy as well and Freddie Sears trying to get better, and they are both pushing us for our places."

Zola and many supporters may see that particular view differently, but certainly a front-line partnership of Cole and Ashton could strike fear into many a Premier League defence.

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