He was supposed to be a hero, a legend, a Geordie monster truck that mixed his drinks and didn't give a monkey's about any team but Newcastle. Now he's at Liverpool, saluting the Kop. Oh how it hurts...
Before we go any further, I’d just like to point out that I’ve never had a relationship with Andy Carroll, and nor have I ever wanted to – I mean just look at his hair. Yes I’d admired him from a distance – from about halfway up the Gallowgate End to be exact – and we’d shared some special moments, but I was never in love with him. At least that’s what I thought until he swanned off to Liverpool.
Since then it’s been a confusing time to say the least. He sent a lot of mixed messages if I’m being honest. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was wear the number nine shirt for Newcastle.” That’s what he said, just before he left. Perhaps he’d whispered the words “for about six months,” under his breath at the press conference, but I didn’t hear him, and the Newcastle Evening Chronicle didn’t report it. I was sold.
Pain isn’t an unusual emotion for me where football is concerned. Twenty-eight years of supporting Newcastle United has obviously offered more misery than joy. Two relegations, countless seasons of mediocrity and roughly five years of happiness sandwiched in-between – suspiciously just the right amount to raise expectations and heap further misery on the generations to come.
Then came Carroll. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t impressed when I first saw him. “Here’s another six-foot-something-clogger,” I thought. “Division One striker, nothing more.” And even after he bagged 19 in our promotion season, I still wasn’t convinced of his top flight credentials.
He would see out his career here, and when Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger came knocking, he would politely tell them to jog on as he was going down the Bigg Market for a pint.
But he stepped up, and Newcastle fans, for the first time in a long time, had something to cling to. A barnstorming striker who had long hair, fights in pubs, and a penchant for the occasional threesome (his catchphrase is allegedly, “Ride me, ride me,” incidentally). Oh, and he could play a bit too. What’s not to like?
After years of being the Comedy Club, the papers and pundits were full of platitudes and plaudits. Here stood the future of English football, and he was ours. No more years of meekly surrendering at Old Trafford, Anfield, and Highbury. Although he wasn’t the finished article, nobody was going to fancy marking Carroll. There was a good chance he’d eat them.
The best thing about him, for me at least, was that as a local lad he loved Newcastle and wanted nothing more than to play for the club. Yes, the highly priced prima donnas would come and go, but this one was for keeps. He would see out his career here, and when Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger came knocking, he would politely tell them to jog on as he was going down the Bigg Market for a pint. Who knew that in the end, all it would take to turn his head would be a Boyzone gig, a posh house in Formby, and 80 grand a week?
When it comes to pain, the brain doesn’t differentiate between the physical and emotional. But it does try to help us avoid it. However where Carroll is concerned I have a complete lack of nociception. A sadomasochistic streak that keeps me from turning away. Watching Liverpool against Man City the other night was like spying on an old girlfriend with her new bloke, all happy and bright. I won’t lie to you, I was confused. I wanted him to do well, was almost happy when he scored, but then tortured myself watching him celebrate with his new teammates. It was a bit like self harm.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do was wear the number nine shirt for Newcastle.” That’s what he said, just before he left. Perhaps he’d whispered the words “for about six months,” under his breath at the press conference, but I didn’t hear him.
The galling thing is that he does things with Liverpool that he used to do with us. Did you see that whole corner thing? Where Martin Skrtel acted as a buffer between him and Carroll’s marker, allowing the striker a better opportunity to get a header in on goal? Well he used to do that with Kevin Nolan at our corners. That hurt. Did nothing of what he did at Newcastle mean anything to him, were we that transferable?
I guess what stings the most is knowing that Liverpool can offer him something we never could: a real chance of success. He’s already starting to show some form, his new side is steadily improving and they’ll no doubt pilfer a few more players in the summer – our full-back Jose Enrique very probably being one of them. Meanwhile we’ll struggle on in mid-table, if we’re lucky . Yes Carroll could have stayed, but he’d have only ended up resenting us. Let’s be honest, he probably did the right thing, the thing Shearer most likely wanted to do but was just too loyal to act upon.
I know this all sounds like a bitter fan’s bile-soaked whining. And to an extent, it is. But I don’t remember feeling like this when Andy Cole turned into Andrew Cole and left for Old Trafford. I guess I’m hoping, above all else, that by explaining how I feel it’ll have some sort of cathartic effect, allowing me to move on, be the better man, and wish him all the best. But I doubt it. Football love is a tricky emotion.
I suppose there’s always the chance that he could turn into a one season wonder of course. How good would that be? The ponytailed Michael Ricketts. What a perfectly justifiable slice of shadefraude. As ever unfortunately, it seems that the life of a Newcastle United fan is destined to be one of pure, unadulterated blind hope.
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