Andy Carroll is a bad off the pitch, and good on it.
Before Monday's madness at the transfer window, I have to admit I'd never even heard of Andy Carroll. That was before Chelsea offered a ludicrous £50 million offer for Fernando Torres and suddenly it was all over that Liverpool bid £30 million, and then £35 million, for the services of Carroll.
After a little research, it became evident what Liverpool was getting.
Carroll is fantastic in the air. At 6'3", he's imposing and will give shorter defenders a great deal of trouble. For a big man, he's highly skilled with his feet and has an amazing burst of pace. He seems to be more along the lines of Zlatan Ibrahimovic than, say, Peter Crouch. At 21 years old, he's obviously quite young.
Most impressive is that he's scored 11 goals this season in just 18 appearances. Goals, if you haven't heard, are tough to come by in the EPL, and apparently Carroll can score them in bunches.
Ian Holloway, manager at Blackpool, called him "the best striker in the EPL." Kevin Keegan has stated he possesses the best head of anyone he's ever seen (not a small compliment).
On the surface, what Liverpool received is a very young English player with the capability to consistently score 20-30 goals a season for years to come.
Yes, £35 million is a ridiculous transfer fee, but global soccer is a ridiculous game played by billionaires.
It's Carroll's off-field antics that have everyone questioning the move. What kind of lad is he? He's been busted four times for assault and twice for for hitting his girlfriend. He broke the jaw of Newcastle teammate Steven Taylor (an incident neither Carroll or Taylor will discuss). In October, he was court-ordered to live with teammate Kevin Nolan and given an 11 pm curfew in hopes of taming his wild ways.
In essence, he was given a babysitter.
I don't mind Carroll's off-field behavior. In fact, I like it (except for hitting his girlfriend, which he claims was in self-defense). When have footballers ever been choir boys? Certainly Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan and Ian Rush weren't church-going lads. They were all scrappers who loved a pint (or 12) at the local pub and didn't mind a bust-up now and then.
Some of the best players in English history have been terrors off the pitch: Gazza (of course), Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Tony Adams, to name just a few.
Even the likes of Frank Lampard and David Beckham have been known to get into a scrap both on and off the pitch.
I personally feel that Liverpool need a little flavor and someone who you might not want to introduce to your mother. Gerrard is a legend, but I would never characterize him as a bad element. He's simply blue-collar to the bone.
Carroll has an edge. There's something especially dangerous about him, much the same way there was about Roy Keane all those years at Man U. Although I can't stand Manchester United, I've always admired the way Keane played the game.
Let's face it, football is a very physical game and it takes a physical player to make it at the highest level.
What's interesting is that nobody from Newcastle United is happy about this. They aren't being philosophical. They aren't laughing at Liverpool for paying £35 million.
They're bloody mad as hell.
Which is a good sign.
When Torres left, I never thought I'd feel this way, but it didn't bother me that much. It just looks like he'd given up on the team and was playing for his own selfish interests. I was excited we got £50 million for him when I didn't think he was worth £25 million.
I haven't heard from one Newcastle fan who is happy about this.
We'll see if Carroll is simply a very aggressive and competitive lad or someone who is self-destructive. Will he flourish like Torres did at Anfield or flounder like Robbie Keane or Alberto Aquilani for the Reds?
What's most interesting, and what nobody seems to be talking about, is that King Kenny Dalglish pulled the trigger on this deal. Kenny isn't known as a rash decision-maker by any stretch of the imagination. When Newcastle balked at £30 million, Liverpool immediately upped the transfer fee to £35 million. Obviously Dalglish sees something he really, really likes in Carroll.
Hope for Liverpool
That should give all Liverpool fans hope.
Some are really hung up on the transfer fee. Who cares? I would rather be Liverpool and have overpaid for a class striker than Newcastle (who now face the very real prospect of relegation) or Tottenham (who made their own play for Carroll with a £28 million offer and now sit without a first-rate striker).
Winning is the name of the game at this level, and Liverpool showed they are serious.
Carroll is now stating he never asked for a transfer (as was originally reported), and I actually believe him. Based upon history, Mike Ashley, the owner at Newcastle, is a businessman first and an owner second. He probably looked at that massive transfer fee and knew he'd never get anything near that for Carroll. Quite simply, he cashed in success for some quick bucks.
After his thigh injury heals (in another two to three weeks), I'm excited to see Carroll in a red jersey and what he brings to the side.