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. I downplayed his record for England youth teams and his Newcastle record and just called him 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.
This week 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 Kung Fu Shola Ameobi, Niles ‘great name’ 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. Forget all this bullshit talk of ‘in this present economic climate, that’s too much money.’ Since when has Premier League football lived in the real world. An average player at an average Liverpool earns over £48k a week.
Carroll may have professed his wish to stay (and I think he did) and the fans may lament losing the Shearer heir that quickly but financial reality, the sort of modern business practice that Mike Ashley, a man I waiver between loathing and hating, knows the score here. 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.
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’Goal is not going to help out much. A net outlay of £7m on Carroll and Suarez is pretty good. Next to fix that defence.
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 in this average league. Carroll might turn out to be brilliant but he is leggy and possibly prone to leg, ankle, knee injuries. In that case, its a bad investment. But Kenny is not often wrong about a player. Staying fit, Carroll will lead that line for years to come, bullying defenders and hopefully putting John Terry through the back of the net at least twelve times. If he promises that, he can retire right now from international football now. Some things are more important than money.