Carroll: King For a Season?

Andy CarrollIn September last year I wrote a post about the arrival of Andy Carroll at West Ham United and the cloud of uncertainty surrounding his future. At the time Liverpool had agreed to loan Carroll to West Ham for the remainder of the 2012-2013 season, with the option to sell permanently at season’s end. Last week we finally saw the conclusion to this chapter of the Carroll saga when it was announced that Carroll had signed a deal to make his move to Upton Park permanent. Carroll penned a six year contract (with the option of another 2 years after that) for a deal worth around £15-17 million – West Ham’s most expensive signing by some margin, eclipsing the 11 million spent on prising Matt Jarvis from Wolves.

In my earlier post I raised three concerns regarding Carroll’s (then loan) signing. I had hoped that these issues would have been resolved by now, but there is still much to ponder over at least 2 of these issues.

The biggest concern I had turns out to be the one thing that seems to have been resolved without too much drama – money, or more precisely the lack thereof. West Ham has never been a club overflowing with cash, so to see the club’s owners agreeing so readily to such a heady sum as £15-17 million came as something of a shock, especially when added to the amount paid for Jarvis. Messrs Gold and Sullivan do have deep pockets and have invested a great amount of their personal wealth in the club. They have earned the respect and loyalty of most of the West Ham fanbase, but it is hard not to feel at least a little nervous when such a huge amount is spent on a single player. Despite this, there is no doubting that a signing like this is an indication of the club’s growing ambition, and that is something to be commended.

The second concern surrounds Carroll’s commitment to the club. On a surface level this seems to be a non-issue. A six year contract would indicate that Carroll has enjoyed his brief stay at the Boleyn Ground and is committed to a long stay. Scratch beneath the surface however and there is still a lack of certainty about where Carroll’s long term commitment lies. Carroll had always made it clear that he saw his future at Anfield and wanted to prove that he could succeed as a Liverpool player. Once it became clear that Carroll did not feature in Brendan Rodgers’ plans (and never would), Carroll’s options became limited. As good a player as Carroll was at Newcastle, he did not convince at Liverpool and while impressive at times with West Ham, had not done enough in his limited appearances to attract any wealthy suitors. My feeling is that if Newcastle had agreed to Liverpool’s £15 million price tag, Carroll would have chosen them over West Ham and would now be back on Tyneside. Liverpool had every right to try and recoup as much as possible of their sizeable outlay on Carroll, but the reality is they were lucky to get any takers at that price. Once West Ham and Liverpool had agreed terms there was nowhere else for Carroll to go.

So how committed is Carroll to what is essentially his third choice club? The jury is still out for me. Carroll has shown he has a professional attitude and does work well with Sam Allardyce. His close relationship with captain Kevin Nolan has also been a key factor in keeping him at Upton Park. This is all well and good for season 2013-14. All going well, Carroll will have a top campaign and score the goals we expected from him last season. With a bit of luck he may even make the England World Cup squad. What then? I might be perceived as being a mite cynical, but it would not surprise me if Andy started looking further afield at some bigger clubs. Unless West Ham overachieve and qualify for Europe (even then it would be the Tiddlywinks Europa League) I can’t see Carroll putting down roots at the Boleyn Ground or the Olympic Stadium. I would be happy to be proved wrong, but I guess we will have to wait and see.

Carroll and NolanAll of this may be moot if the final concern of mine rears its ugly head: INJURY. Carroll spent much of last season on the sideline, and though I have read numerous articles stating that he is not injury-prone, the evidence suggests otherwise. Two fairly major injuries last season were exacerbated by the heel injury sustained on the last day of the season. Just like the earlier injuries, what appeared to be a relatively minor knock will now keep Carroll out for the entire close season and quite possibly the start of the new Premier League campaign in August. Carroll is not the sort of player who can slot back in after an injury and pick up where he left off. He needs plenty of match time before he can get back to the level expected of him. At this rate we could be looking at September or even later before we see Carroll at anywhere near his best. In the meantime the search is on for another top striker to partner/back up Carroll. Carlton Cole has been released and there are hints that Maiga and even Vaz Te’s positions at the club may not be certain. Top strikers are few and far between so I’m not holding my breath for anyone of real note. If nothing else they’d better be as tough as teak because there is no way they can afford to be injured with Mr Carroll on the scene.

There is always a lot of speculation at this stage of the year, so my concerns may come to nothing in the end. On the other hand a whole new set of problems may arise…such is the life of the football fan. The close season makes football fans a little crazy, mainly because very few people really seem to know what is going on, and those that do keep their cards very close to their chests. It is never less than entertaining however, and I think most fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Let the madness ensue!

Andy Carroll scores against West Bromich Albion, March 2013. More please Andy!