When Newcastle United enter the field at St. James’ Park to be greeted by 52,000 passionate Geordies, they do so to a song called ‘Local Hero’. It’s fitting then, that the Magpies will have one of their own this season: Andy Carroll.
The Gateshead native has not pulled on the famous black-and-white shirt since leaving for Liverpool for a British-record £35million on that famous January 2011 transfer deadline day.
A powerful, rambunctious, whirlwind of a player, on his day there is no-one quite like Carroll still playing in the Premier League. Yet the sight of the 30-year-old in his full, magnificent flow has been all too rare in recent years.
In his final campaign at West Ham United the battering ram forward made just three Premier League starts. A parting of the ways was inevitable and, after struggling with fitness in recent seasons Carroll needs a fresh start.
The forward is evidently fed up the sick note tag, too. “I honestly don’t know what I’ve done in my life to get the s*** I get,” Carroll told the Daily Mail in December 2018. “It’s unbelievable. I get some stick for everything I do. It’s annoying.
“It’s stupid things, like I went to Lapland UK. I’m standing there with the kids. Someone skates over, ‘Lovely to meet you… don’t be getting on the ice, I don’t want you falling over and getting injured’. Everywhere I go it’s the same b*******.”
So where better for Carroll to rediscover form and fitness than at home with his boyhood club? It’s a deal which makes sense for both parties.
Mike Ashley will be satisfied because Carroll won’t cost him a transfer fee and, as the Northern Echo reports, his salary demands shouldn’t be too high either. He will take a significant cut from the reported £90,000 per week he earned at West Ham. It’s also a bit of good PR – something which has been in short supply at St. James’ Park this summer.
With Rafa Benítez leaving, followed out the door by Salomon Rondón and Ayoze Pérez, long-suffering Magpies supporters need a bit of a lift, even following the signings of Joelinton – for a club-record fee no less – and Allan Saint-Maximin.
For embattled and unpopular new boss Steve Bruce, Carroll represents the perfect ‘Plan B’.
Not yet fit enough to train, Carroll is unlikely to threaten Joelinton’s status as the Magpies’ new No.9. But when he is finally ready to make his bow eight-and-half years after leaving the North East, it will be an emotionally charged moment for all involved.
Carroll is the archetypal ‘Plan B’. He knows how to use every inch of his strapping 6ft 4in frame. Yet the former England international is capable of the spectacular too – remember his stunning scissor kick goal against Crystal Palace in 2017?
This feels like a make-or-break point in Carroll’s career. Fail at Newcastle and it’s unlikely there’ll be a Premier League contract waiting for him in 12 months time.
Magpies owner Ashley has made a habit of adding distressed assets to his business portfolio and building them back up. Carroll is the latest recovery project.