Carroll's £35million journey set to begin

While £50million Fernando Torres continues his quest to find the back of the net at Chelsea, it’s easy to forget that January’s other big money signing is yet to start his.

When Torres, a proven goal scorer at all levels and has won the World Cup, walked out of Anfield he was instantly replaced by £35million Andy Carroll from Newcastle who has barely a season’s Premier League football behind him and a Championship winner’s medal. Hardly a fair comparison.

But Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish are not stupid. Although Carroll is nowhere near worth his price tag there are few concerns over his potential to eventually justify it.

The man who could be king: Liverpool supporters have great expectations for £35million striker Andy Carroll

In just six months of Premier League football this season towering Carroll has evolved from a promising club striker to a senior England international. The only way is up, it seems.

Indeed the signs have been encouraging for Carroll ever since Newcastle were relegated in 2009.

A header against West Ham was his first goal for the club but he trumped that later on in the season with an even better nodded effort at Stoke. It rescued a point for his club and although Newcastle would still go down, Carroll’s emergence was a big positive to build on.

In Championship surroundings Carroll thrived, scoring 19 goals in all competitions and finishing as the club’s top scorer with Newcastle bouncing back to the top flight as champions.

As reward for his role in returning Newcastle to the Premier League, he was handed the club's famous No 9 shirt.

It put huge pressure on the then 21-year-old to raise his performances to level of Newcastle's other legendary No 9s Alan Shearer, Malcolm MacDonald and Jackie Milburn.

But he wasted no time in doing so after scoring his first senior hat-trick against Aston Villa in just his second game back in the big time.

Some overlooked his treble against the then managerless Villa side but those doubters were quashed after another superb overall performance saw him scoring the winning goal, in trademark fashion with his head, in the win at West Ham in October.

Surely, he couldn't destroy bigger teams? He could, no less than a fortnight later in fact.

Carroll rose highest to beat Laurent Koscielny and Lukasz Fabianski to a free-kick, heading Newcastle to a famous win at Arsenal in which he dominated the Gunners back line all game.

From then on his reputation rocketed. Not only was he comfortably living up to the great expectations of the No 9 shirt, he was bringing back a dying art by playing like one too.

Fabio Capello could no longer ignore Carroll and called him up to the England squad in November.

Going into the friendly against France at Wembley the big striker was struggling with an injury. But he managed to make his highly-anticipated and keep his ever growing reputation intact despite Capello's experimental side slumping to a woeful defeat.

He had very few chances in which to score before making way in the second-half but his aerial dominance and good hold-up play were welcome additions to the team that were so badly lacking at the previous World Cup in South Africa.

In the following six games, that turned out to be his last for his hometown club Newcastle, Carroll scored four goals including a cracker against Liverpool that would have lasting effects.

Not a typical header but a stunning left-foot thunderbolt from 25-yards proving he can score from just about anywhere inside or outside the box in any way.

The Reds looking for candidates to replace the unhappy Torres had found their man.

And so to Carroll’s possible debut against Manchester United at Anfield this weekend. A stage fit for the £35million man's bow.

After injury has kept him out for over two months, Dalglish will be careful over how he plays his joker card but wary over how much he is needed.

With no Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand in the United line-up, the visitors will be there for the taking and Luis Suarez paired with Carroll may be too tempting to resist for Dalglish.

Carroll against the possible makeshift pairing of Wes Brown and Jonny Evans seems to suggest there is only one winner – especially in the air.

The 22-year-old will not get a better chance to instantly endear himself to the Anfield faithful by running United ragged and maybe even chipping in with a goal or two.

So what are Carroll’s targets? Despite his rapid rise, nobody expects instant miracles and, for the remainder of the season, he should focus on forming a formidable partnership with Luiz Suarez.

Next season will be the real benchmark. Dalglish’s arrival in the hot seat has raised expectations on Merseyside and Champions League football will be the target with the club leaning on Carroll to fire them to a top-four finish.

While Carroll’s career can further take off from here, it is worth noting that it can easily spiral out of control too. One only has to remember the storming impact Michael Ricketts made for Bolton in 2001.

Like Newcastle, the Trotters had just been promoted and Ricketts scored 15 goals for the club before February, earning him a deserved England call-up.

Following a poor 45 minute display against Holland, Ricketts never scored for Bolton again and, like the striker, the rest is history.

Off the field, Carroll's behaviour has already earned him headlines for the wrong reasons and have provided enough distractions that would be enough for anyone to take one eye off their career.

Carroll is, of course, a better player than Ricketts but his Liverpool career is a fork in the road.

Anfield hero and regular England international are at one end but just as accessible is becoming a journeyman striker with a reputation of being bags of trouble at the other.

Dalglish, his accomplice at a recent Boyzone concert, is confident Carroll will go on to glory.

Let the journey begin...

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