Little over a year ago and the name Andy Carroll meant little more than a young battering ram, 12 months on and he’s taking the Championship by storm, attracting Premier League attention as he amongst others drives Newcastle to the summit of second tier football.
Since the break of 2010 it seems every football fan in England is now surely to have heard of ‘Big Andy’. Recently given a prolonged spell in the Newcastle starting line-up as their quest for an immediate return to the Premier League continues, the Gateshead-born striker has rewarded Magpie boss Chris Hughton with a glut of goals – six in eight proving his recent consistency. The 21-year-old has bagged 10 goals in all competitions so far this season and those recent six, having all come since he turned 21 at the beginning of January, possibly signifying a coming-of-age for the Geordie front man.
Carroll, despite only recently coming to prominence through his flurry of goals his attributes across the field have aided in Newcastle’s five point lead at the top of the Championship. He was awarded his first team debut by Glenn Roeder back in November 2006, when he came on as a second-half substitute in a UEFA Cup game in Palermo – a game in which the usually egregious Albert Luque netted the only goal of the game. That appearance made Carroll the youngest player in the club’s history to appear in a European tie. The 6ft 4ins forward went on to score his first senior goal for the Magpies in a pre-season friendly in August 2007. The goal was converted at St. James’ Park, and he will certainly be proud to say his first goal came against one of the world’s most famous clubs and one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers as he slotted home past Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. It was said after the game that Buffon gave Carroll a flood of approbation, tipping him for a big future.
Carroll is a tall and burly goal-getter, cut from similar cloth to the greatest of Geordie heroes, Alan Shearer. His presence on the field of play is monumental as is his willingness to put himself about, leaping for every header and fighting for every ball is unrivalled, certainly in the Newcastle ranks. Being so tall and strong, his aerial force is inevitably his main attribute. This is proven by the fact that seven of his 11 league goals for Newcastle have come as a result of him soaring through the air, landing his hardened brow on the ball and directing it towards goal. It was on that first Premier League start of his in January 2009 that the Geordie masses first fell in love with him, as he towered to get on the end of a Damien Duff centre and head past the rooted West Ham keeper, Robert Green, to salvage a seemingly rare point for the Magpies in what was of course a horrifically ill-fated season.
But his potency in the air, it is not his only strength he also has a gem of a left foot and memorable left-footed strikes against Plymouth and Doncaster this season demonstrated this sublimely. His controlled but powerful first-time volley after a delightful, dinked diagonal pass by Danny Guthrie against Doncaster at the Gallowgate end in October, has not recieved anywhere near the recognition it deserved. It showed immense technical skill and more importantly, it leveled the game up for the Geordies allowing them to go on and win the game – the first of their 15 game unbeaten run that established them at the summit of the Championship.
Although a strapping young striker with an awesome aerial presence, a lovely left foot and an innate desire to win and do his best, he is, of course, far from any finished product. But at just 21-years-of-age the hot prospect has years to perfect those less elegant features of his game. Carroll’s learning curve will be greatly facilitated by having to battle with the equally rough and gritty defenders of the Championship, and it has probably been to his personal benefit that Newcastle slipped down a league last May. He has been able to have a run of games and gain that vital experience that he probably never would have been afforded if the Magpies had survived. His six month loan spell at Preston North End when he was 18, despite only making 8 first team appearances (scoring one goal), also helped him develop, seeing him win his first England U-21 cap in August of last year. He has scored two goals in four appearances for the U-21 side to date and is certain to gain further caps in the future. England U-21 Coach Stuart Pearce is said to be a fan of ’Big Andy’ and Pearce alongside Fabio Capello should be keeping a close eye as the young hopeful develops.
After his recent goal-scoring form for the Toon, talk of him possibly taking on the coveted No. 9 shirt at St. James’ Park next season has been rife and comparisons to the Gosforth-born Shearer ever louder. It is important not to get carried away, and on Tyneside they tend to do that all too often. But if Carroll can continue to find the back of the net on a regular basis, keep working hard, maintain a level head and continue developing like he has over the past 13 months, then not only will the Geordie faithful be able to revel in Carroll’s outstretched-arms goal celebration as frequently as they did Shearer’s singular arm-loft, but they will also be watching one of their own playing for England again in the not-too-distant future.