West Ham closing in on free agent

Carlton ColeCarlton Cole must prove his fitness in a behind closed doors friendly next week if he is to complete a return to West Ham United three months after leaving.

The striker failed to agree a new Upton Park contract in the summer but, after struggling to find a new club, has been training with the East London outfit with the view of earning a new deal and to provide back up while club-record signing Andy Carroll is sidelined with a foot injury.

And Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has admitted that, if Cole comes through next week’s friendly, there is a contract ready and waiting for him to sign.

He told talkSPORT: “I said last week that Carlton is joining in training with us and we have a planned game behind closed doors next week while the international break is on.

“When he has come through that game, hopefully he’ll be looking fitter and after that game we see that he can make a big contribution to us.

“If that is the case, there is already a contract there available.”

The 29-year-old striker joined the Hammers from Chelsea in 2006 and went on to make 237 appearances in all competitions, scoring 59 goals. His most notable contribution in a claret and blue shirt came in the 2012 Championship play-off final where he scored one and assisted the winner as West Ham beat Blackpool at Wembley to earn an immediate return to the Premier League.

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