West Ham manager Sam Allardyce remains hopeful club record signing Andy Carroll could be in contention for a first-team return before the international break - but insists the England striker must not be rushed back into action.
The Irons are set to head off to Germany to step up their pre-season schedule, which continued last night with a 2-1 win at Colchester.
Carroll - who joined West Ham in a £15million deal from Liverpool following a successful loan spell last season - did not feature in the end-of-season England friendlies because of a heel injury, but will join up with the rest of the Hammers squad as his rehabilitation continues.
Were the 24-year-old 6ft 3in forward to be fully fit by the time the next set of crucial World Cup qualifiers come around at the start of September, Carroll could well be a key figure for national-team boss Roy Hodgson.
Allardyce, though, is determined to take things one step at a time with the Irons' marquee summer signing.
''Andy is still recovering. He has got four weeks or more to go before he starts full training. His rehab is going pretty well at the moment and will be joining us in Germany, and hopefully he will be available, as will George McCarthy, as quickly as possible," the West Ham manager said.
"I hope it will be before (September) for both of them, but being fit and being ready to play are two different things - they may be fit from the injury, but they are unlikely to be capable of playing straight away.
''If we are going to put our lads through six weeks of preparation and then Andy gets fit with two days to go, you would not expect us to play him, would you?''
Allardyce feels his squad are sharpening up nicely ahead of the new Barclays Premier League campaign after a fourth straight warm-up win, with goals from midfielder Joe Cole and defender James Collins at the start of each half. Colchester substitute Jabo Ibehre headed in a stoppage-time consolation for the League One side.
West Ham will have matches against Mainz and Hamburg during their German camp, as preparations increase for the first competitive action at home to newly promoted Cardiff on August 17.
''It was a good workout for us, because Colchester are a couple of weeks ahead of where we are with their season starting earlier, so you would expect we would get a physical game. Our only disappointment was conceding a goal in the last minute,'' said Allardyce.
"The wins, draws or loses mean nothing to what the season will entail, whether you win them all or lose them all, it means nothing to what the first (league) game will be."
Allardyce hopes to bring in ''at least one more'' new arrival before the transfer window closes.
West Ham are considering an appeal for a work permit for Colombian striker Duvan Zapata in a £6.8m deal from Argentinian side Estudiantes.
''It is whether we think we can get the work permit through, that is the problem,'' said Allardyce.
''The fact he is not a full international would mean we have to go to a hearing, and we have to decide if that is worth doing, which we will decide in the next 24 hours, but we would like to (get him) if we could.''