A price tag of £35M was always a laughable sum for Andy Carroll, no matter how good he looked for Newcastle two seasons ago. It simply set him up to fail at Anfield. While he had eye-catching moments, he never fully earned the trust of former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, nor was there a place for the striker in new boss Brendan Rodgers’ plans. Carroll is no angel and has had plenty of ups and down already in his short career, yet it is hard not to sympathise with his recent plight.
But as Carroll looks to build on the impressive start to his loan spell at West Ham, it is ironic that Liverpool need his services now more than ever. Fabio Borini’s foot injury leaves Luis Suarez as the only recognised striker at Rodgers’ disposal, exposing the short-sightedness of rushing Carroll out the door. The Reds are finding goals hard to come by and have no firepower to bring off the bench.
Back in August, Rodgers explained: "It is very simple. The club have made a monumental investment in big Andy. At the moment he is not playing. He made it very clear he wanted to play games and this is his last chance to do that." Easy to say in hindsight, but why not wait and give Carroll a proper chance under new management?
Given the opportunity to admit the mistake of shipping the England international out, Rodgers stuck to his guns this week, dismissing the notion of bringing Carroll back to Anfield in January. "It’s not something I’ve considered, to be honest", the Liverpool manager said. "Andy’s a player who has gone out to get games, and that’s what’s happened. Obviously, we have people watching Andy when he plays and report back on how he’s doing."
Meanwhile, West Ham can still hardly believe their luck. Hammers boss Sam Allardyce managed Carroll at Newcastle and knows only too well what a coup the loan deal was. "Andy is an all-round footballer but, because he is 6ft 3in and one of his strengths is his aerial power, everybody dismisses the ability he possesses on the floor", he explained. "Hopefully he can score goals for us and we will be in a very good position at the end of the year in the Premier League."
Carroll has made it clear that he just wants to be playing week in, week out and start finding the net again. "I know the manager well and some of the lads, so it is nice for me to come to a place where I know people", said the 23-year-old.
The England man wasted no time in delivering the goods, battering Fulham into submission on his debut with the type of performance that caught Liverpool’s eye back in 2010. The hamstring injury he suffered late in the game has prevented him from adding to this fine start, but it is a good bet that he will open his goalscoring account in the coming weeks with enticing fixtures against Southampton and Wigan on the horizon.
The Hammers’ primary task is to avoid the drop however, given their solid start, targets are understandably shifting. Should Carroll fire on all cylinders on his return from injury, West Ham are poised to be one of the season’s surprise stories.
Spare a thought for the embattled Rodgers. The decision to send Carroll on loan has come back to haunt him and the striker must have been on his mind as he watched his team labour to a 0-0 draw at home to Stoke before the international break.
Liverpool have a grand total of six points from seven games and, taking away the 5-2 win at lowly Norwich, they have mustered just four goals in the other six fixtures. The one consolation for Rodgers is that loan rules mean that Carroll is ineligible for the Liverpool-West Ham clash in December, where a strong performance from the striker could send another wave of criticism the Northern Irishman’s way for failing to sign a replacement before signing off on the deal.
And so the big question remains whether Liverpool stick to their plans to leave Carroll at West Ham for the full season. Rodgers has indicated they will, but results between now and the New Year may well be the decisive factor. The Reds have been mooted as considering swoops for Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge and Newcastle’s Demba Ba, however it is no secret that the Anfield purse strings have been tightened, making the £35M man’s return all the more logical.
Carroll’s long-term future remains clouded in uncertainty but, for now, he is ready to thrive at West Ham, free from the shackles of the hefty transfer fee. For Liverpool fans and coaching staff alike, the next few months may make for painful viewing.