Andy Carroll celebrated his 28th birthday earlier this month. A lad from Gateshead on the outskirts of Newcastle, he made his senior debut for the Geordies shortly before his eighteenth birthday, and his Premier League debut for them in February 2007, almost ten years ago. He made a total of seven senior appearances for them in his first season, four of which were in the Premier League, but didn’t score any goals. The following season he made six senior appearances for them, again without scoring, and went on loan to Preston in the Championship where he scored one goal in twelve appearances.
In 2008-09 he returned to the North-East and made a total of 16 senior appearances, scoring three goals, in a season where Newcastle were relegated to the Championship. They won promotion back to the top flight straight away, and in that season he became a regular in the team, appearing 42 times and scoring 19 goals. When they returned to the Premier League he scored 11 goals in 19 games, and on the last day of the transfer window in January 2011, halfway through the season, he was bought by Liverpool for around £35 million to replace the departing Fernando Torres. He had an injury and was unable to make his debut until near the end of that term, appearing just seven times and scoring twice.
He then spent a full season with Liverpool, making more appearances than ever before (or since), turning out for them 47 times in League and Cup, scoring 9 goals. Brendan Rogers didn’t fancy him, so after just two games in 2012-13 he came on loan to us, probably largely due to his close connection with Kevin Nolan, his friend and former captain of the Geordies, who was of course closely connected himself to our manager at the time, Big Sam.
At the time of coming here he had played around 85 games in the Premier League and had scored around 20 goals. It’s a bit of a myth that he has been injury-prone throughout his career, as before he joined us he had certainly played fairly regularly. He has been described as an old-fashioned centre-forward, and many call for him to be in the England squad because he provides “something different”. At times he is reckoned to be unplayable, though those times have been restricted over the years. He does have nine England caps (he was first capped in 2010) and has scored twice for his country.
So we are now mid-way through his fifth season with us. At the end of the loan period he became our record signing at the time at around £15 million. He became an instant favourite with many fans when he joined us, mainly because of his all-action commitment. But some felt that, in view of his ability in the air, and the way Big Sam liked to play, he restricted the way in which the team played, often lumping long high balls to him and hoping for knock-downs.
So before he came here he was never a prolific goalscorer, and in his time with us he has never reached double figures in goals in any one season. Of course one of the reasons for this is that in his West Ham career he has been injury-prone, and has just gone past 100 senior appearances, with the Middlesbrough game being his 90th Premier league appearance for us in four and a half seasons. In that time he has scored 28 Premier League goals at a rate of just under one in every three games. He has appeared in just over half of the Premier League games that have been played during his time here.
So, along came the “Payexit” controversy just over one week ago, and the fans needed a new “hero”. Up stepped Andy Carroll. A magnificent bicycle kick against Palace has been followed by two goals away at Middlesbrough. I think this is the first time he has scored two goals in an away game for us. A trademark bullet header was followed by a poachers goal, following up Antonio’s shot. He was then withdrawn midway through the second half as a precaution with a “tight groin”. We missed him for his defensive qualities, especially at corners, as much as his efforts in leading the line.
But two wins in a week, five wins in the last seven, and a place in the top half of the table, and suddenly all is well with the West Ham world again. Dimitri Who they say, and perhaps he will be on his way sooner rather than later, and soon forgotten. He was magnificent for a season, but will never be a legend because of the way it has all turned sour now. Let us hope that Andy Carroll can stay injury-free for a long period, and be one of the new heroes going forward. At his best he is a valuable asset.
I write “one” of the new heroes as I’d like to see an end to the “he’s our best player” constantly levelled in Payet’s direction. Let’s have a group of heroes / superstars. Reid, Lanzini, Antonio and Carroll perhaps, and even others. The best teams have always been like this; Moore, Hurst, Peters and Byrne; Bonds, Brooking and Devonshire; Best, Charlton and Law. Even the world’s best like Messi and Ronaldo have to share their superman status with others. Messi, Neymar, Suarez and Iniesta; Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema.
It has been a good week on the playing side. It will be interesting to see what happens in the last few days of the transfer window. With the news re Ogbonna, at least all those who took to social media expressing incredulity at the signing of Fonte, can now perhaps see why it happened.
Our eighth win of the season sees us move into tenth place. I wonder if we can build on this and push towards emulating last season’s seventh placed finish. With the start we had that may be a bit too much to ask, but let’s hope that we can continue upwards.