4 Mar 2011 08:10:00
By Greg Stobart | Northern Correspondent
When Andy Carroll completed his £35 million switch to Liverpool on the last day of the winter transfer window, he was left in no doubt that his badboy antics off the pitch would not be tolerated on Merseyside.
The striker had hit the headlines too often for the wrong reasons during his time at Newcastle as he was involved in incidents of violence, excessive drinking and womanising.
On Tyneside, it was club captain Kevin Nolan who took Carroll in and tried to help the Gateshead-born star turn his life around. On Merseyside, manager Kenny Dalglish is determined to keep him in check.
Carroll and Dalglish were even spotted together at a Boyzone concert last month, with the new recruit appearing to enjoy himself considerably more than the Liverpool legend, who found the going tough as they listened to songs like ‘Father and Son’ and ‘Love Me for a Reason’.
The fact that Carroll is enjoying nights out at a concert rather than drinking with his friends is a good sign for Liverpool fans that the England international is ready to fulfil his potential at Anfield.
The 22-year-old revealed when he signed for the club that he will continue to enjoy the odd beer, that he has no interest in living a monkish lifestyle.
But the Liverpool medical staff have warned him that drinking alcohol can delay his recovery time between games, leaving him less sharp and more susceptible to injuries like the thigh problem that has kept him out of action since December 28.
And while Carroll has been working hard on the training ground to recover from injury, he has also been proving that he is ready to consign his wild reputation to the past.
He has rarely ventured out other than to enjoy a meal with his girlfriend, choosing instead to concentrate on football and bonding with his team-mates, even joining the squad for the recent trip to Sparta Prague.
Carroll’s love of goals is now far greater than his love of alcohol, girls and gambling. All his energy is centred on proving himself at Liverpool, on paying back the whopping £35m paid for him by the Reds to replace Fernando Torres.
And what better game to get started than against Manchester United?
Carroll is set to make his Liverpool debut on Sunday, probably from the bench, and his involvement at Anfield will give the Kop a huge lift as the Reds square off against their bitter rivals.
An extremely confident character, Carroll understands what is expected of him but is not phased by the challenge, just like he is not bothered by the fact he has only played six months of regular first-team football in the Premier League.
His power, strength and ability in the air will offer Liverpool a focal point to their attack and a perfect foil to the skill and guile of fellow January signing Luis Suarez, who has impressed since his £22.8m move from Ajax.
Liverpool fans will watch Carroll and bemoan the lack of a winger who can regularly whip dangerous crosses into the box, but he can still cause plenty of problems for a United defence that will be without suspended captain Nemanja Vidic.
For Carroll, an Anfield debut against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side almost seems scripted, but it is just the start of a five-and-a-half year contract on Merseyside.
He has shown already that he is doing everything he can to make sure he makes the most of his opportunity at one of the two biggest clubs in the country.
The born and bred Geordie was reluctant to leave Newcastle, but the immediate switch from badboy to boybands already suggests it could be the best thing he could possibly have done for his career.
There is every chance that Carroll could yet find himself in trouble at Liverpool – and it will be interesting to see how the player and the club react should that happen.
But as Carroll’s new friend Ronan Keating would tell him, life is a rollercoaster – and for now this young man is strapped in and ready to enjoy the ride.