West Ham are keen to step up their interest in Eddie Howe but fear he may use them to negotiate an improved Bournemouth contract, Football Insider can reveal.

The Hammers have turned their attention to the 41-year-old as they assess possible candidates to replace under-pressure Manuel Pellegrini.

A West Ham source has told Football Insider that Howe is now top of their wanted list and the initial feelers they have put out are encouraging.

As revealed by Football Insider earlier this week, Howe is said to be “very keen” to take over the London Stadium and end his lengthy Bournemouth association.

However, the West Ham hierarchy are mindful of the Cherries manager using their interest to negotiate a new and improved deal at his club.

Howe’s current Bournemouth contract is due to expire next summer, which strongly suggests his future is up in the air.

He has been in charge at the Vitality Stadium across two spells for a remarkable 11 years, bar a nine-month spell at Burnley, and has firmly established them as a Premier League club after taking them all the way from League Two to the top tier.

Pellegrini’s position has been discussed at board level following a dreadful run of results that’s left the club in 17th place in the Premier League table and just three points above the relegation zone.

West Ham have no immediate plans to axe Pellegrini and he is in charge for today’s trip to Chelsea and is likely to remain in place for next Wednesday’s visit to Wolves.

The club’s hierarchy are assessing multiple candidates to replace Pellegrini, also including available pair David Moyes and Chris Hughton, and Dalian Yifang manager Rafael Benitez.

Hammers co-owner David Sullivan has privately championed Moyes returning for a second spell, but he would prefer to head back to Everton, where Marco Silva is also fighting for his job.

In other West Ham news, it can be REVEALED that the club’s new first choice is “VERY KEEN” to land the manager’s job.