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Jack: Full of baggage, Carroll could still pack for Brazil

Kristian Jack
2/2/2014 12:09:12 PM
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Andy Carroll had a quiet transfer deadline day. He trained, prepared himself for his first home start of the season and got rid of some overdue baggage, finally shaving off his overgrown beard.

It was three years to the day since he was the most expensive British signing in history.

January 31st, 2011 changed the Gateshead lad forever.

Playing and scoring goals for his boyhood club, Newcastle United, Carroll was enjoying the dream life - on the pitch.

Off it was a constant battle. That Andy Carroll came with some serious baggage.

Multiple assault charges finally saw him granted bail on the condition of him moving to a permanent residence, rather than a hotel. Newcastle teammate Kevin Nolan took him in and put a curfew on Carroll to help him stay out of trouble.

"I said he could stay, I cleared it with the Mrs, of course, first,' Nolan later reflected. ''She was down in Liverpool a lot of the time so we were like roommates. He was a pretty good cook. Pasta with tomatoes, chicken; things like that."

On the field, Nolan wanted nothing changed and loved making runs from midfield to get on the end of a knockdown by the big striker.

Back at the family home, issues around Carroll continued when his car was set on fire in the driveway and graffiti was written all over the garage door.

The Nolan family stuck by him as the midfielder revealed to the Guardian, back in 2010: "Andy has got to be indoors for 10.30pm and he has got to be in bed by 11pm. We'd already got the kids on curfews, so it's no trouble to enforce.
What I have learnt about Andy, though, is that he's always asleep at the wrong time, like when I get him up early to do the school run with me. He gets up at 10 to eight and we leave at five past. We then have our breakfast at the training ground. I don't know if he likes it but that's the way it is."

Carroll would later see the assault charges dropped and as he moved out of the Nolan household, he did with much less baggage.

Nolan told the Daily Mirror in 2012: "When you look back on it now, it was bizarre him staying with us, but it worked. In our family, that's what we do for our friends. I've been brought up like that by my mum and dad.

"I know Andy was very grateful for what we did for him, that's why we're so close. He has his family there for him but sometimes you need other people as well."

Carroll's 35 million pound move to Liverpool in 2011 was called 'a dream move' by Nolan, who was obviously delighted for his mate, but the dream soon turned out to be a nightmare for Carroll.

It was not a move that came too soon for him. It was simply a move that should never have come at all.

Liverpool captured the Englishman on the day they let Fernando Torres leave. The 35 million pound figure they paid was never what Carroll was worth. It was simply a number Newcastle, on the final day of the transfer window, would allow their goal scorer to leave for. Incredibly, Liverpool took the bait and Carroll's life changed forever.

Sure, there were some good moments, such as scoring the winner at Wembley over Everton in the FA Cup semifinal, but there were some tough moments too and when Kenny Dalglish was replaced by Brendan Rodgers as manager, it was only a matter of time that Carroll would be moved on.

Nineteen months after signing at Anfield, Carroll was reunited with Nolan, this time down south at West Ham, agreeing to a season-long loan.

"He has learned so much. There is a different lad standing in that dressing room now. There is a man who can look after himself and do the right things on a daily basis," Nolan said.

Carroll did enough last season to convince the Hammers to pay Liverpool 15 million pounds and hand the striker a new six year contract. Except, once again, Carroll came with baggage, this time in the case of a heel injury that he picked up on the final day of last season against Reading.

The injury proved to be far worse than original thought and with Carroll out for months; West Ham struggled badly, causing many to panic, including the club's co-owner David Sullivan.

"Had we known he would be out for this long, we would not have signed him," Sullivan told the BBC's Football Focus in December.

"We are not a rich enough club to deal with that. You know any player can get injured, but we can't buy a player knowing he is going to be out for half the season. When we signed him we were assured by the medical staff that the very, very latest he would be back was September 1st. That would have meant he would only miss two league games."

Sullivan has every right to look after his investments but it seemed a bizarre thing to say publicly. Even if he privately believed it, it is not as if the money spent on Carroll could have gone on another player who would have instantly changed the club's fortunes. You only have to look at the long list of strikers bought for a lot of money, in the Premier League, to know many do not work out.

Injury or no injury, that label is yet to be attached to the now 25-year-old Carroll. The jury still remains out on what he can actually become.

On Saturday he started his second game of the season, at home to Swansea, and in the first half showed exactly why West Ham wanted to spend that amount of money on him.

Carroll was magnificent, finding pockets of space to hold up the ball and supply wide men, choosing his battles in between Chico Flores and Dwight Tiendalli, to regularly win aerial duels, and then winning two significant headers that set up the game's two goals, in a 2-0 West Ham win.

The beneficiary? Nolan of course.

Like Carroll, the 2013-14 season had been a season to forget so far for the Hammers captain but he had no injury to blame for his torrid campaign. Nolan scored 10 goals from midfield last season and had been expected to score regularly again this season but, heading into Saturday, the 31-year-old had as many league red cards as goals this season (2). After the second red card, against Fulham in December, manager Sam Allardyce had seen enough, fining him two weeks wages (100 thousand pounds), saying: "Our captain was irresponsible. Not just today but for the future because he is suspended. He's let everyone down and himself. I just don't quite understand where he's lost his cool and why it's happened."

Nolan sat out seven games through suspension but on Saturday he was reunited with his mate, playing just behind Carroll, giving West Ham fans what they hope to be a glimpse at the partnership that can keep their team in the Premier League this season.

Except, once again more baggage comes with Carroll. In the second half on Saturday he was sent off for extending a wild arm to Chico Flores's head. Allardyce called it 'an injustice' and plans to appeal against it but if that is unsuccessful Carroll will again sit out for three more games.

Once Carroll returns he will have gone nine months without playing a full 90 minutes. He will have three months to not only play a pivotal role in saving West Ham's season but also attempt to get on Roy Hodgson's England plane to Brazil.

At the moment he appears to be completely off Hodgson's radar but in just 45 minutes on Saturday he showed why he should be more than just considered if he can play regularly. Carroll offers something completely different to the England manager, who has enough quick forwards looking to get in behind a defensive line. Carroll showed against Sweden in Euro 2012 that he can be a real handful for international defenders if the quality of the deliveries into the box is high. West Ham became the final Premier League team to score a headed goal this season on Saturday and if they can improve their crosses and get Carroll heavily involved down the stretch then do not rule out the forward making an unlikely late, successful attempt at the 23rd and final player seat on the plane to Brazil.

Time is certainly running out but if Carroll can remove the personal baggage, he may well be packing his own baggage to the World Cup.

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