Andy Carroll: The last of a dying breed

The Boleyn Ground, 1st September 2012. The maverick, the enigma that was Andy Carroll made his West Ham debut. The player that had signed for Liverpool from Newcastle for a massive 35million was now, just two years later, turning out for West Ham United.

Initially for just a year on loan, at the end of that season when 'Andy Carroll, we want you to stay' was ringing around the golden turrets, he put pen to paper on a six-year deal, with the option for two more, at a cost of ?15million. Quite some discount on a player that was signed for ?35million just 24 months prior.

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A no-nonsense centre forward, an absolute beast in the air, Carroll was one of a dying breed of striker, in this modern age of tiki-taka football - but he was however a perfect fit for the then West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce. The player with the most successful crosses in the league, Matt Jarvis, who had just won his first England Cap, was signed from Wolves to compliment him.

During that debut game against Fulham, a debut that was one of the best I'd seen, he was injured. A cycle that was inevitably be repeated throughout his time at West Ham. Fast forward to now, and in those six years, Andy Carroll has mustered up just 142 appearances in all competitions, scoring just 34 goals.

So what could have been? Andy Carroll certainly wasn't short of talent. But for every ounce of talent he had, it would appear, on the face of it at least, he had the same amount of unprofessionalism.

Frequently spotted out on the town, with friends, fellow players, looking decidedly worse for ware, the injury count soon mounted up. The long-awaited return was soon followed by yet another stint in the physio room or on the operating table.

Understandably, the fans became restless and frustrated with his lack of action and perceived unprofessionalism. I fully understand that, but was all of it quite so warranted? Of course, lifestyle can play a massive part in recovery times, but can the lifestyle be attributed to everything?

West Ham have had a few players over the years partial to a beer or two, or a bit off the rails. The one that springs to mind immediately is Frank McAvennie, now seen as a legend. But that was way back in 1986 when he played and made his mark.

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Would Carroll's lifestyle have been judged as harshly if he was from that era as opposed to now? Of course he wouldn't, but time has moved on, and unfortunately, the hard-partying, brute of a centre forward hasn't had a place in the modern game for quite some time.

It's been frequently thrown about that Wor Andy hasn't given a toss, doesn't care about his fitness and is quite happy to sit in the treatment room and pick up his pay check. To be honest, that's not really something I have ever subscribed to.

It's not as if his injuries have been little minor strains - they've been injuries that have required surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Much harder work, blimey, much more painful work than if he was doing his normal day to day training as a fit player. I do actually feel a bit sorry for him.

It's not all been bad though. He's given us some good memories, from that debut back in 2012, to the torpedo on Davis de Gea, the hat-trick against Arsenal, the deft touches and turn and rocket in to the top corner against Swansea, to that overhead screamer against Crystal Palace.

I'm certainly not forgetting that absolutely priceless brace he got against West Brom to give us victory and three desperately needed points under Moyes either, when we were in real danger of going down.

He's definitely going to be remembered as 'what could have been', because the talent was most certainly there, yet perhaps the self-control off the field was somewhat lacking.

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As the end of this season is fast approaching, yet again Andy Carroll is in the treatment room, with an expiring contract looming, and at the age of just 30, it would appear that this former England International's career at the top level at least, may be over.

It's been a sad decline, and on the rare occasions he has made it on to the pitch this season, it's been very painful to watch. The spring in his step has gone, his ability to jump for a ball diminished. With misplaced passes, and the ability to trap a ball now a distant memory, it's been a pitiful sight if ever there was one.

How many of those injuries were down to his swashbuckling, hard style of play, and how many of those injuries were down to his lifestyle can be discussed and argued until the cows come home, but us as fans will never truly know the extent either has played.

Whatever the cause, it is a shame that a player with such talent and ability is going to have his top level career curtailed early. Even more of a shame that it's one of ours.

Of course, people are going to come out and say they have no sympathy for him as he's still been banking his quite handsome pay cheque each week, but I'm pretty sure that regardless of the money, Big Andy hasn't found it easy going under the knife and the subsequent rehabilitation a walk in the park.

I'm certain he would rather have been pulling on the claret and blue and getting out on to the pitch at 3pm on a Saturday, playing and scoring goals and getting the adulation that come with it.

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Whatever your feelings, until July he is still one of ours, and as the curtain closes on the Andy Carrol chapter, I wish him nothing but good luck in the future.

Injuries aside, he's a good old fashioned English centre forward, a traditional number 9, the likes of which we'll probably never see again, and that makes me quite sad. Thanks for the few good memories Andy.

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