Andy Carroll: Ten games to convince West Ham
For sixty-eight minutes it looked like on the biggest coups in Premier League history. Here was a newly-promoted team feeling its way back into the elite with a striker worth £35 million pounds as its cutting edge. West Ham were leading Fulham three-nil and were coasting towards their second successive home win and a consolidation of their encouraging start to the season.
Although he had not scored Andy Carroll had pretty much won the game single-handed. He set up the first goal in the opening minute for his mate Kevin Nolan and had spent the rest of the time galloping around causing havoc to the Fulham defence and making poor old Martin Jol wish he had thrown his cuckoo clock out of the bedroom window that morning and rolled over with pillow wrapped around head rather than rolling out of bed.
Poor old Martin and poor old Brendan Rodgers. Silly old Brendan Rodgers. How could the Liverpool manager allow such a force of arms, legs, hair and prodigious footballing ability walk out of Anfield, especially as he had no obvious cover? As the hapless Italian captain in “Allo “Allo might have said, what a mistake-a to make-a.
Six months later though and it looks for all the world like it Rodgers knew exactly what he was doing in letting Carroll go. So much so even West Ham are coming round to his thinking with reports this week claiming that they will not be taking up their option on making Carroll’s loan move permanent in the summer. When you consider all the panic that ensued when it was revealed Liverpool could recall the striker in January, it really is quite a turnaround.
The Hammers’ reluctance to commit to a deal for Carroll is totally understandable and, unfortunately for the England striker it looks like he will have to think again over where his career goes next.
So where has it all gone wrong? Certainly Carroll has been unlucky with injury. From the moment he landed awkwardly in that match with Fulham and tore his hamstring, he has never really looked like the same player. Not the same threat in the air (not consistently anyway) not the same bully to defenders, not a threat on goal and, most obviously of all, his touch has completely deserted him at times. Quite a lot of the time.
He has not been helped by the enormity of his price tag. That has just helped magnify his shortcomings. As has the off-the-field headlines he has attracted in his time at Upton Park. No one can be brilliant every week. But if you are scoring goals or setting them up or even contributing effectively people will not give a damn about anything else. When it is not happening for you that is when they look in more detail at the small print.
And that is exactly what West Ham are doing, and you cannot blame them. Carroll is reportedly on £85,000 per week and, if so, his three goals have come at an approximate cost of £2m each. Even if you remove the weeks he spent out injured it is still more than hefty. For a club like West Ham who are trying to reduce debt rather than increase it, it is an eye-watering amount. The £17m transfer fee, which, remarkably, seemed fairly reasonable back in August, now appears as sound an investment as mining for cheese on the moon.
Despite the increased revenue from the new TV deal from next season it seems the Hammers are now set on looking elsewhere. Rickie Lambert has been mooted. At 31 he does not have the edge on Carroll, seven years his junior. But with 12 goals already in the bank so far this season and a likely buying price of around £5m-£6m, he does on pretty much everything else. The aspects that drive the economics of any deal.
Carroll is a player with ability. He has shown that he can score goals in the Premier League and he can be a threat. He scored 14 times in the season that catapulted him into the spotlight for Newcastle only two seasons ago. He has also shown flashes for England. His supporters would say that all proves he can cut it. Doubters would counter that anyone can have one good campaign.
He still has time to turn things in his favour. Not much, but enough. There are ten games to go and West Ham’s mind can still be changed. He has a manager that is happy to build his attack around him and play to his strengths. He has some of the most loyal supporters in the country behind him. Carroll has the set up to succeed. The rest is up to him. To prove people wrong. His immediate career depends on it.