West Ham star Michail Antonio will ‘relish’ new striker challenge, says Carlton Cole: ‘He knows he needs help’

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Michail Antonio has been West Ham’s only senior striker since Sebastien Haller left for Ajax in January 2021  (Getty Images)
Michail Antonio has been West Ham’s only senior striker since Sebastien Haller left for Ajax in January 2021 (Getty Images)

Former West Ham striker Carlton Cole says Michail Antonio knows he “needs help” leading the line for the Hammers this season and is surprised the Jamaican international avoided serious injury amid his hefty workload last term.

Signing a new centre-forward has been a priority for David Moyes this summer and West Ham are now finally closing in on a deal for Italy striker Gianlucca Scamacca, having agreed a £30.5million fee with Sassuolo.

The 23-year-old’s arrival would signal the end of a protracted search that has spanned the last three transfer windows since Sebastien Haller was sold to Ajax in January 2021.

The Irons failed with moves for several targets last summer and had a club-record bid for now Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez rejected by Benfica in January this year.

That left Moyes with just one senior centre-forward, with the now departed Andriy Yarmolenko acting as nominal back-up last term. And while Antonio started the campaign in superb form with six goals in his first eight Premier League games, he faded badly in the latter part of the season.

“I was speaking to Michail about it the other day actually, he knows he needed help last season,” Cole told Standard Sport. “I’m not going to lie, he looked tired at times. He loves the challenge but he needs help. There are games he wouldn’t have had to play if he had help and that will keep him fresh to give his best.

“I probably played with 12, 13, 15 different strikers in my time at West Ham, so I’m no stranger to it. But it’s a welcome challenge as well, to keep being the main man every week.

“Your level goes up and that’s what eventually got me into the England team. I had to keep striving for my best because I knew that if I didn’t play well one week, then someone will take my place. Antonio will welcome the challenge and it’ll improve him as well.”

Antonio made 47 appearances in all competitions last season, all but two of them from the start, as the Hammers reached the semi-finals of the Europa League and finished seventh in the top-flight.

He scored just three times in the League from New Year’s Day onwards, though it was a minor miracle that the 32-year-old made it through the campaign unscathed, given his past struggles with injury.

Italy frontman Gianluca Scamacca is set to provide competition for Antonio up top this term (Getty Images)
Italy frontman Gianluca Scamacca is set to provide competition for Antonio up top this term (Getty Images)

“I was surprised he didn’t get injured last year with the amount of games he played,” Cole said. “He did get some [smaller] injuries that he was playing through that people don’t know about. When you’re playing through injury, the fans don’t necessarily know.

“He knows he’s going to get some help, some stiff competition, and that’ll help him get better and the club get better.”

Cole was speaking at the London Stadium during West Ham’s annual Homeless Support Day. The event provides members of the local homeless community with access to a number of key services such as HSBC banking and haircuts, as well as food and clothing donations, and has a significant personal resonance for Cole.

“This is massive for people,” he added. “I think homeless people get painted with a bad brush. There were times when my mum, when she first came to the country, was homeless, as was my uncle. When people think about homeless people they think of someone in the street under a bridge, but there’s more to it than that. There are people that just have unforeseen circumstances.

Antonio will welcome the challenge and it’ll improve him as well

“I’ve had ups and downs in my life and with the flick of a switch things can go wrong for you. I’ve always had a good support network around me but some people might not have that.

“These people come here for that extra bit of help, help with bank accounts, haircuts, dentistry, and it’s just good to know that our club is doing massive things in the community. West Ham are doing well on the pitch and we’ve got to do well off it, too.”

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