By Darren Bent

11th Jan, 2021 | 6:19pm

'No Way...' - Exclusive: Bent reacts to Michail Antonio update ahead of tonight

Darren Bent should give Michail Antonio at least 45 minutes of football for West Ham tonight even if there’s “no way” he should be playing the full 90.

Former Spurs and England man Bent made his comments in exclusive conversation with Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge before West Ham’s FA Cup third-round tie with Stockport County.

Antonio has not started since returning from a hamstring injury in late December, but David Moyes has confirmed he is closing in on a return.

But against fifth-tier opposition, tonight might be the perfect chance for Antonio to get some minutes under his belt, according to Bent.

“I would probably play him, even if it’s just for a half or 60 minutes, just to get his legs up to speed,” he told Football Insider.

“If you think ‘I’m not gonna risk him and just save him for the Premier League games,’ there’s no guarantee that in his first Premier League game he doesn’t pull his hamstring anyway because he’s not ready.

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“I would see how he goes on against Stockport. I wouldn’t give him 90 minutes, no way. Even if he says he’s fine, I’d give him 45 or 60 minutes then bring him off.

“That way, at least he’s getting minutes in his tank and getting some way to full fitness.”

West Ham need to be careful in how they manage the injury risk to Antonio given that he is now the only recognised striker at the club.

As reported by Football Insider, Sebastien Haller left the London Stadium for Ajax on Friday.

In other news, a top pundit has warned West Ham over a potentially serious wages issue regarding their one-time club-record signing.