With one instinctive swing of his left foot, Andy Carroll unleashed a venomous effort into the bottom corner of Joe Hart’s goal. The Manchester City goalkeeper was left sprawled on the Anfield turf as the Kop celebrated a new hero.
It was his first goal for Liverpool following on from his club record £35million move from Newcastle United on deadline day of the January transfer window. Carroll had to wait until the second week of April to open his account but he did so in style. He added another on the night, just after the half-hour mark, with a thumping header.
The Reds had their new No.9. England finally had their Alan Shearer replacement.
Almost a decade later, Carroll finds himself without a club after West Ham United released the 30-year-old. His last England appearance came in 2012.
It wasn’t meant to be this way for the Gateshead-born forward.
Rewind back to the 2010/11 campaign. The 22-year-old appeared to have the world at his feet. His form for Newcastle United caught the eye of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. The Magpies initially held firm, rejecting bids from both clubs, but a British transfer record was enough to convince them to cash in.
He arrived on Merseyside injured. Many believe his time with Liverpool was disrupted by various injuries but the 2011/12 campaign saw him make 47 appearances in all competitions. He just struggled to catch fire, finishing the season having found the back of the net on nine occasions.
However, he did net big goals for the Reds. There were two against Everton, including the winner in the FA Cup semi-final, and then he struck in the final of the competition against Chelsea.
Andy Carroll vs Sweden
Friday 15 June 2012
Euro 2012 Group D
Sweden 2-3 England (Kyiv, Ukraine) pic.twitter.com/L1u1bhFdyv
— England Goals (@ThreeLionsGoals) July 2, 2017
He was given the No.9 jersey for England at Euro 2012 and scored in the 3-2 win over Sweden.
But then Brendan Rodgers arrived at Liverpool and didn’t see a place for him. West Ham signed Carroll, initially on loan before making it permanent, but the Irons struggled to get him onto the pitch on a regular basis.
In his seven seasons with the Hammers, he made 20 or more appearances in the Premier League in just two campaigns. His highest return in a single season was nine goals and on four occasions he failed to surpass the five-goal barrier in all competitions.
The frustrating thing for both Carroll and West Ham is that when he’s on form, he’s almost unplayable. He can dominate the very best the Premier League has to offer.
It’s unlikely another English top-flight club will take a gamble on the former Newcastle United man. A return St James’ Park could be on the agenda but with money tight, Rafa Benítez isn’t likely going to risk what little he has on Carroll when he needs a reliable scorer.
However, looking further North, the 30-year-old could find a home.
On paper, he might not appear to be someone Celtic or Rangers would sign. But both clubs are in the market for attacking reinforcements this summer.
The graphic above shows Carroll’s averages over the past three seasons. Granted, it is a small sample size, just 2,514 minutes, but his averages are impressive. His goal return of 0.36 per 90 matches his expected goals average of 0.29, which indicates his output is sustainable.
Gers boss Steven Gerrard knows how to get the best out of Carroll with the two striking up an understanding while at Liverpool together. He’d by no means be a replacement for Alfredo Morelos if the Colombian is sold but he would add firepower to their ranks. Perhaps enough to rival Celtic for the title next season.
James Tavernier is a reliable outlet down the right flank and is good enough to provide the forward with the sort of ammunition he needs to be effective.
Carroll isn’t usually the sort of player Celtic go for. There’s no resale value and there’s very little chance he improves. But sometimes a short-term fix isn’t a bad thing. He’d give the Bhoys a plan B. Not just domestically but in Europe too.
Odsonne Édouard leads the line for the champions; he’s the future and the man who has replaced Moussa Dembélé. But sometimes a side needs something different. Something Carroll would provide… when fit.
He’s a forward that could cause problems for the opposition in Europe and who could be the difference between progress into the last-16 of the Champions League or another Europa League showing.
Carroll still has value. It’s just about finding a home for him. He’ll be more focused than ever before knowing full well this is his last chance at the top level.