Carlton Cole is set to complete a surprise return to West Ham United on a short-term deal despite leaving the club this summer, with Sam Allardyce turning to the 29-year-old as he looks to solve his striker crisis.
West Ham's failure to bring in a new striker before the transfer window shut on Monday night, coupled with Andy Carroll missing the start of the season with a heel injury, has led to a reunion with Cole, who was released when his contract expired in May. The striker has not been able to find a club since then.
Cole, who scored 59 goals in seven seasons for West Ham, had a medical and is expected to sign a deal on reduced terms that will take him up until the start of January on Wednesday. Cole is thought to have been on roughly £40,000 a week on his previous deal and no one has been willing to sign him on similar terms.
Cole scored only twice in 14 starts in the league last season, after Carroll was signed on loan from Liverpool, and felt that his chances of first-team football would be enhanced elsewhere. From West Ham's perspective, he was seen as expendable, especially as Carroll soon became their record signing after his £15m move from Liverpool.
In that context, going back to Cole could be seen as an act of desperation on West Ham's part. However it is a move that suits both parties. While Cole will be given a second chance at a club he knows well, West Ham's 1-0 home defeat by Stoke City on Saturday highlighted the need to bolster their attacking options. They have only scored twice in their first three league matches and Modibo Maïga has failed to impress in Carroll's absence: the Mali forward has managed four goals since joining for £4.5m from Sochaux last summer and is yet to score this season.
There must also be concerns over Carroll's fitness. He missed chunks of last season with hamstring and knee injuries and sat out pre-season with his heel complaint. Although the 24-year-old has started training again and should return for the trip to Southampton on 15 September, Allardyce believes that Carroll will only be fit enough for a place on the bench at St Mary's.
Allardyce rejected suggestions after the defeat by Stoke that he had any regrets about losing Cole. "Not really, because we couldn't really see that Carlton's situation would benefit him or us by him at this stage only being a squad player not a regular first-team player," he said.
"So Carlton is in no man's land at the moment. I hope he gets fixed up somewhere because he will do someone a good job but it shows you how difficult it is to move on in football sometimes because I thought that by now he would be playing for some other side, if not in this country then abroad, but he is not for some reason."
Cole's impending arrival is not expected to have any impact on Ricardo Vaz Tê's future. The Portuguese forward handed in a transfer request last week, expressing unhappiness about falling down the pecking order, and he was not included in the squad against Stoke. However with Joe Cole sidelined for six weeks with a hamstring injury and Stewart Downing out for three weeks after suffering a leg injury against Stoke, Vaz Tê is likely to feature against Southampton.