Friday 28 July 2017

Short back and sides can lighten burden on Carroll's shoulders

Chris Bascombe

A year is long enough. The pony-tail has to go immediately. Just the pony-tail, mind. The Liverpool striker beneath it will have a while longer to prove his worth (until the end of the season at least) but the clippers are well overdue on the fashion crime Andy Carroll is dragging across the hallowed Anfield turf.

That weight on his shoulders everyone is talking about would be instantly removed, not only with a few more goals and dynamic performances, but also with a short back and sides. Carroll was supposed to look like the new John Toshack when he moved to Merseyside, not a slightly more masculine version of Michael Bolton.

Carroll can get away with the flowing locks where they're compulsory on Newcastle's Bigg Market, but at Liverpool he has too often resembled a Geordie unsure. He wants support, patience and he wants empathy from The Kop, and emerging from the tunnel in the next home game with a cropped head is the way to get it.

Liverpool have been involved in several public relations catastrophes recently, but the unveiling of a shaven headed Carroll would be a triumph.

He was at his best for Newcastle when he looked mean and moody, not like the one at the end of the row in a Take That tribute band. When stood alongside his marker last night, Newcastle centre-half Fabricio Coloccini, the duo resembled a soft rock act.

Of course, the haircut is a mere superficiality but it is almost emblematic of his inability to understand and absorb his new environment. He could wear ribbons in his hair and get away with it if he was terrorising defences, but in the absence of any consistency all solutions must be considered. Everything else still needs a makeover, too. It is difficult to describe Carroll's on-field demeanour as anything but cumbersome. He has not reached the levels of apathy his predecessor in the No 9 shirt, Fernando Torres, attained during his last 18 months at the club, but too often last night Carroll displayed an uncanny knack of being five yards off where he needed to be to receive possession.

It would be wrong to put this down to lack of effort, more a case of an absence of match wit. The taunts from his former allies -- many humorous but sadly unrepeatable from the away end -- could not disguise the yearning of everyone else inside the stadium to see Carroll come good.

His name provoked the loudest cheers when it was named. Over-zealous applause followed when he neatly controlled the ball with his meaningful first touch after 10 minutes, expertly collecting a looping 25 yard pass with his back to goal. That backing swiftly turned to signs of impatience when crosses flashed across the six yard box and Carroll was nowhere to convert.

crazed

While Craig Bellamy kept scurrying down the left flank like a crazed chipmunk, and Stewart Downing made avoiding a red card for persistent fouls an early objective of Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez, Carroll too often expected perfect balls to feet rather than in zones where a burst of speed was needed to pounce onto them.

A miscontrol from Steven Gerrard's pinpoint pass on 64 minutes, when he was clear on goal, seemed to sum it up. His supporting role in Bellamy's second goal a few minutes later made amends, and he was unlucky when a majestic header rattled the bar.

It will never be too late for him to prove the current obituaries on his Anfield career premature while Kenny Dalglish and a large section of Liverpool's support continue to believe in him, but if he can't fill the void left by Luis Suarez's absence he may never get a consistent run in the side once the Uruguayan returns. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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