Penny for Andy Carroll’s thoughts as he traipsed off to a concerto of boos at St James’ Park on Sunday. As the numbers board was held aloft and the number nine flickered to life the jeers that had greeted Carroll’s every touch magnified to ear splitting levels. Taking full advantage the opportunity presented to them the ruthless swathes of black and white clad Geordies revelled in the misfortune of a player they once worshipped. Their former number nine stormed down the tunnel and deeper into football insignificance ridiculed by his fellow Tyneside natives . The man that splashed out £35 million on him just 15-months ago the subject of a vicarious whirlwind of expletives. Kenny Dalglish could only watch as Liverpool’s record signing sunk to new depths in the city he used to call home.
But how different it could have been. It was quite apt that in the ninth minute Carroll galloped past Newcastle defenders James Perch and Mike Williamson, rounded Tim Krul and looked odds on to score a goal that would see humble pie shoot to the top of menus across Tyneside. But in a moment of madness the 23-year-old flung himself to the turf when all he had to do was roll the ball into the Leazes net and give his Red’s career the boost it sorely needs. Unfortunately the eagle eyes of referee Martin Atkinson spotted his deception brandishing a yellow card in the process. Did Carroll bottle it? Whatever the reason it gave the Toon Army further ammunition. From that point onwards his afternoon went swiftly downhill eventually coming to an end in the 79th minute much to the disgust of a player that finds himself at a crossroads at such an early stage in his once promising career.
Right now he is at rock bottom reaching his lowest ebb against the club he supported as a boy. It was as if Carroll’s career has come full circle in just over a year. Living every Newcastle supporters dream of wearing the number nine the Gateshead born striker transformed from gangly teenager to feared Premier League hit man who rattled defences with a mix of aerial aggression and brute strength whilst also scoring goals at will. It persuaded Dalglish to part with a record sum to make him Liverpool’s new number nine. From that moment on he’s resembled a sinking ship that finally dipped below the surface on Sunday. A miserable afternoon ended in humiliation. But with every dark cloud there is always a silver lining lurking somewhere.
Prior to his pitiful attempt to dupe the referee Carroll’s performance genuinely befitted the price tag that has weighed heavily on his shoulders since he upped sticks made the move to Anfield. He gave the Newcastle back four a torrid time with his power in the air winning every aerial duel with Williamson and playing the target man role to a tee. The hunger and determination that had waned since his arrival on Merseyside was reignited in his homeland. Eight goals in almost 50 games is an appalling return on what the Reds paid for Carroll but he’s playing in a system that doesn’t suit his style of play. Dalglish’s tactics and philosophy don’t prove the kind of ammunition that the ponytailed six footer thrives upon. It took the Scot 75 minutes to introduce Stewart Downing to provide the necessary service that his number nine requires only to withdraw him 240 seconds later. What kind of message does that send out?
But the saving grace for Carroll is that for 10-minutes he took a step forward in the right direction and displayed a flicker of the talent that won him many admirers in the top flight. Coping with him proved an issue for Perch and Williamson who struggled to match him. All he needed was a goal to loosen the shackles and boost his confidence levels that have been dangerously low for a too long now. Unfortunately for Carroll a moment of madness sent him tailspinning into another downward spiral crash landing in the away dressing room as his teammates limped to an embarrassing defeat. How he reacts could define the rest of his career. Come out fighting and theres a chance of salvation. Right now he’s at rock bottom and the only way to go is up.