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Can Andy Carroll profit against West Ham?

October 23, 2010

Ever since Andy Carroll burst into the Newcastle first team over three years ago in the Premier League, he has been tipped for great things. Even though he sported cornrows and looked pretty ridiculous in doing so, it was pointed out in many quarters that he possessed all the natural skills to be a leading target-man for a Premiership squad; once he got a chance to get himself bedded in.

Thankfully for Carroll, he didn’t have to really wait for that chance by going on loan or scoring a dramatic winner against Premiership rivals with the first touch of the game. Instead, he profited from Newcastle United being relegated to the Championship. Michael Owen, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins all left the North East for new pastures and left young Andy, fresh off a poor stint with Preston North End to partner Shola Ameobi up front. Not a prolific pairing by any stretch of the imagination but given time to get regular playing time under his belt; Carroll has flourished. He finished last season with 17 goals in the Championship, and 19 goals in all competitions. He formed a formidable pairing with Danish striker Peter Lovenkrands after Ameobi was ruled out through injury and at the start of this season looked like Chris Hughton’s preferred striking option as a lone striker in front of a hard-working midfield.

Described as the right mix of Newcastle legend Alan Shearer, big strong powerhouse Duncan Ferguson and Tottenham beanpole Peter Crouch, he is constantly referred to as a classic No 9 centre forward. Capable of linking pay nicely for the onrushing midfielders as well as finishing a chance, he received the highest praise from Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon when he was described as a “paintbrush striker.” The Italian stopper told STV: “Carroll played like what we call in Italy a paintbrush striker. He was there to add the finishing touch. He played well on his own. He will be an asset because he can find the smaller players around him in different ways and has already shown he has great awareness.”

Sadly for Carroll, his first chance to shine in the Premiership has stuttered somewhat. He impressed against Manchester United on the opening weekend before scoring a brilliant hat-trick against Aston Villa that highlighted many of his strong qualities. Sadly for the 21-year-old, he has only scored once since then in the league and has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks. Potentially the parallels that he draws to Duncan Ferguson could be based on his inability to manage his off-the-pitch shenanigans.

Having been arrested in 2008 and 2009 for separate assault charges, Carroll appeared earlier this week charged with attacking his ex-girlfriend. The tall striker pleaded his innocence and was only granted bail on the condition that he moves from his current address of a Newcastle hotel into the home of club captain Kevin Nolan. On Thursday, Andy’s Ranger Rover was also the subject of an arson attack while parked on the driveway of Nolan’s home.

He has not had the easiest week and it would be easy for Carroll’s head to not be right on Saturday against West Ham. If it is, he should be able to let his football do the talking. Avram Grant has deployed nine different defenders from the start of West Ham’s eight league matches so far this season. If focused on the task in hand, Carroll could potentially rack up his second hat-trick of the season against the second leakiest defence in the whole Premier League. His pace, power and precision heading could be the key to kick-starting Newcastle’s push for mid-table safety; once he gets himself in the best frame of mind.

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