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West Ham’s Cole in awe of ‘naturally gifted’ Liverpool man Carroll

09:30 16 December 2012

Carlton Cole in action earlier in the season against Fulham. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Carlton Cole in action earlier in the season against Fulham. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Carlton Cole has hailed Andy Carroll as one of the world’s best target men but insists he never considered leaving West Ham after losing his place to the England man.

Liverpool flop Carroll became West Ham boss Sam Allardyce’s first choice up front following his arrival on a season-long loan from Anfield on the last day of the summer transfer window.

The 23-year-old has only scored once in 10 games for the Hammers so far but after being sidelined by a hamstring injury earlier in the season, he now faces another six weeks out with a knee problem.

The injuries have given Cole another chance to step up as West Ham’s lone striker, and Allardyce praised his “fantastic” performances in their 3-1 win against Chelsea and last weekend’s 3-2 loss to Liverpool, saying a good run of form could keep Carroll out of the team.

Cole, who has been at West Ham since 2006, top scored for the Hammers as they won promotion from the Championship last season, netting 15 goals in total.

The 29-year-old says he always expected a tough battle to keep his place from Carroll but, as he prepares to lead the line against West Brom today, he insists it never crossed his mind to agitate for a move away from the club.

“It wasn’t really a big surprise,” said Cole, about dropping to the bench in Carroll’s favour. “When he came I thought ‘ok, I might have to bide my time’.

“I’ve been here for so long, I’ve seen players come and go. I didn’t think I’d have to leave, I just thought it was another stage in my career where I had to up the level again, and you need that as a striker.

“You need someone to push you and obviously Andy Carroll is a fantastic player.”

Carroll endured a torrid time at Liverpool following his record-breaking £35million transfer from Newcastle in January 2011 but Cole insists there is much more to come from him.

“I knew that he was a brilliant player before he came here, he just needs the right break,” he said. “Once he gets going – I know he’s only 23 at the moment.

“The funny thing about the striker role, the one we play, is that it takes a long time to learn. People think it’s a natural thing; it’s not a natural thing, because usually you’re playing with another striker to the left or right of you.

“In our case we’ve got Kevin Nolan but he’s actually a midfielder, so we’ve got to wait for him to come up. You’ve got to know how to hold the ball. It’s really a hard skill.

“People take it for granted but it’s actually a hard skill to do it up there alone. I know people say we don’t score as many goals as we should but at the same time the skill that we have, you need to nurture it. It takes years to do.

“Emile Heskey was really good at it and there are a few other players that have been masters of it but there aren’t many around the world who can say they have mastered that skill, to say that they’re the number one. You go through form.

“For Andy to have that skill so young is a real blessing for him. I had to learn. I had to mould myself into that player but he’s got it naturally so he just needs to get a few more games and I think you’ll see the best of him when he’s 29 or 30. Right now he’s still learning his trade.”

Follow me on Twitter @nicholaspwright

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