Ashton could make shock West Ham return
Dean Ashton could receive a shock first-team recall before the end of the season as Gianfranco Zola bids to solve the West Ham's struggles in front of goal
By JONATHAN CLEGG
Dean Ashton could receive a shock first-team recall before the end of the season as Gianfranco Zola bids to solve the West Ham's struggles in front of goal.
Veteran striker Diego Tristan salvaged a point at Aston Villa last weekend, but West Ham have netted just eight goals in 12 matches and have managed to score twice in a single match on just one occasion in the past three months.
With in-form Spurs now just a point behind the Hammers, Zola admits that the club's European hopes are in danger of unravelling unless he can get his side firing.
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And the Hammers boss could roll the dice by fast-tracking Ashton back into the Hammers line-up this season.
England hitman Ashton has been sidelined since August with an ankle injury sustained during Zola's first training session as West Ham boss.
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But Zola is aware of the forward's qualities, describing Ashton as "the perfect player" for his Hammers side.
He said: "We know that scoring goals has been the big problem throughout the season, but we're going to try very hard to find a solution now.
"Dean is a player who would have made a big difference for us this year. We know he can give us something extra, especially regarding goals and we're looking forward to having him back soon.
"It would be fantastic if he could play maybe one game or two games before the end of the season, not only for him but for the supporters and everyone at the club."
Ashton's future at West Ham had been placed in doubt during his eight-month absence from the side, during which time Carlton Cole has emerged as the club's No1 target man and taken Ashton's place in the full England squad.
But Zola insists that the former Norwich striker, who top-scored for West Ham last season with 11 goals, is the ideal spearhead for his improving side.
"Of course he has got a future here," Zola said. "His finishing is amazing and if you look at this team, the build-up is very good, but maybe we lack a little bit of finishing, which Dean Ashton has got in his blood, so he will be a perfect player for us.