On the 31st of January 2011, Andy Carroll signed for Liverpool for a club record £35 million, making him the most expensive English footballer of all-time.
Expectation was high, and straight from the off Carroll had a hard time of things. Replacing Torres who had vacated the number 9 shirt and left to join Chelsea, was never going to be easy, and in reality, Carroll was never going to be able to escape his massive price-tag.
There is no way of getting around that Carroll on the balance of things, is not worth £35 million, but there are very few people that actually are. The club were forced to show their hand and secure an out and out striker to replace Torres, and it was left far too late, meaning they would have to pay over the odds for whoever they purchased. The fact they chose an Englishmen only added to the price-tag, and after such a good start to the season, Kenny took a risk and opted for the big Geordie.
Fans reacted well and were pleased to have an old fashioned English number 9 at the helm, something that had been lacking since the days of Robbie Fowler (completely different styles, I know) and the future looked bright.
Carroll got his first taste of the the Anfield crowd on the 6th March, coming on as a substitute in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United. His first touch brought a massive cheer from 40,000 jubilant reds as he attacked every ball sent his way. He left the pitch in high spirits, not knowing that it would be over a month before he would finally get on the score-sheet for his new club.
He started the game against Manchester City on the 11th of April with massive pressure on his shoulders. The press had not let up in their hounding of both Carroll and Torres whose scoring records had been dreadful since making their switches in January. But against Manchester City, Carroll received something he hadn’t done consistently in the previous month. Balls to attack. He opened his Liverpool account with a sweet 25 yard strike, beating Joe Hart with sheer power. He doubled his tally minutes later as Meireles swung an enticing ball into the 18 yard box, which Carroll attacked with great intent, guiding it into the far corner. The crowd erupted, everything had finally began to click.
Unfortunately they would be the last goals he would score in the 10/11 season and he would have to wait until Exeter City away to bag his next for the club, in the second round of the League Cup. He would go on to score nine goals in the 11/12 season, which looks a poor return on paper, but the goals were of the utmost importance.
He scored the opening goal in a 2-0 victory over Everton at Goodison, which many thought would kick-start his campaign. But unfortunately it didn’t and he went through a confidence sapping mid-season, until finally beginning to hit form late on, scoring a late winner in the F.A Cup Semi-Final against Everton, and also a brilliant individual effort in the Final.
His late season form earned him a place at Euro 2012 in which he impressed when given the chance, scoring a trademark header against Sweden, from a brilliant Gerrard cross. The pair looked to have clicked at points during the season, but never enough together to really get going, which could have been a deciding factor in the demise of Carroll.
Carroll returned to Liverpool and made two substitute appearances for the club at the beginning of the 12/13 season, before a season-long loan to West Ham was confirmed, with the option to buy for £18 million at the end of season.
This is extremely saddening from my point of view as a Liverpool fan, for many reasons.
Many pundits and fans alike have never warmed to him, and always based his performances off his price-tag, a peak he was never going to match. When he was asked to perform, he would always run himself into the ground and challenge across the park, even tracking back to help out with the defence.
Liverpool have never managed to give him the service he really needed to thrive off. At Newcastle, they based their game around him, and getting the ball in the air for him to challenge, a ploy that worked with great success thanks to the service of Barton and Nolan. Liverpool were never going to base their side around a 6″3 Geordie, when the centre of midfield was home to Steven Gerrard.
A passing philosophy has always been at the heart of things for Liverpool and due to Carroll’s height, it seemed for the majority of Dalglish’s reign, that the players didn’t think Carroll was able to join in the passing game, as the ball was always hoofed as high as possible in his direction. Often, this was usually extremely wayward and he would be chasing balls with a very slim chance of keeping in, let alone making anything of. Yet due to his price-tag, he was always the scapegoat.
Yes, he wasn’t perfect and he has missed numerous chances for Liverpool. But these misses were far too over-hyped. Go and watch any team in the Premier League, and strikers would be missing chances twice as easy, but they weren’t well-documented due to the price difference. Every miss would be greeted with a collective groan, as if he was expected to score every chance. Every miss would chip away at Carroll’s ever dwindling confidence, and before you knew it he was in an abyss of woe.
He managed to regain form, and showed what he could do when given the chance towards the end of last season, which coincided with the return to fitness of Steven Gerrard, which was no coincidence. Gerrard was often the only player capable of playing a decent delivery from wide, into Carroll. At Newcastle, they were trained to put the ball on the penalty spot, at Liverpool they were trained to knock the ball about and attempt defence splitting passes. So the initial purchase does beggar belief.
When Brendan Rodgers was made Liverpool manager this summer, it effectively spelt the end of Andy Carroll’s Liverpool career. Known for his tiki-taka philosophy which was used to great effect at Swansea, Rodgers likes to keep the ball on the floor with a two-touch passing style.
Many pundits assumed this would be the end for Carroll who they deemed surplus to demands due to the new tactics set to be employed at the club. With the signing of Fabio Borini from Roma, and strong rumours circling for the arrivals of Clint Dempsey and Daniel Sturridge, the end looked near for Carroll. And it was confirmed tonight that he would leaving.
It is with a tinge of sadness I write this, after adoring the big-man for so many years. He was never given a fair crack at the whip during his time at Liverpool and was often plagued by his over-inflated price-tag. Hopefully he will find his feet at West Ham, and with the service Matt Jarvis and Kevin Nolan will provide, I’m sure he will.
He has a great touch, can turn on a six-pence, deadly in the air, and surprisingly quick for his height. His fastest pace last season was 22.37mph, which ranked him one of the quickest players in the Liverpool squad. Intertwine this with his ability to pluck the ball out of the air, the power he can put into his shots and his heading ability, and you have an old-fashioned number 9.
He is a confidence player, and will love the fact that he will now become first choice striker down at West Ham. Sam Allardyce has worked wonders with tactics involving big, powerful strikers, as shown by his time at Bolton with Kevin Davies, as-well as when he was in charge of Carroll at Newcastle. He will be able to utilise all of Carroll’s abilities both on the floor and in the air. Nolan always had a great partnership with Carroll during their time at Newcastle and this could be a key pairing for West Ham’s battle to avoid relegation. The new signing Matt Jarvis has a wand of a left foot and his service to Carroll will be something the Geordie will be massively looking forward to.
Anyway, it looks as though West Ham will be very keen to keep Carroll at the end of the year, and if he helps them stay up, I am sure that they will fork out the £18 million to make him a permanent Hammer, and it’s something he deserves. Treat him well West Ham.
Best of luck Andy. YNWA.
(Suppose I better put some kind of bet here, to justify it going on a betting page..)
1 point: West Ham to finish top 10 – 13/2 Stan James