Johannesburg - Benni McCarthy is making some progress in his gruelling "battle of the bulge". West Ham United manager Avram Grant now apparently believes Bafana Bafana's all-time top scorer is fit enough to play 13 minutes in a game.
McCarthy was brought on as a 77th minute substitute in both West Ham's deflating 3-1 home Premier League defeat against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday and again on Tuesday night when a largely reserve-strength Hammers sneaked a 1-O Carling Cup victory over Second Division Oxford United via a 93rd minute goal from Scott Parker.
Having been given an ultimatum by West Ham to lose 1kg in weight a week for a period of five weeks or sacrifice his weekly pay packet of approximately R400 000 - a hefty loss of R2m if his weight remains static - the skilled McCarthy demonstrated in the sphere of recapturing lost form that there are signs of improvement.
While McCarthy had little, if any chance to impress in West Ham's dismal defeat against Bolton, he was pretty busy during his brief spell against minnows Oxford United and had a hand in the movement that led to the last-gasp winning goal.
Afterwards Grant mentioned McCarthy's brief cameo as one of the encouraging aspects of the match from West Ham's perspective.
Now the big question is whether McCarthy will be granted any work time on the pitch when West Ham face an acid test against Manchester United in an away encounter at Old Trafford's "Theatre of Dreams" this weekend.
It would seem the thorough, uncompromising Grant is unlikely to consider McCarthy for his starting line-up, but he could find a place on the substitute's bench and be summoned into the game at one point or another.
As to his weight progress, West Ham, like Walt Disney's Brer Rabbit, "ain't saying nothing."