one year ago today, Andy Carroll was a Championship striker with four league goals for the season, scoring against Blackpool, Plymouth, Doncaster and Peterborough. He wakes up this morning as the eighth most expensive footballer of all time.
The £35m transfer of a 22-year-old striker with only 11 Premier League goals and half a season's experience as a first-choice player in the top flight is one of the most extraordinary stories of English football. But yesterday was one of those extraordinary days.
It included Newcastle United turning down a huge offer for Carroll that they would never have dared reject on any other day than this. A day in which the feverish desire of Liverpool to spend most of the £50m they received for Fernando Torres turned a raw kid from Gateshead into a more expensive player than Spain's World Cup winner David Villa.
It takes some confidence for Liverpool -- with owners who have been in charge only since October, a new director of football and a caretaker manager -- to spend £35m on a player whose only proven track record thus far is for a worryingly volatile private life. That he is currently injured and presumably unable to complete a medical looks like the least of their worries.
The acquisition of Carroll would never have cost as much in different circumstances. But the departure of Torres and the scarcity of credible replacements to be had within 24 hours meant that Liverpool were forced to part with a transfer fee that changes the nature of Carroll's career for ever.
The transfer fee is not Carroll's fault. The reasons that it was inflated were the result of Roman Abramovich's obsession to bring Torres to Chelsea. Unfortunately, it becomes Carroll's problem.
With a style that is an awkward configuration of knees and elbows, he has at times looked like a striker of real talent. At other times he has looked simply like a promising player making his first steps to being a good one. But never has he looked like a £35m footballer.
The problem now for Carroll, whose popularity on Tyneside was a bulwark against his worst excesses, is that he will inevitably be judged on different terms. He is no longer a kid with potential, nor is he one for the future. He is a £35m footballer who is being asked to fill the boots of one of the most celebrated strikers in the world.
Carroll's private life suggests that he still has many issues to resolve. There was a conviction for common assault in October. He was arrested and bailed for the assault of his former girlfriend -- the charges were later dropped. That is not to say that Carroll will not get his house in order and thrive at Liverpool. But there is no point pretending that he is not still a major risk.
Sadly, there is no longer any time for a player to develop quietly in a game in such a rush. One minute they are scoring against Plymouth, the next they are more expensive than two Alan Shearers. It makes for a lot of excitement but it does not necessarily make it right. (© Independent News Service)