Andy Carroll : What is his role at Anfield and how does he live up to previous number nines?

Liverpool swept aside Manchester United 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday, and with 74 minutes on the clock Andy Carroll made his first appearance since his £35 million transfer. At 3-0 up Carroll’s new teammates weren’t looking for him to win them the game, as that was in the bag. He came on for a run out under no pressure on a jubilant day for the Reds.

With the debut out of the way Carroll is in contention for a start against Portuguese side Sporting Clube de Braga in the Europa League this week. Liverpool’s head of sports medicine Peter Brukner told the clubs website: “He’ll play some more minutes against Braga and hopefully he’ll be involved more and more.”

Carroll has given more than just 16 minutes of action since his arrival, his Geordie banter will have given the dressing room a lift after the sulking of the previous number nine. It has also given Liverpool fans hope that their new owners are willing to invest wisely.

So, no immediate return on their investment for FSG but at least he is now ready for game time. But what will he bring to the coveted number nine shirt?

Carroll is a strong and athletic striker, combined with his powerful shot and excellent heading ability he is considered a classic British centre forward. But is it enough for him to be a Kop hero?

There are players who came to the club with this desire but for various reasons failed, both with the fans and more crucially in the box. Robbie Keane, Stan Collymore and Fernando Morientes all tried, Morietes though started banging the goals in as soon as he returned to Spain, where as the others have fallen down the pecking order at their new clubs and then further down the football ladder since.

On the other hand, some are still revered today.

God, or Robert Bernard Fowler, vacated the number nine shirt after two spells at the club with 183 goals in 369 games. Ian Rush also had two spells at Anfield, and his record is 346 goals, 660 games, one moustache.

When he joined Manchester United Michael Owen proved he had ice in his veins but he previously had goals in his boots, scoring 158 goals in 297 games for Liverpool. The recently departed Fernando Torres was prolific with 81 goals in 142 games. But many on The Kop feel since his move to Chelsea he has taken residence with Owen at Traitor’s Lodge.

Once you are an Anfield hero it’s an honour that should be treated with respect and used wisely. Fowler always had a cheeky edge to his game and even when scoring for Manchester City in the derby he reminded the United faithful of Liverpool’s European Cup tally.

But only Torres could be considered in the mould of a classic British striker. Fowler and Owen were too short, Rush too lean, but all knew how to score, and all played in a team that allowed them to do so.

Most celebrated of all is Rush’s partnership with the current Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, 172 goals in 515 games. But it was the combination of Dalglish and Rush that made the early 80’s Liverpool team a vintage. It is this union that Kenny has used as a mainstay of his managerial career.

The summer of ’87 saw Dalglish bring in John Barnes, 89 goals in 353 Liverpool games, and Peter Beardsley, 59 in 175, to supply and support John Aldridge, 63 goals in 104 games.

At Blackburn Dalglish bought Alan Shearer, 379 club goals in 733 games, who was aided and abetted by Chris Sutton, 47 in 130 while at Ewood Park, as they created the SAS partnership to win the Premier League.

Dalglish does not focus on one goal scorer but one will lead the pack. He is not as rigid in his tactics as his predecessor, 4-3-3 can easily become 4-5-1 or when injuries dictate even 3-4-2-1, as against Stoke earlier this season. So it’s perhaps Carroll’s support in Saurez, 49 goals in 48 games for Ajax, Raul Meireles and the workhorse Dirk Kuyt who can help Carroll to become an Anfield goal machine. But it’s mainly Carroll that Dalglish will want to keep the BBC Grandstand’s Vidiprinter busy on Saturday afternoons.

Carroll is 22 years old and has had a few off the pitch issues. But maturity will come. He is no longer the biggest player at the club he plays for.

Duncan Ferguson was the big fish in a small pond and was a striker of similar style who also had previous with the law. But the Leaping Lamppost also became known as Duncan Disorderly as he never learnt from his misdemeanours and did not become the player someone of his ability should have done.

Carroll’s textbook should be the one written by Fernando Torres. Adored from the instant he arrived due to his application, desire, demeanour and his goals. But Torres’ final chapter was ghost written by Dalglish and FSG, as they do not carry passengers on the good ship Liverpool.

For Liverpool’s sake let’s hope Carroll knows it’s his job to score goals and that he plays for a team. Having success and being adored by the Kop is not a one-way ticket to taking it easy. It means you have to keep doing it, week in, week out, at Old Trafford, at Moss Rose, otherwise your one-way ticket will be the one out of Anfield.

For further reading visit The Tomkins Times website where Paul Tomkins considers if Carroll is worth the £35 million fee, tomkinstimes.com/2011/02/andy-carroll-is-he-worth-it. In the article he looks at the premium price Liverpool paid and the factors involved.

For statistical analysis of Andy Carroll, visit basstunedtored.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/andy-carroll-–-a-closer-look/  by Andrew Beasley where Carroll’s performances are given an in depth breakdown.

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