Newcastle hearts yearn for return of prodigal son
It is easy to see why Newcastle United are starting to make it known they are interested in re-signing Andy Carroll from Liverpool. It is a transfer that ticks all the boxes, dots all the I's and crosses all the T's on Tyneside.
There is nothing Newcastle fans appreciate more than seeing one of their own playing in the club's famous black and white stripes and there is nothing more the club's owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias love more than showing off their business acumen.
To bring Carroll back to Newcastle for anything less than the £35m they sold him for just 18 months ago would be more than just a feather in Ashley's cap, it would be a whole bird's worth.
He may have been mocked and goaded on his return to Tyneside last season, but should Carroll come home he will be given a hero's welcome.
Newcastle fans are a tribal bunch, passionate about where they live and loyal to their kinfolk. Few respected Carroll's decision to leave in January 2011, no matter how much money was on the table. Most felt betrayed, but all will quickly be forgiven should their home-grown No 9 decide he wants to be back among his own people.
Carroll was genuinely shocked and hurt by the venom that greeted him on his return last season. The well-wishers and back-slappers which accompanied his many nights out in his home town since his move to Merseyside did not prepare him for the vitriol that greeted him when he appeared in another team's colours. That said, from the moment he left for a British record fee on deadline day, Carroll has privately talked about his desire to return.
He probably felt it would come towards the end of his career, but there is no doubt he would love to come back. Newcastle's hierarchy are well aware of that desire and their loan move for him yesterday is designed to manipulate those emotions.
The offer to Liverpool over the weekend is nothing more than a bluff.
They are declaring their interest in a player they know they have no chance of signing on a temporary basis, if only because they will not pay the fee Liverpool are looking for to allow him to leave for a season. Newcastle's move is designed to rock the boat while they poke the hornet's nest. It is a move designed to stir Carroll's inner yearning for a homecoming in the hope he then does his bit to make it happen.
If Carroll decides he wants to leave Anfield, but will only accept it if it is a one-way ticket back to the North East, Newcastle will have prepared fertile ground for a bid of around £12m. Newcastle may even go as high as £15m, but the idea has always been to sign Carroll permanently, not on loan.
The question is will Liverpool let it happen? It is difficult to see how Carroll fits in to new manager Brendan Rodgers' style of football, hence the willingness to contemplate sending their most expensive player out on loan. But they are bound to bristle at the possibility he could go back to the club they overpaid so painfully for him.
The Carroll fee is an embarrassment to Liverpool, but it would be even more humiliating for them if they allowed Newcastle to take him back for far less with a smug smile on their face.
As for Newcastle, the attraction in re-signing Carroll is clear, but that does not mean it makes sense. Papiss Cisse wears the No 9 shirt now and has been prolific alongside Demba Ba.
But sometimes the heart rules the head in football and the sight of Carroll wearing black and white stripes again at the club that found and nurtured him is a bewitching one for those who never wanted to lose him in the first place. (© Daily Telegraph, London)