Four years ago I walked into a bookies in London and asked to speak to the manager. He duly came, looking slightly suspicious. I asked him what odds he would give me that Andy Carroll would be playing for England in the 2014. Surprisingly he said ‘who?’ I sensed my chance. Downplaying his record for England youth teams and his Newcastle record I just labelled him as a prospect. The bookie asked around the office and one young worker gave him a brief outline. He turned back and asked how much I wanted to put on. ‘Twenty-five quid.’ I said. ’20-1 then,’ replied the bookie. Done.
Over a month ago Andy Carroll, still only 22, transferred from Newcastle United to Liverpool for a cool £35m. Forgetting his apparent wishes to stay, that kind of cash for a still fairly unproven striker had to be taken and I say that as a Newcastle fan, fully aware that only Shola Ameobi, Niles Ranger, Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands are the last front line strikers left at the club. And none could be called prolific.
But that’s the present situation. Newcastle had to take that kind of cash, just like Liverpool had to accept £50m for Torres, want-a-away or not. Carroll may have professed his wish to stay (and I think he did) and the fans may lament losing him when they finally thought they had found Shearer’s heir so quickly but that’s financial reality, the modern business that their owner Mike Ashley performs without hesitation. Despite not having a Plan B if Carroll was sold, the present squad and that £35m would keep the club moving in the right direction and I’d be happy with the present league position and hopefully some summer spending.
So who got the best deal? Chelsea, Liverpool or Newcastle? Chelsea needed to invest and will certainly have made Michel Platini raise an eyebrow. But they will need to keep doing so for another few years. Liverpool had no choice but to sell Torres and David N’Gog is unlikely to help out much if his form for this season is anything to go by. A net outlay of £7m on Carroll and Suarez is pretty good.
But for me taking a realist point of view, I’d say Newcastle came out best. £35m is more than the club has spent in years. An organised team especially in midfield can fair well, especially considering how this year’s Premier League has fallen below it’s own high standards. Carroll might turn out to be brilliant but what if this latest injury setback makes him prone to leg, ankle, knee injuries? In that case, it’s a bad investment. But Kenny is rarely wrong about a player especially strikers. When he gets fit, Carroll will lead that line for years to come, bullying defenders ranging from the international to the adulterous (step up Mr Terry). If he promises that, he can retire right now from international football now. Some things are more important than money.