It’s difficult to ignore Andy Carroll this season. Scoring with good regularity for Newcastle, living with his captain, and every club in need of a striker appearing to be ready to pay upwards of £20 million for his services. This season has seen him just as likely to make both the gossip and sports sections of the newspaper.
He has already made his international debut and he’s been billed as England’s future target-man, the perfect partner for Wayne Rooney. The aerial power that adds a physical presence to England’s forwards. Had you told this to most Newcastle fans two or three years previous you may have been laughed out of St James Park.
Its was understandable for such pessimism however. These false dawns had been all too abundant since the retirement of Alan Shearer. The club had it’s heirs to the number nine shirt despite only one man actually wearing it. First it was Michael Chopra who scored freely in the clubs youth and reserve sides but couldn’t repeat it at senior level. He finds himself back at Cardiff City.
Shola Ameobi followed a similar path and while still at the club, never truly fulfilled the promise the late Sir Bobby Robson had predicted.
Then there was the more established candidates. Birmingham’s latest loan acquisition Obafemi Martins was explosive but all too inconsistent, and Michael Owen was blighted by injuries both of whom failed to keep Newcastle up in 2009.
Yet if it had not been for that relegation, Andy Carroll may never have been given that chance. A loan spell to Preston brought one goal in eleven games and left both sets of fans slightly disappointed by the striker’s efforts. By the time Newcastle lined up against West Bromich Albion in August of 2009 he was still far from the club’s leading striker. That however was about to change as he powered home his first of the season just under a month later at fellow promoted side Blackpool in a narrow 2-1 defeat.
This was by no means luck however. There was a notable difference in Carroll, gone was his wire like frame that often allowed him to be bullied by centre backs. He had evolved. He now looked bigger and stronger and began to use his physicality effectively. At the time it felt too easy to liken his aerial dominance with Shearer’s, but it was the only real comparison. However unlike fellow strikers of his stature Carroll offered more than just long legs and a good header. A big stride which made him quick something typified by the way he tore past Sunderland’s defenders in October’s derby demolition. He displays instances of fantastic technique, his goals against Doncaster and Plymouth at home last season and Aston Villa this, are examples of his ability to strike a ball with precision and venom.
Chris Hughton was quick to pour water on the media’s praise. Every time he was asked about his star striker he would repeat that he is ‘still learning’ and that there would be ‘up’s and downs’ a wise decision and one that Alan Pardew has looked to maintain. That’s where Newcastle United come in, or more particularly it’s fans. It may sound clichéd but Newcastle’s fans enjoy a good striker. Their history is littered with them. And they see no reason why that should stop anytime soon and it’s that adoration that will help Carroll to continue.
When the club was relegated it gave Carroll the chance to develop. He had little competition and a fan base at an all time low. In many ways they latched onto him and he loved every minute of it. It was unquestionably a gamble. His handful of goals in the previous season hadn’t displayed any hidden talent. Looking back now however, Carroll needed that season. It was vital he played against those in the mould of Sheffield United’s Chris Morgan, defenders that ply their trade by being physical, who will rough strikers up and look to gain any advantage possible.
By receiving a season in a more physically demanding league it made him into the striker he is today. His game matured in numerous ways. He began to trouble defences finishing with 19 goals in all competitions. By August 2010 he was deemed the spearhead of Newcastle’s attack as they returned to the Premier League. Despite a satisfactory opening at Old Trafford, he announced himself a week later with a hat-trick in a 6-0 whitewash of Aston Villa. At 21 he holds the potential to be one England’s best with or without Newcastle United, but as of this moment his boyhood club is the best place for Carroll to develop. Long may his future career growth continue.