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Allardyce faces ‘near impossible task’

• 'We know Sam has not lost his ambition or desire'
• Club close to signing defender Roger Johnson on loan
• 6'8" Monaco striker Lacina Traore also set for short-term deal

The West Ham United co-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold have conceded the club's manager Sam Allardyce has been handed "a near impossible task" as injuries eat into his squad, but hope to add two new players to the ranks this week to bolster the team's prospects.

The Wolverhampton Wanderers centre-half Roger Johnson, who had spent the first half of the season at Sheffield Wednesday, is to sign on loan for the remainder for the campaign and should be followed by AS Monaco's Lacina Traore in a similar six-month deal.

The Ivory Coast forward only completed an £8.5m move to the French club from Anzhi Makhachkala over the weekend but will be loaned immediately to the Londoners, pending the approval of a work permit and the passing of a medical later this week.

The pair will be key additions given Allardyce is currently operating with a senior squad consisting of only 14 fit and available players, a youthful lineup having been thrashed 5-0 in the FA Cup third round at Nottingham Forest of the Championship on Sunday.

That defeat, coupled with miserable Premier League form that has seen the team slip beneath the relegation cut-off, prompted Sullivan and Gold to publish an open letter on the club's website on Monday in which they addressed recent traumas ahead of the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final at Manchester City on Wednesday.

Allardyce retains the support of the board, even if a rapid improvement is needed for a club without a league win since November, with the owners acknowledging the strains under which the 59-year-old is currently operating.

"Like all West Ham United supporters we feel frustrated and hurt by our recent results," said the club's owners in their statement. "It is never enjoyable being knocked out of a cup competition and losing by such a large score-line to a lower division side is hard to take for us all. We thought the youngsters gave their all and did not stop trying but, in the end, Nottingham Forest's experience proved too much for us.

"I know Sam would have loved to have put out a more varied side, with our talented youngsters accompanied by more senior players in the starting XI. But many key players are out injured and Sam has been handed a near impossible task of coming through three crucial games in the space of six days with a squad of only 14 fit and available senior players. This is not an excuse it is a fact. We know Sam has not lost his ambition or desire and is committed to making West Ham United a great Premier League club."

Allardyce, the only manager retained from the start of the season at any of the Premier League's bottom five clubs, will be in charge at the Etihad stadium in midweek and for the critical trip to Cardiff City on Saturday. He is still without the club's record signing, Andy Carroll, as well as the injured Ricardo Vaz Te up front, which has served to accelerate the move for Traore. The 6ft 8in striker is contracted until 2018 at Monaco and his arrival, together with that of Johnson as cover with a swathe of central defenders also currently absent, will serve as confirmation that the manager's judgement is being backed.

"Our first priority is to get our key players fit," continued the statement. "Our record signing Andy Carroll continues to make good progress following his return to first-team training and he should be back on the pitch very soon along with Winston Reid and our other missing central defenders, James Tomkins and James Collins. Trust us, Andy Carroll is desperate to play and is ready to do his bit for the team and we are confident that the return of all of our injured players will lead to an upturn in our fortunes. Thereafter, our second priority is to bring in the new talent needed to bolster our squad in the most needed areas. January is not an easy time to do business but we are pleased to confirm we are close to securing one of our key striking targets. A defender is high on the list of priorities as well and progress is being made on that front.

"We hope to have several of our missing players back in time for Cardiff and we go there knowing that a win can get us out of the bottom three. Such is the nature of the Premier League this season; there are only six points between us and the team in 13th place. Make no mistake, though; we are under no illusions as to the seriousness of our current predicament in the Premier League.

"But on the board we have a combined talent of running football clubs and we will draw on all of our nous to get West Ham United out of this situation. We have experienced difficult times before and we know what will get us results - hard work, determination and perseverance. To that end, we are all working round the clock to do everything in our powers to help arrest our slump in form."


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