West Ham United boss Alan Curbishley insists Dean Ashton has a future at Upton Park.
"Dean played against Birmingham, but then we came into a batch of games where I wanted to bulk the midfield up, so we did not get overpowered," said Curbishley.
"When you have been out a year, that is a long time.
"Deano has been through something similar to Michael Owen, although he has not had the same niggling injuries.
"They have got to get back in and get regular football, and that is Deano's complaint at the moment.
"If I decided to play just one down the middle, then I felt Carlton Cole was more suited to it.
"We will see - we have got 10 games left and will see what that brings."
Curbishley added: "It has been a long road back for him, and I have spoken to Dean about it. It has not been confrontational.
"He might not be happy about it, but he has accepted it.
"It has just been something which I thought was best for the team and I will not hesitate to change it again if it is not working.
"However, the one thing you cannot get away from is that he has got more goals than anybody else, and he has not played all the games.
"That tells me if we can produce some chances, then I would not mind him getting on the end of it.
"If I decide to play 4-4-2 and Deano is in there, then I have no worries about that."