The roar which greeted Andy Carroll’s entrance from the substitutes’ bench at an otherwise sombre St. James’ Park confirmed the return of Newcastle United’s prodigal son.
It proved to be the main talking point for a frustrated Toon army force fed another uninspiring evening out last Saturday through a soulless goalless draw against Brighton .
For some the cameo appearance offered hope amidst the gloom of another season battling relegation – for others it was further evidence of desperate times on Tyneside.
The doubters were quickly offered further ammunition to pour scorn on the 30-year-old striker’s recruitment on a heavily incentivised contract connected to appearances with a report that Carroll’s fitness concerns would mean he was unlikely to start a game this side of Christmas.
Time will tell although Carroll is likely to start again on the bench for Newcastle’s trip to Leicester this afternoon.
Like the shirt he is again proud to wear opinions on the 6ft 4in Geordie are black and white.
Speak to people at Liverpool and many say that the reason his record £35 million transfer conducted by Anfield boss Kenny Dalglish proved a flop through continual injury problems was an ill-disciplined lifestyle although drinking sessions didn’t do many Kop stars of the seventies and eighties any harm.
But for someone who has enjoyed high profile moves and collected nine England caps the playing statistics are damning.
For the past seven seasons his goal tally has never reached double figures on account of numerous injury absences.
You have to go back to 2009-10 when he was making an impact at Newcastle to observe a really healthy return of 19 goals from 42 appearances.
Chris Hughton who was in charge of Carroll for a spell at St. James’ Park says: “Sometimes people forget about the Andy Carroll of before, his talent, the goals he’s scored.
“But he’s back at Newcastle, a club he loves and I’m certain of one thing – he will give everything. He’s a forceful individual and being a local lad the fans love him.”
Pundit and former England international Danny Mills doubts whether the gamble of bringing Carroll home will come off.
“You’re relying on someone who hasn’t played a lot of football – in fact he’s hardly played at all.” he said.
“When you are relying on this as a plan B then you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.”
But manager Steve Bruce, who urged the Newcastle board to take a chance on a player released by West Ham in the summer, after having been out since February, insists: “Mentally he is tough as they come. Of his type I don’t think there has been anybody better than him in the last 10 years.”
But you have to go back to April 2018 to discover his last Premier League goal. He missed 152 games in seven seasons at West Ham.
And considering he cost more than Luis Suarez (£22.7million) when they both signed for Liverpool in January 2011, it’s amazing to consider the different paths the two strikers have since travelled down.
But now Carroll is desperate to make up for lost time and prove the doubters wrong.
“When I left Newcastle I was enjoying my football. I was scoring goals. Yes, it’s been pretty tough since.”he confessed.
“I’ve grown up massively. I’ve made mistakes in the past but I now know what life is all about.”
His last operation was to remove the wrong sized screws which had been used to repair a severely damaged ankle – further proof that things have often gone pear-shaped for the strapping striker.
He has put things right off the field through a happy relationship with ex The Only Way Is Essex star Billi Mucklow and their four children.
Instead of a Saturday night out on the Toon following the Brighton game it would have been a takeaway and watching some TV – which might not have included ‘Match Of The Day’.
Said former boss Sam Allardyce: “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game.”
Right now for Carroll it’s simply about playing it.