Hartson praises away form

Former West Ham United striker John Hartson has paid tribute to the team's solid away form which has seen them concede just once on their travels all season.

The big Welshman, who starred in a Claret and Blue shirt between 1997 and 1999, believes Sam Allardyce's squad have succeeded where Hammers sides of the past have fallen down.

Speaking after the 0-0 draw with Swansea City, he told West Ham TV: "West Ham historically haven't been a great side on the road, even in the days I was there.

"Harry [Redknapp] would always say even in the great days gone by when he played with Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and all those great, great legends at West Ham they were always a bit of a soft touch on the road.

"The fact that Sam has got them more solid now will mean they can pick up more points on the road. He's obviously addressed that, looked at them over the years and by defending really solidly and not conceding goals you're obviously going to pick up more points on the road."

Allardyce has seen only Hull's Robbie Brady score against his team in five away outings, which have garnered six of the side's ten points so far this season.

It's been at the other end of pitch where the Hammers have so far struggled, scoring only eight Barclays Premier League goals thus far and Hartson feels they are feeling the absence of a certain Andy Carroll.

"He brings that big presence up front, he's got the big number nine on his back, he's very big and strong, he's got good feet for a big man and he's aggressive in the air.

"I saw one or two balls go in the box against Swansea and I'm nudging my little son and I'm thinking if big Andy was on the pitch he gets a one, two, three and he goes and attacks the ball.

"When he's in form he's similar to Duncan Ferguson in the fact that when he gets a one, two, three on a defender and gets a run he's very, very difficult to stop. They obviously miss him, they paid a lot of money for him but he's been very unfortunate with injuries and there's nothing anybody can do about that."

Hartson is well placed to comment on Carroll as he himself was a fearsome striker who was as good on the ground as he was in the air.

The 38-year-old also believes that West Ham are handling Carroll's injury well and that the most important thing is to have him back when he is completely ready.

He said: "It's important that when he comes back he's not carrying any little niggles because that causes setbacks. I think that's what West Ham are doing with Andy Carroll at the minute, they want to get him right and get him fit to go and play.

"For me it's important that he is fit when he returns, not only so that he does well for West Ham but he could even break into the England set-up before the World Cup."

It may be 14 years since the burly Welshman left east London but he still remains close to some of the club's supporters and has fond memories of his time at the Boleyn Ground.

"I have a friend who runs the South Wales West Ham Supporters Club. He asked me if I'd come along to a local little hall up the road where they were meeting before the game at Swansea. 500 West Ham fans all came down in their buses and I went to meet them.

"I was meant to be there 20 minutes but I was there two-and-a-half hours having pictures and autographs but it was nice, they were all reminiscing about one or two incidents over the years and I haven't got to tell you which ones!

"It was great fun, they're great fans and I had a great two years at West Ham."