Saturday’s Premier League encounter between West Ham United and Newcastle United at Upton Park on Saturday had slightly more riding on it for one particular striker than it did for the other 21 players on the pitch.
Andy Carroll has struggled to fulfil the potential he displayed during his early days at St James’ Park, despite completing moves to Liverpool and West Ham for a combined £50 million.
Further England recognition has also come the burly striker’s way since he departed his native North East, but he is yet to convince in the colours of his country and was overlooked for World Cup duty over the summer.
Carroll is still only 25 years of age, though, meaning that he should still be approaching his peak.
West Ham will be hoping that proves to be the case having invested a substantial amount of money in his services only to see him spend more time nursing niggling knocks than troubling top-flight defences.
It is hoped, though, that his most recent spell on the sidelines will be his last, with the finest medical minds having worked on restoring him to full health.
Carroll certainly looked to be firing on all cylinders over the weekend as he positively revelled in the physical battle presented to him by Magpies centre-halves Mike Williamson and Paul Dummett.
He may not have been able to round off a fine individual performance with a goal, but he dominated in the air to keep Alan Pardew’s men on the back foot and pave the way for Aaron Cresswell to open his Hammers account and seal a 1-0 win.
|Position||Team||Match||Aerial Won||Mins Played|
|Andy Carroll||FW||West Ham||West Ham vs Newcastle||16||90|
|Paul Dummett||DF||Newcastle||West Ham vs Newcastle||2||90|
|Michael Williamson||DF||Newcastle||West Ham vs Newcastle||1||90|
At well over six foot tall, this is the kind of showing Sam Allardyce will have been expecting from his battering ram of a frontman.
As a striker he will be expected to chip in with his fair share of goals, but pulling opponents into areas they do not want to go and ensuring that they do not get a moments peace is just as important to the collective cause.
More of the same is now demanded from Carroll, with it up to him to prove his doubters wrong, nail down a role in the West Ham starting XI and convince Roy Hodgson that he is deserving of an international recall as England continue their surge towards the 2014 European Championship.