It was the 140 character retweet that spoke a million words. When Andy Carroll retweeted the picture of Mark O’Connell's son in his West Ham shirt adorned with the number 8 begging him to stay, it was the clearest indication yet that an agreement to sign a permanent deal at Upton Park has been reached.
But what is that deal? Figures being banded around in the media have a fee at £15 million and a weekly wage around the £80,000 mark. Whilst these figures are surely to be taken with a pinch of salt, the question that proves divisive even amongst the Hammers faithful is simple. Is he worth it?
A simple look at the statistics would probably suggest not. On paper, Carroll produced 7 goals and 4 assists in 26 games. That’s only a goal every 334 minutes, or every fourth game. If you were scouting a player on Championship Manager, you’d probably overlook those stats and invest elsewhere. Yet as we all know, football isn’t played on paper.
To truly assess the impact Carroll had at West Ham, you would have to dig a little deeper than just goal scoring stats. It cannot be coincidence that in the 13 games he missed through injury that West Ham only managed a win percentage of 15 per cent whereas with him in the team the win rate was 34 per cent.
So it’s apparent that his influence extends beyond the back of the net. His link up play with Nolan borders on telepathic awareness but it is not just his flick ons and direct assists, but his mere presence on the pitch that seems to add an extra dimension to West Ham’s attack.
One theory, never more evident than his debut against Fulham, is that centre halves doubling up on him expecting an aerial battle actually provide space for others to exploit. Not only does his name on the team sheet lift those on the pitch with him, but also the Upton Park faithful – a crowd well known for their ability to create an electric atmosphere if all pulling together.
So what of those who brand him a waste of money? Well, let’s be fair – Liverpool never really got their £35 million worth. Aside from a good end of season run whereby he took both the semi and final of the FA Cup by storm, and one fabulous Anfield night where he bullied John Terry in a 4-1 win, he never really showed a glimpse of why Dalglish put so much faith and funding in him.
With this late season flurry, and an impressive contribution at Euro 2012 it looked set for him to finally start to prove the doubters wrong – but the appointment of Rodgers and his blatant mis-management of Carroll meant a move was always likely – despite seemingly fitting the owners’ ideology of buying younger players with raw potential.
So Liverpool’s £20m loss could well be West Ham’s £15m gain – although most outside of Upton Park and even some within the Boleyn faithful appear to be questioning this.
Their thoughts are that there are better options around for that kind of transfer fee and salary. But who? There has been talk of Wilfred Bony for £12m. Some argue that he’s been tearing up the Dutch League, scoring goals for fun. All true, but £12 million free-scoring strikers from the Dutch League….Afonso Alves anyone?
At a time in West Ham’s history whereby they need consolidation in readiness for the move to the Olympic Stadium, the one thing they are in need of is a tried and tested, Premier League established player.
And as we all know – those don’t come cheap! Coming in the days after Dave Whelan wheeled out his weekly rent-a-quote and declared that James McCarthy was a £20 million, is paying three quarters of that sum on a 24-year-old striker who gives the fans and players alike a lift really that bad a deal?
This is a player who has played 9 games for England, scoring two goals in the process – and unlike many previous West Ham marquee signings, is coming up to the peak of his career, not the end.
Sure, £80,000 a week may well be comparable with some of the top earners at Arsenal or Tottenham, but as a mid table club, West Ham are not in a position to offer much more than a slightly higher pay-packet to attract players. And let’s be fair – it’s not the first time the Hammers have given out £80,000 a week, but Andy Carroll is certainly more deserving than the likes of Kieron Dyer and Freddie Ljungberg.
The key thing that Sam Allardyce can offer Carroll is that West Ham will play to his considerable strengths. And for West Ham and England, that can only be a good thing. I for one, look forward to the coming season, and as such, Andy Carroll finally silencing the critics.
image: © dannymol