Monday was a bad day for the Geordies, it was like finding out the girl you’re deeply in love with has ran away into the arms of another man and never truly loved you anyway. It would be impossible to sum up a collective reaction of the Toon Army to the news, as people seemed more confused (not unusual for Newcastle fans under Ashley) than anything else. Andy Carroll – our prized possession, who apparently wasn’t feeling the same loyalty and love for his home region on Monday, had jumped ship at the first opportunity. There are a number of confounding stories out there on how this came to be, you only need to ask a cross section of Toon fans to find that they’ll all give you a different account of why Carroll left, but it is becoming generally accepted that it was a deal that suited all parties. Newcastle would always be happy to cash in (to be fair, £35m for a guy who is good at heading a ball is an amazing deal) and Carroll, who demanded an improved contract on the one he only signed in November, was keen to earn big money. For such a deal, Newcastle fans may have been more accepting had the timing not been so frustrating as no replacement was forthcoming and the clubs resources now look stretched. But much like being dumped by a girl you’re deeply in love with, there are two options you can take. You can sulk all you like, accepting the tragedy of what has happened or you can be positive – playing the cards you’ve been dealt.
We loved Andy Carroll, it’s true, but in the space of 24 hours, that love has turned to hate. And although there was a sense of panic and depression felt by the fans on the Tuesday after Carroll’s switch, the spirit and the belief of the Toon Army appears to be intact. Carroll was a great player for us, but we never felt like a one man team. The previous four games before the disappointing performance at Fulham saw Newcastle grab two victories and two draws and in truth those two ties should have ended up as victories. The team was playing well regardless of Carroll being there or not and although there is less security thinking that Carroll will at some point return to the side, the fans are aware that their side can perform to a high level and match anyone on their day. As well as this, Newcastle have been suffering with injuries to key players all season, particularly that of marquee signing Hatem Ben Arfa who has now signed to the club permanently and could be crucial to survival hopes when he returns in March. Dan Gosling made a late cameo against Sunderland before having a slight reoccurrence of his knee injury and fans are interested to see what he can offer the team. Cheick Tiote has also just served his three match suspension after his dubious red card against Stevenage and it will be a massive boost to have him back in midfield after he has offered so much to the club this season. Truth be told – Newcastle have had to overcome a lot of difficult moments this season, but they’ve done it. If you had told any supporter that they could be on 30 points in 10th place on this date, they would have bitten your hand off! Survival is the goal this season and the side (Carroll or no Carroll) have proven that they are capable of accomplishing that.
The question has already been raised by the ever generic British pundit union as to “where will the goals come from now”, but you’d think that these “experts” had forgotten that there were 10 other players on the pitch when Carroll was in a Newcastle shirt. Newcastle have had eight different scorers in the league this season and many seem to forget that one goal behind Carroll in the top scorers chart is Kevin Nolan with 10 goals to his name. The strange thing about Kevin Nolan is that you don’t seem to recognise him for most of the game, yet he just seems to be in the right place at the right time and gets the goals the team needs. Losing Ameobi to injury is a blow, but in recent games Leon Best has worked hard and Lovenkrands should be hungry to impress and establish himself back in the first team. Not exactly world beaters, but I don’t think that enough credit went to the Newcastle midfield for all the work they did for Carroll. Joey Barton has been the best English midfielder in the league this season, and although he may not be “marketable” enough to get in the England squad (which I suspect is part of the reason that Carroll’s fee was so high), and I’m sure he can provide the same service to whoever else is up top. When Barton plays well, Newcastle play well.
The £35m fee alone has been questioned by many and most Newcastle fans will tell you that Carroll is nowhere near worth that, as much as we loved him. He was great for us and brilliant at heading the ball, but he is still a very unfinished article and is still unproven at the top level. It annoyed me somewhat that Sky Sports News had Iain Dowie and Tony Cascarino on transfer deadline day claiming that Liverpool we getting a “proven goal scorer” and he was worth it “in this climate”. Carroll has had one good season in the Championship and half a good season in the Premier League; I wouldn’t want to pay that figure for someone like that. Carroll could be a great player, but the word there is “could”. I see Inter Milan signing Giampaolo Pazzini for about £8m, David Villa joining Barcelona for about £30m and Mario Balotelli (young player of the year, by the way) joining the usually ripped off Man City for £24m and it begs the question, will Carroll ever be able to repay such a massive fee? In truth, Newcastle have got a figure beyond their wildest dreams for a 22 year old that came from their own youth academy. £35m is not the end of it either, as it is believed that there are other clauses that could take the overall figure past £40m+ with an added sell on clause. BIG money for a team that is trying to reduce its debt.
The Toon fans still feel caution over this however, as they wonder how much of this £35m their beloved owner will stick on black at the local Aspers Casino. Alan Pardew has tried to reassure all that the money will be used in the summer to strengthen the team, but did let slip that this will be available for both wages and transfer money. Many Newcastle fans, from understandable experience, have already written off this claim and believe that the club will see very little being reinvested to strengthen the squad, although in my new found optimistic mood, I will reserve judgement until the summer comes about. In the mean time, it is important that the club ties down Joey Barton and Jose Enrique to new long term contracts, as both are adored by the fans and have been crucial to the side’s recent success. Joey Barton himself has said that he wants to end his career in the North East and with the form he has been in, no Toon fan will complain about that.
So should we be negative? Maybe a bit that we’ve lost our prize asset, but truth be told we have a hell of a lot more money than he is worth. We have a number of key players coming back from injury. We are in a good position to achieve survival in our first season after being promoted. We have a lot of promising youth players coming through our academy (who we will now set the bar at £35m for – each). I’m not too worried, I know our striking options are limited at the moment but any Newcastle fans know that we were not a one man team with Carroll in the side and the other players in the squad deserve a lot more credit. A bad performance against Fulham, sure, but the team has had those games this season, even when Carroll has been in the side. It’s time to forget about Carroll, any focus on the loss of him downplays the impact the other players have had and all the Toon army need to focus on right now is their own side’s hopes and remaining games this season. Unlike our former No.9, let’s show some faith in our team!
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