Back down in the gutter again. After the serene reaffirmation of loyalty from the last article, the club go and do something like sell Carroll and I’m right back to resenting them with impotent frustration.
A more generic account of the sheer insanity of the January transfer window needs to be done (£50 million for Torres, £35 million for Carroll, £30 million for Giuseppi Rossi): all this money spent in one day, supposedly in the midst of cutbacks and the (enforced) tightening of purse strings for us plebs, does not serve to enhance to reputation of the Premier League as a representational, tangible, meaningful, entity. Grant: I’m back on your side!
But my mind, predictably, is focused on one of these 11th hour deals in particular; ‘Wor Andy’: The Great Gateshead Hope. I’m going to endeavour to keep this as pragmatic and down to earth as possible. Here are a few of the pragmatic reasons why this deal may not be so bad after all.
Firstly, £35 million is an incredible amount of money…. well, actually, in the world of the Premier League, it actually doesn’t seem to be. But for a forward with less than half a season of top flight experience, for a young man with a serious history of off-field violence (not wishing to go down the Louise Taylor route of uninformed sensationalism, but let’s not apologise for the lad; for all his goal scoring prowess, he’s a bit of a thug) it seems like a fairly big gamble of Liverpool’s part.
Secondly, and having said the above, I do think Carroll is destined to be (i.e. is far from being now) a very good striker. I think he has much more footballing talent than he is given credit for (the recent chants that greeted Crouch at the game against Spurs of “you’re just a shit Andy Carroll” were made all the funnier by the fact that its true; while the two players share a similar game type, Carroll’s touch, technique and awareness are vastly superior to that of Mr. Roboto) and I think he is destined to become a regular in the England national team (whatever value that particular accolade has left). That he is destined for a ‘bigger club’ is not surprising (though I think Liverpool are some years off winning a trophy again). That NUFC are selling him should not be too much of a surprise either. We have previous history off selling off the family silver and cashing in our chips early (an apt metaphor, given that a sizable portion of the transfer money may find its way onto the poker table at one of our owner’s soirées). Beardsley, Waddle, Gazza: all were, being totally objective, ‘too good’ for NUFC, all were sold on. So that we managed to hold out for an extra £15 million over Spurs’ initial bid seems pretty good.
Thirdly, perhaps we have nipped in the bud another burgeoning ‘Messiah’; or more precisely have stopped the accusation of parochialism and ‘messiah complex’ those in the football media like to level at NUFC fans. The comparisons to Shearer can stop. He’s not the messiah, he’s a Liverpool player. Al, in an article below, did a great job of talking about this very subject, so I will point the reader in that direction. I will just add this little vignette.
On the way to the game against Spurs the other day, me and my brother walked past a gentleman that could, even conservatively, only be described as ‘extremely obese’ hawking spurious looking and shoddily made wares. Among his assorted goods – and modelled on his own rotund personage – was a t-shirt with Andy Carroll celebrating, fist clenched. Underneath read the words “If he doesn’t score, he’ll break your jaw”. A lovely present for all the family, available – or so it would seem from the proprietor’s own shirt – in sizes up to XXXL (though a sizable portion of his gut was left naked in the space between t-shirt end and stained tracksuit bottoms). Now if the only good that comes from this whole sorry farce is that that man is left with a box of t-shirts that he won’t even be able to give away, then there will at least be a silver lining!
But here are the bad, infuriating, depressing, aggravating, points. Actually; they are not any of these adjectives. All I have left for the present custodians of this club is disappointment, coloured by crushing inevitability.
Firstly, if it’s about money (and it’s always about money) why make such a show of insisting that he was not for sale? And why not wait until the summer? Give him a full season, ensure that we survive – who knows, maybe even get a top-half finish – let Carroll finish with a 20-plus goal tally, get a couple more impressive international caps to his name; all that would boost the price, then we could cash in. It’s not like he’s coming to the end of a contract, or that he has insisted on leaving.
Secondly, and I know this is going to sound like hero-worshiping and irrational jumping of the gun, but relegation is back on the cards again now, mainly because we are left pondering Hansen’s old maxim ‘who’s going to score the goals?’ Are we really going to invest all our hopes in Shola, Leon Best, Ranger and Lovenkrands? A risk to say the least. But also, importantly, what will this do to the club morale; perhaps our strongest asset this season. As nufc.com saliently pointed out, what will the likes of Enrique and Barton, both of whom are re-negotiating long-term contracts, think of the clubs ambition? What is to stop them stalling on talks, before having their heads turned in the summer?
Thirdly, this transfer provides yet more proof, as if it were needed, for the fact that Mike Ashley is running this club as a plutocracy that can have only one prominent figure: himself. I think he learned the lesson of the dangers of having populist figures at St. James’ with the whole Keegan debacle. It was only when Hughton began to get constant requests from the ‘Toon Ultras’ for waves (something he always seems strangely reticent to do), and when the national media began to garner praise that his job was threatened. Now Ashley has ousted another fan favourite. It seems the F.C.B. can put up with being despised, as long as there is no-one to take his limelight. As my dad just put it; “for a supposed recluse, he seems to love attention”!
But here is the worst thing – it’s been the leitmotif of Ashley’s whole tenure it seems – it’s the almost wilful stream of misinformation and duplicitous doublespeak leading up to a major event, then almost total silence from the club immediately following it. If someone – anyone – from the club gave a press statement saying ‘look, this is the reasoning behind the deal’ tomorrow, then at least there would be a reason, there would be some concession to at least informing the fans. Any of the following would do: ‘this money will be invested in youth development, this money can be used to ensure the contracts of other big players, this money will be used to bring in two or three young players in the summer, the amount offered was simply too much to turn down’. But I know we will hear nothing. Pardew, having said that Carroll was going nowhere from the moment he took over, will (be told to) keep schtum. The result will be more frustration and bafflement on the terraces; this will manifest in (yet more) ill-feeling towards Ashley, and could turn destructive if results start going against us.
So, who knows what ‘I remembers’ this latest dip in the emotional rollercoaster will spark in the future. NUFC… FFS!
 Just as a little aside – and I know that the effects of inflation over 15 years make this point slightly redundant – Alan Shearer cost £15 million! Alan Shearer at the height of his power cost the amount more that Liverpool offered above Spurs’ £20 million! How far we’ve come!