Big Sam on: Nottingham Forest

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce said youth will be given a chance when the Hammers travel to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup with Budweiser third round.

Big Sam will take his weakened squad to the City Ground for a Sunday lunch-time tie, with a place in the last 32 up for grabs.

With Andy Carroll, Winston Reid, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Ricardo Vaz Te and the suspended Kevin Nolan all unavailable and Ravel Morrison struggling with a groin injury, the manager will shuffle his pack.

The fit-again Stewart Downing, Adrian, Matt Jarvis, Joe Cole and Carlton Cole could all start against Billy Davies' side. Defenders Leo Chambers and Dan Potts could be given further chances to impress, while fellow young professionals Pelly Ruddock and Blair Turgott have been re-called from loan spells at Luton Town and Colchester United respectively and could also feature.

Speaking to the media ahead of Sunday's tie, Big Sam admitted he has no choice but to rotate his squad ahead of next week's Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Manchester City and Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Cardiff City.

"It's backs to the wall at the minute as far as players available are concerned for the games that are coming up," the manager admitted. "So, we have to roll with what we've got and with the games coming as thick as fast as a they are, a lot of the younger players will now be escalated into the first-team level to see if they can master the challenge and show us what they've got in terms of ability, starting at Nottingham Forest on Sunday."

The manager - who returns to the city where he won the Division Three title with Notts County in 1998 - said Ravel Morrison returned to training after a groin injury on Friday and could also be involved on Sunday - one of a number of promising young players who will look to make their mark against the Sky Bet Championship promotion-chasers.

"At the moment, my senior squad comprises about 14 fit players, so that's why all the U21s will be promoted up into the squad of 25 to face these next group of fixtures.

"The younger professionals will be tested. They were all tested in the summer when we took them away [on pre-season] and we've got to make the squad up with at least seven or eight U21 players, who will get the opportunity to play against Nottingham Forest and show us what I can do. We'll ask them 'Are you good enough to play for West Ham?'.

"Everyone says 'When are you going to start playing your youngsters?' so we're going to start playing them. If we don't win, they'll say 'He's undermining the FA Cup', so here I am in a no-win situation.

"We had one or two little digs before we played Tottenham in the Capital One Cup about the team we were going to play and we won! My job is to put the best available team out, bearing in mind what I've got after that and the injuries I've got."

"Before the U21 league shut down before Christmas, they were top of it. We all know there is a big jump between there and the first team, but they are top of that league so they are proving that around the country, whoever they've played, they've been better than their opponents.

"Most of them, we've tried to put out on loan at first-team level somewhere, and now these lads will get a chance alongside a number of experienced players on Sunday.

"Nottingham is a fantastic city with two fantatic clubs, so it's a very good fixture. The team we send out should really look forward to the game because it's one for them to prove an awful lot of what they can do in the future."

While he will not be available on Sunday, Big Sam also revealed that Andy Carroll is now training with the first-team squad.

"Andy will be assessed after every training session and he'll be out training with the lads on Friday, which he has done for a few days now. Andy playing football is something we have to take big care about, because he is fit from the injury but not match-fit.

"If he or any player plays too many games too soon, it can only promote more injuries - not in the same area but in different areas in terms of muscle fatigue and strains. I have to be very careful about when I play him and how often I play him.

"As soon as we can, he'll start from the bench and we'll arrange games behind closed doors to get his match-fitness up, as we will sooner or later with Ricardo Vaz Te and Winston Reid, who are both getting closer to training. Andy is the nearest at the moment."

While stories have circulated suggesting some managers are not concerned about progressing in the FA Cup, Big Sam said he had nothing but the utmost respect for the world's most famous knockout competition.

At the same time, he said the relative lack of pressure of FA Cup football presents him with a great opportunity to test young professionals in a first-team fixture away from the intense spotlight of the Barclays Premier League.

"My view of the competition is that it's fabulous and has great history and tradition. There is no doubt about that, but if you are in the position we are and have the injuries that we have, then there is only one major priority at this football club - the Barclays Premier League. Tthat won't change for any football club, irrespective of who they are.

"The FA Cup is a great competition but at this stage of the season, when we face a third-round tie on the back of a heavy, heavy schedule, it becomes less of a priority to all of the other competitions we're involved in - especially when we have a League Cup semi-final at Manchester City up at the Eithad Stadium three days later."

When asked about his own future, Big Sam said his discussions with the Board had focused on players and improving results and the Club's league position.

"The position is that we're talking about trying to bring new players into the football club and trying to overcome the injury problems that we've got.

"In terms of my discussions with David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady, when they're talking to me it's about positive action to get us out of the situation that we're in, which I'm very grateful for."