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Saints’ Austin may return for Hammers clash

Southampton striker Charlie Austin has stepped up his recovery from a hamstring injury and could return in time for their next Premier League game against West Ham United at the end of the month, the club’s new manager Mark Hughes has said.

Austin has not played for 17th-placed Southampton since picking up the injury in December’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town, a game in which he headed the opener to take his league tally to six goals from 16 appearances.

“We’ve been speaking to Charlie over the last two days and he’s really encouraged by how it’s going,” Hughes, who took over from the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino on Wednesday, told the club’s website (www.southamptonfc.com).

“We’ve got a chance of integrating him for short periods next week. If we can do that, we can speed up his progress… with a bit of luck, if we can get him ready for West Ham that’s a massive positive.”

Southampton visit third-tier Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarterfinals on Sunday before returning to league action on March 31 with a trip to West Ham. Saints have 28 points, two behind the Hammers and just one above the relegation zone.

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