(Reuters) - Southampton striker Charlie Austin has fully recovered from a hamstring injury and could return to the squad for Saturday’s Premier League match at West Ham United, manager Mark Hughes said on Thursday.
Austin has not played for 18th-placed Southampton since picking up the injury in December’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town, a game in which he headed in the opener to take his league tally to six goals from 16 appearances.
Asked if the 28-year-old could return for the trip to the London Stadium, Hughes said: “We’re hopeful. I think he’s very keen to be involved... (but) we’ve got to be mindful that he’s been out for some time, it was a significant injury.
“He’s done exceptionally well to get back so quickly, and he’s a goalscorer. Clearly one of the issues has been a lack of goals, and when Charlie had a run in the side his record was there for all to see.
“He’s instinctive and tests keepers so if we can welcome him back for this key period, clearly that is going to help us.”
Hughes replaced the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino earlier this month and steered Southampton to a 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
The former Stoke City boss will take charge of Southampton for the first time in the league on Saturday.
West Ham are also battling to stay in the top-flight and have 30 points from 30 games, two points more than Southampton who are one place below them.
“This is a key game for both sides. At this end of the season you can damage your rivals’ prospects while enhancing your own,” Hughes added.
“This is a great club with some exceptional people and we’ve got the tools to get the job done in this eight weeks.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis