Darren Carter is definitely a fully paid-up member of the Kanu fan club. The Nigerian international has been in devastating form for Albion on occasions this season and is set to link up with his country for the African Nations Cup tomorrow.

However, Bryan Robson is hopeful of persuading the Nigerian Football Association to allow Kanu to remain at the Hawthorns for the FA Cup tie with Reading and next week's crucial fixture at Wigan.

It isn't a 'must win' fixture by any stretch of the imagination, but Albion desperately need to rectify a shocking away record.

Travel sickness has hampered their progress all season and is the sole reason why they are currently sitting just two points clear of the relegation zone.

They have garnered a paltry total of just three points from their ten away fixtures this term and face trips to Wigan and Charlton this month.

The presence of Kanu could be vital in procuring Albion's first win on the road and Carter, who admits their away form needs addressing, is aware of the talismanic effect the striker has on Albion's fortunes.

"Villa aside, we've been playing well at home and need to start showing that away from home," he said. "Our away form has been poor and the lads need to take the confidence from home games on to the road.

"Hopefully Kanu will be there for Wigan, as he has almost single-handedly won us games on numerous occasions this season.

"Any time you are under pressure, the first person you look to pass to is Kanu.

"He is capable of holding on to the ball and giving everyone in the team a breather and a chance to regroup.

"He showed his class in front of goal against Tottenham and his first strike was very coolly taken.

"I said to him at half-time 'don't panic,'" quipped Carter. "He is undoubtedly the calmest person I have ever met and is chilled out off the pitch.

"When he is in the mood, it undoubtedly lifts us as a team and we need to start picking up points on the road."

Meanwhile Ugo Ehiogu has been linked with a move to The Hawthorns during the January transfer window.

The 33-year-old centre-half is in the final six months of his deal at Middlesbrough and reports suggest that Albion are keen to take over the remainder of his contract.

Robson signed Ehiogu for £8 million in 2000 whilst in charge at the Riverside and it would mean a return to the West Midlands for the former Villa defender.

Sandwiched in between Albion's two away days is a home fixture with Sunder-land, from which Albion must procure maximum points.

Mick McCarthy's team are the whipping boys of the Premiership and have managed to emerge victorious on only one occasion this season.

It is a game that is sure to stir emotions inside Carter, as he spent a successful ten-game loan spell at the Stadium of Light last season. Sunderland went on to win the Championship title.

And the midfielder admits he is surprised that the Black Cats have already been virtually consigned to relegation by many observers.

"I still speak to some of the players at Sunderland and everyone is understandably down in the dumps at their current league position," said Carter.

"However, I think the play-ers and Mick McCarthy are remaining positive that they can move up the table, but it is a big ask.

"I am very surprised to see them in the position they are in, as I thought they would do well after last season. However, on a personal level, I hope I am playing against them and that I can help us to a much-needed three points.

"I prefer playing in central midfield, as that is where I am more comfortable, but I don't mind playing on the left either.

"It is good linking up with Ronnie Wallwork in central midfield, as he allows you to make a lot of forward runs.

"He keeps the shape of the midfield together well and does a lot of unsung work," he added.