ANDY CARROLL is playing for his West Ham future and has five months to prove his worth to Manuel Pellegrini.
The injury-plagued striker celebrated his 30th birthday yesterday convinced he can finally see some light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Carroll’s first goal since April helped see off Birmingham 2-0 in the FA Cup and silenced the Hammers fans who are starting to question his long-term value.
His current £80,000-a-week contract expires in the summer but both parties have an option on a two-year extension.
And the former Newcastle and Liverpool star, who is happy and settled in the capital, is keen to prolong his time at the London Stadium. He said: “Of course I want to stay and to get a new deal but I can’t be thinking about my contract every day.
“First of all I’ve got to play a few more games like this and impress the manager in the minutes he gives me.
“That goal has been a long time coming. I’ve been dreaming about scoring for a while so it’s nice to get one at last.
“Usually it doesn’t affect me when I go a long time without scoring because I’ve got more in my locker than just goals.
“But this time I was desperate for a goal because I have worked so hard to get back here.
“I said before the game that if I got on I really wanted to score. I don’t know why I was so keen — maybe something to do with starting my first game in midweek and being taken off at half-time.
“I just wanted to show that I’ve still got goals in me.”
Sub Carroll had to wait until stoppage-time to end his drought when he headed in Michail Antonio’s cross.
He had missed a glorious opportunity minutes earlier but had already contributed to this hard-fought win with a goal-line clearance to deny Birmingham’s Lukas Jutkiewicz.
He admitted: “I had a chance just before my goal and I really should have scored. I tried to take it round the keeper but my touch was too big.
“But if you don’t succeed you try and try again and as soon as that cross came in that was my chance to make things right.
“I’ve cleared off the line at one end, scored at the other and we’ve won 2-0, so that’s nice.”
Carroll is now in his seventh season at West Ham yet in all that time he has only scored 34 goals for the club.
But much of that is down to an horrendous catalogue of injuries which have seen him sidelined for 142 games over a combined period of 38 months.
The nine-cap England hitman does not know whether he has done enough to warrant a place in Pellegrini’s starting line-up against Arsenal on Saturday but is confident he will get a fair crack of the whip from the Chilean.
He said: “It was frustrating when I was taken off against Brighton last week and I went to talk to the manager.
“But it wasn’t an argument or a heated discussion. Sometimes it’s nice just to chat to someone on a level like you’re friends.
“You talk, you agree and you realise what he does and doesn’t want and you take things from there.”