Andy Carroll: A retrospective
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 15 June 2020 at 8:35pm
Written by : Dennis Watling (Proud owner of a 13/14 home shirt with “Carroll 9” on the back)
When Andy Carroll was released in June 2019 he was widely regarded as wasted potential, and at first glance you have to agree. By the end of his time he had missed 151 games via injury, cost roughly £1million per league goal, had never managed more than 27 games without an injury and had a staggering 13 injuries in his tenure as West Ham’s number 9. Yes, the tenacious centre forward gave us many, many iconic moments over the year. His stellar performances against Swansea, the winner against Chelsea in late 2015, his hat trick against Arsenal in the last London derby at Upton Park and his bicycle kick against Palace all stand out. However, by his final season he was barely featuring, his only goal in the Third round of the FA cup against Birmingham in a lacklustre performance.
Alas, it had all started so well. Initially signing on loan in 2012 off the back of an impressive FA cup final performance for Liverpool and Euro 2012, it was thought with Big Sam’s playing style he would be a hit at Upton Park and revive his career which had stalled in a Liverpool side set up for the Trequarista supreme that was Luiz Suarez. His initial loan season showed promise despite two short spells on the side lines, with seven crucial goals in a side heavily reliant on Kevin Nolan taps ins and Mark Noble penalties helped us survive comfortably in the end. A permanent £18Million move was completed, albeit with a dubious medical. This move was met with optimism, with fans, pundits and players alike all quoted backing him to be a hit and fulfil his potential when the news broke, with Carroll himself stating his aim was to get back in the England squad for the upcoming world cup.
Sadly, this reputation set him up for a big fall, and the figurative wheels fell off as soon as he signed for us. Carroll broke down in his first training session, was ruled out until new year, and his popularity with the fans never really recovered from this. Twitter was aghast, with conspiracy theories coming out that it was a ban of some kind or a result of him not looking after himself in the off season, with pictures of him at festivals looking worse for wear and partying in Las Vegas over summer being revealed. On the pitch, we really struggled for goals without our target man, where we ended up playing without a striker. Languishing in a relegation battle, it was widely anticipated that Carroll would come back to save us. Although he made a big impact in his first game back against Swansea, the headlines were all about his sending off. Yes, he made minimal contact with the weasel known as Chicho Flores, and it was never a red, but the fact remains Carroll still lashed out. The lack of professionalism many vocal twitter accounts blamed his injury for was there for all to see. We were saved from relegation from a collective team effort, with Nolan once again being relied heavily upon for goals, whereas record signing Carroll managed just two goals and three assists.
A second ankle injury on a pre-season tour in New Zealand that summer was met tellingly with frustrated “Typical Andy” from fans rather than any particular shock from the fanbase, but once again he returned with a match winning performance against Swansea, arguably his second best performance in a Hammers jersey. In his absence, the team had evolved, with more investment in attack and a new 4-4-2 diamond formation fronted by Sakho and Valencia had propelled us to a challenge for European places. Allardyce tried to change the system to still fit Carroll and Nolan to disastrous effect, which fans resented, and as a by-product, frustration was also sent Carroll’s way. His season ended with yet another injury, whilst oddly playing out wide against Southampton, and we finished 12th.
After this the cycle became regular. Andy Carroll starts the season injured, fans anticipate his return, a grand performance is sadly followed by a steady decline into obscurity and then another injury. Carroll’s next two seasons were better on the goal front, but nonetheless had the same outcome. By the time he returned in the 17/18 season, he was considered an injury waiting to happen and, following signings of Arnauntovic and Hernandez, he was yesterday’s man. It was clear that managers could no longer afford to change the system to suit him. He managed just three league goals over the next two years, which leads us to the Birmingham game referenced in the introduction.
With the signing of Sebastian Haller, he was effectively a decommissioned submarine. But rather than remaining languished down south like the Black Widow Soviet sub moored in the nearby River Medway, Carroll has since returned to his hometown Newcastle, and by all accounts is much happier despite injuries persisting. Had he stayed injury free in the four seasons where he was the main man, he will have been remembered very differently. With that in mind, let’s remember the positive moments from his Career, as mentioned above, they were a plenty. He was a throwback to old school centre forwards with undoubted class, his first touch goals at home to West Brom in 12/13 and away at Chelsea in 15/16 are criminally underrated. Godspeed Big Andy, oh what could have been.