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Antonio admits he is not 100 per cent fit

Michail Antonio says he hopes to gain a place in England’s World Cup squad for next summer’s games, but admits he is not yet 100 per cent fit as the new season continues to roll on.

The former Nottingham Forest forward, who joined West Ham for around £7m in 2015, believes that setting his sights on claiming a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad is a realistic target – admitting that he is comfortable playing anywhere along the front line.

The 27-year-old was speaking with the Evening Standard in an exclusive interview, when he revealed that his fitness was not 100 per cent after suffering a hamstring tear in the spring.

“The problem was the hamstring tore in an unusual way and it wasn’t going to repair itself with just rest,” said Antonio. “I had to have the operation and it has taken time to get over that.”

“I don’t feel I am quite back to 100 per cent, I have about five per cent to go. Physically, I’m good, but the stamina, which is an important part of my game, is not quite back to where it was.”

“My stats are not as high as they were last season but I reckon another three or four games and I will be back to 100 per cent.”

“It’s always there in the back of my mind, thinking about Russia and the World Cup,” he says. “It’s definitely a mission for me – and that’s another reason why I want to get back to full power as soon as possible. You can’t rush the body, though, because, if you do, injuries will keep occurring.”

Antonio then discussed where he prefers playing, insisting that he is most effective being able to cut inside from the let.

“I really like playing on the left because it gives me the option of coming inside or going down the line,” the forward said. “Having said that, I am quite happy to play down the right – as long as I am in an attacking three, I don’t mind really. In fact, I’ve played more on the right in my career, apart from a spell at Nottingham Forest when I was on the left and managed to score 15 goals and 15 assists that season.”