West Ham manager Sam Allardyce branded on-loan striker Andy Carroll as "critical" to the club's future after he played a central role in sealing a 2-0 win against Wigan.
After Matt Jarvis had put the Hammers ahead, Carroll teed up Kevin Nolan for the goal which killed the game off and pushed Wigan, who who had dominated for long periods, a step closer to relegation. Carroll has now contributed two assists and three goals in West Ham's last four matches and Allardyce wants to keep him at Upton Park next season.
"He was very, very good, even with the limited supply we gave him," said Allardyce, who feels that each impressive performance strengthens West Ham's chances of keeping Carroll. "I think it improves it, personally. Whether it can be done at the end of the season, we have to wait and see."
He added: "It proves we are buying a player that is critical to our development programme.
"We have to be better next season than this season. If we haven't got Andy Carroll next year, we have to produce a big big money signing to get someone of his quality first and foremost, besides the rest that we need."
Allardyce confirmed that terms on a new contract have been agreed but he expects the club's owners David Gold and David Sullivan will not want him to sign until West Ham are mathematically safe from relegation.
"We are absolutely delighted to be on 42 points with four games to go," said Allardyce, who believes the Wigan victory has effectively secured West Ham's place in the top flight.
"Mathematically we are not safe but I can see us picking some more points up between now and the end of the season. The contract is sorted. I will (sign it). I don't know whether the owners want us to be mathematically safe."
Jarvis put West Ham ahead and Nolan sealed the victory with his 100th career goal but Allardyce was full of praise for a defensive effort which kept Wigan at bay.
"I am pleased for Kevin. It must have played on his mind that he was on 99 goals because has waited so long to get his 100 and now he has got it with great technique," Allardyce said. "When we didn't have the ball, which was for long periods, we were excellent in our defending today. We were very resilient and dogged."