9 Sept 2011

There's only one Andy Carroll, and he's ours... (Guest Post)

Guest writer Ryan McCarthy launches an impassioned defence of under-fire Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, charting his career from his start at Newcastle, through his loan period at Preston North End and then onto the heady heights of Anfield.

The day was almost over when the silver Mercedes pulled past the throng of fans paying homage at the entrance to Melwood, many of them long past bedtime on a January school night, transporting their newest hero, a purchase that had - even in the final hours of the final transfer day - caused surprise among the nation’s football journalists, Geordies and hardened Kopites.

The joy on Carroll’s face was only diluted by a hint of minor bemusement at the lightening speed of events developing around him. The message leaking from Andy Carroll’s mind and across his face was easy see: “Is this really all happening?”
Seven months later, and like the chariot transporting the Princess to the ball, that silver Mercedes has long gone and left Carroll to deal with the reality of wearing the number nine jersey for Liverpool.

The subsequent tone of the media coverage as Carroll has attempted to create his niche at Anfield has followed an all too familiar tone:
  • “Andy Carroll still looking to let out his inner monster for Liverpool” (The Guardian)

  • “Time for Carroll to start justifying Dalglish’s massive investment” (The Irish Times)

  • “Finally fit and with the Liverpool team now set up for him, it’s time for Andy Carroll to deliver” (The Daily Mirror).
In recent times John Aldridge, Jose Enrique and Kenny Dalglish himself have felt the need to come out to defend Carroll, and even though he retains the support of the Kop, it will be easy to detect murmurings of doubt about Liverpool’s centre forward.

The intense giddiness of Carroll’s transfer day arrival, the simultaneous landing of Luis Suarez and the conclusion of the long goodbye to Fernando Torres left Liverpool fans dealing in the reality of the latest new dawn and wondering what exactly did we get when we got Andy Carroll?

Liverpool’s recruitment policy since the appointment of Damian Comolli seems to have focused on the Moneyball strategy of determining a player’s effectiveness by examining the player’s statistical value to the team. Essentially, was what made a player costly actually valuable and could some players’ worth be undervalued? Statistical analysis can only tell us so much about a player, but it can also give us framework for what to expect.

The early years

Carroll’s first three years in football as a teenage squad player at Newcastle and loanee to Preston North End simply give us the raw pickings detailing a boy on the verge of the action:
  • 1,576 minutes played (equating to about 17.5 matches)
  • 4 goals and 2 assists, (involvement in a goal or assist every 263 minutes)
  • 56 fouls committed (30 against)
  • 4 yellow cards and one red.
It was Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship that saw him gain more on field-service in 2009/2010, with:
  • 2841 minutes of action
  • 19 goals and 8 assists (a goal or assist every 105 minutes).
  • Carroll committed 70 fouls and suffered 63 against
  • 9 yellow cards awarded against him.
Newcastle’s promotion to the top flight and subsequent moonlight drive to Melwood saw a total of:
  • 2176 playing minutes in 2010/11
  • 13 goals and 3 assists (a goal or assist every 136 minutes)
  • 58 fouls committed by Carroll and 42 against
  • 6 yellow cards awarded against him.
So if Comolli’s Moneyball could talk, what would it tell us? In his two busiest seasons playing as centre forward Carroll has been involved in a goal or assist every 117 minutes. He is deemed to have fouled more than fouled against and will probably pick up in the region of seven yellow cards a season, even though any ill-discipline seems to have been rare and has only been ever punished by a red card on one occasion.

There is always the danger of the paralysis of analysis and it is easy to imagine Kenny Dalglish using statistics to illuminate rather than dominate his views of a player. Yes, off the pitch Carroll had been involved in enough instances to make prospective buyers wary, but if one could pick the code that locks the mind of Dalglish you could imagine our manager’s first view of a player would be ‘could he handle the pressure of playing for this club?”

Handling the pressure

Playing for Liverpool in recent times has been more than the pressure of playing for a successful club – its’ the pressure of carrying hope, expectation and the scrutiny that goes with the long term project of delivering long-lost success; It is the balance between shining a light on heroes of the past, whilst baring the comparison that brings.

Perhaps in this sense Carroll served a worthy audition when he laid claim to the No 9 at Newcastle. Success at Liverpool is still visible from the vault of the mind’s eye; the memory of success at Newcastle can only be felt from the passing of word from a generation to generation. Absence of success has only deepened the yearning and the pressure that comes with serving both tribes.

Yet this was a pressure Carroll met not only head on, but learned to carry on his back, stating it to be “an opportunity I relish and intend doing my utmost to do the shirt proud”. His manager of the time Chris Hughton, when asked if Carroll would be man enough for the wearing, gave his answer; “The type of character that Andy is tells me he wouldn’t shy away from it....He has got no fear and I think he would simply revel in the situation.....When you look at the greats who’ve worn it, it can be a burden for others, but I honestly don’t think it would be for Andy, he’s not that type of character”.

It was almost a throwaway line in Carroll’s first interview as a Liverpool player on Liverpoolfc.tv but when Carroll opined that “obviously No. 9 is a big number and it’s the number I wanted to play under”, you knew he meant it and that the marker has been put down. How often since Dalgish’s departure as Liverpool manager did Liverpool sign players who simply didn’t own much less have the moral collateral to rent the character it takes to play for Liverpool? Yes, £35m is a big outlay, but over a five year contract we have a young man who doesn’t shirk responsibility, he courts it. There is a new supply of Anfield Iron.

Vital to Liverpool

So what else would have attracted Kenny to Andy? It’s interesting to note that all of Kenny’s signings this summer have been an attempt to bring something different to the club. In Stewart Downing the pace and ability to run with the ball, take players on and get in deliveries from different areas; in Charlie Adam, a central midfield player who is comfortable dropping deep to take the ball from centre halves and dictating play with a range of passing; in Jordan Henderson, the athleticism of a player who can run beyond defences and stretch the game.

When Dalglish assessed Carroll it is likely he saw what he could bring to others as much as what he could do himself. Carroll occupies defenders; he provides a threat at the back post to which teams have to dedicate defensive resources; He is the target that wants to be hit. Quite simply, he is a nuisance.

Where the Torres/Gerard option depended at times on a high defensive line and balls in behind, now Liverpool, with a Carroll/Suarez combination can try to adapt their game to teams defending with a high line or dropping deep. Yes, Liverpool will have to work out an efficient way to utilise Carroll, through creativity and thought rather than desperation and reliance, but simply by having him, Liverpool have the potential for more variety to their play.

It could also be true, like the lesser lovely sister, that Carroll can also suffer from being judged by what he isn’t rather than what he is. Is he a natural athlete? No, it takes time and games for Carroll to gain full match fitness. Is he particularly pacy or adept at beating players? No, at times he can look lumbering in his movements and dribbling isn’t a strong point.

But what Carroll has is vital to Liverpool. With his physical strength, he will not suffer against physically imposing defenders in the way that Torres did. He is quite simply the best header of a ball in the English game, described by Kevin Keegan as “one of the top three” he has seen in the game. As we saw at St. James Park last year and closer up in his first goal for Liverpool, he has a powerful left footed shot. And like his partner Suarez, he possesses the correct amount of devil to make him unlikeable to play against.

Trouble? What trouble?

While much was made of the trouble that seemed to follow Carroll around Tyneside, he has been the model professional under Dalglish at Liverpool. In his first interview as a Liverpool player, Carroll also spoke of the friends and family he was leaving behind in Newcastle and the people he grew up with. Every fan can connect with him because he is a normal a 22 year old young man. So he enjoys a drink? It’s how much and where he chooses to socialise that I’m sure Kenny Dalglish has spoken to him about.

David Anderson in The Mirror might wonder aloud about “It’s strange how Andy Carroll seems to have been awarded hero status by some Kopites when he is not even a regular goalscorer for Liverpool”, but in an age where footballers are very much criticised for being out of touch, yet again it is a man employed to create the world of football with words that has failed to understand why it is Andy Carroll can mean so much to Liverpool fans already. We like him because he could be one of us, and we can relate to the big man trying to do a good job.

Comolli and Dalglish have seen enough - the statistical past that gives promise for the future; the character to stand up and take on the responsibility of performing as Liverpool’s No. 9; physical strength; a great header of the ball; a good left foot. Basically, a player who gives more tactical variety to Liverpool’s play.

Those from the outside will tell us enough of what they haven’t seen, but maybe it’s time we start to appreciate what we do have.

There’s only one Andy Carroll and he’s ours.

Ryan McCarthy


  1. Sadly a  crazy panic buy. May prove to  be Dalglish's undoing

  2. what a terrible post what about give the lad a chance

  3. disgraceful waste of money - should have built a hospital

  4. Luis Enrique? You don't even know your own players.

  5. he has been pretty pap so far....no matter what Dogliesh says

  6. He should give up football and buy an ice cream van

  7. Jimmy - your views are welcome, but if you post something as pointless as this again I will have delete your post. If's he's 'shit' then please explain why.

  8. That's my mistake. It's been changed to 'Jose' now.

  9. Should start tarmaing roads and selling luck Heather

  10. alot of liverpool fans must go around with their eyes closed, we have options for the first time ever in the new era of big squads. how many times has fergie or roman wasted big money  on players that didnt live up to the hype. carroll is 22 learning his game and has great potential. with suarez,dirk and bellamy he wont be under pressure to bang in  30 goals. kenny is building a squad to win at home and in europe and  a fit and confident carroll will be a big part of it. if you people wana complain so much start supporting arsenal or everton then you'll all be really happy. wake up people liverpool are on the up and if he turns out to be a waste of money so what it was roman's money im sick newcastle didnt ask for more cos the mad russian would have paid.

  11. First let me start this by saying I am a Newcastle fan. I live in Newcastle and was quite frankly gutted when we sold Carroll. I will say however in my opionion you massively over paid. I was only really gutted becuase I realised that whatever you paid would simply disapear into Ashley's back pocket.

    What you have bought though is a player that s long as he gets his head together is one of the best centre forwards in the leauge. True he is not the most skillfulbut  he is more than capable of sticking the ball in the back of the net, which is what really counts after all.

    I don't thik he has settled yet, and club loyalty will stop me from wishing him luck. But when he does settle I would imagine the kop will be singing his name for many years to come.

  12. was initally a great signing without too much experience the quality was there to see. but he scored most of his gls at newcastle when playing the longball. Kenny bought CB to utilize this gameplan but I wont like playing the longball game. L'pool are better than that. I'd personally sell if ever given the chance

  13. I can't believe any of the comments are from Liverpool fans - we get behind our players and support the team. He's good enough to wear the shirt and we should encourage the best out of him not criticise him out of the club. The same was done to Lucas and luckily he managed to take it and is one of the first names on the team sheet. So, the nay sayers have turned on Carroll instead. I just hope he proves them to be lacking in football knowledge too.

    Support the team or bore off!

  14. if you guys dont want him newcastle will gladly take him back. just say the word!

  15. lol @Adam. youre a selling club m8. what makes u think you could even afford half of what we paid if you failed to sign a player worth 9 mill in the last transfer window. your club is a joke so feck orf..

  16. Unfortunately we paid the full price for what he could potentially be, way before he has actually become 'that' player.

    Nevertheless, there is still a very good chance that he'll develop into one of the very best centre forwards around; it just seems that nobody has the patience to wait for the development of a 22 year old with half a season's worth of top level football behind him.

  17. and to think we used to make out that LFC had more class than other clubs. How time's have changed :-(

  18. Great analysis lets give him (andKenny) a full season before we slaughter him everyone deserves a chance irrespective of previous records at previous clubs. He has gone from being the star in a very average newcastle set up to being one of many in a team of star players he will need time to settle and adjust 

  19. i honestly dont know which i preferred reading more, ryan's artical or simon's response. either way both clearly know and understand their footy. but i don't understand how some of these "fans" who (and we all) cried out for a different form of attack over the last few years finally get a SQUAD that has the potential to change to several different attacking tactical options in the space of 1 or 2 subs can possibly winge.
    just because he isn't scoring goals doesn't mean he isn't a vital part of the team eg lucas. people only seem to be understanding the true nature of a DM this year and finally are paying credit to the great work done. so if carroll carries 2 players with him for most of a match then that surely means we'll have at least one player completely free or a gap in the pitch we can take advantage of, thats surely gonna turn itself into creating goals of somesort even if it isn't his name on the sheet.
    so get behind the team and stop playing footy manager on easy mode and thinking because you've won all the trophies in two seasons running that you are some sort of messiah, NEWS FLASH bumhead you aint!
    oh and hope andy scores a cracker against stoke.
    mon the boys!


  20. you missed the point i reckon....the post is sticking up for Carroll! Re-read it.