Rarely does one feel sorry for professional footballers. The dream job, fabulous salary and success with the fairer sex that often flows from those vital two factors ensures that they experience what many believe to be the ideal lifestyle. However, sympathising with Liverpool striker Andy Carroll seems natural and understandable considering the horrifically bad fortune he has suffered since his move to Merseyside in January 2011.
From the offset, the tall number nine was lumbered with debilitating injuries that prevented him making a similarly instant impact to fellow new signing Luis Suarez and limited him to only seven League appearances, while his burdensome price tag of a gargantuan £35 million has proven more difficult for the Geordie striker to shrug off, with many critics frequently harking back to the price Liverpool paid for him despite Carroll having no influence over it whatsoever. He then struggled to work his way into former manager Kenny Dalglish's good books and, as a result, regularly missed out on a place in the Scot's starting line-up.
Now, although some notable displays against Blackburn, Everton and Chelsea towards the end of last season, as well as a brilliant headed goal for England from Steven Gerrard's superb cross against Sweden during Euro 2012, have gained Carroll some favour with supporters, he appears destined to be the subject of fierce and frequent transfer speculation linking him with either a temporary or permanent move away from Anfield after only 18 months at Liverpool.
New manager Brendan Rodgers has hinted that Carroll is unlikely to fit into the style of play that he envisages employing at Anfield, which has inevitably sparked media speculation regarding the 23-year old's future. At Swansea, Rodgers implemented a footballing philosophy based on the paramount importance of retaining possession. His emphasis on pass and move reflects both the treasured traditional "Liverpool Way" and the current trend towards a Spanish style of play that has proved significantly successful for their national side. Hence, the argument goes, having Carroll available as an alternative option would only increase the temptation to revert to a long ball style of play that Kopites disapprove of and Rodgers seeks to remove.
The situation seems similar to that of Tony Hateley who, despite bagging 28 goals in 56 appearances in a Red shirt, left Liverpool after little more than a season at the club. Alan Birchenall's comments on Hateley in "Secret Diary of a Liverpool Scout", a book currently occupying my summer reading, could just as easily be applied to Andy Carroll:
"Tony was a nice fella and a good player in the right team. However, his arrival changed our style of play. From being a passing team, we suddenly started launching the long ball up to the big man. It is not something you plan. It's just that a centre-forward who is good in the air becomes a magnet for the long, high ball."
It therefore seems that Carroll may be sacrificed in order to push forward with Rodgers' plans for reform, just as Hateley was swiftly moved on so that Shankly's pass and move style would not be diluted . Possible destinations for the England international include Newcastle, Fulham and West Ham.
Newcastle are the only team to have made an offer for Carroll so far but the Reds gave short shrift to their season-long loan bid. A return home to his boyhood team, who are on the rise after a fifth placed finish last season, may interest Carroll and the Barcodes would surely welcome a fans' favourite back to St James' Park for a fraction of the fee they sold him for. However, Liverpool may be reluctant to sell him back to Newcastle as they are our rivals for a European place and the transfer would represent an embarrassing loss, similar to the fiasco that saw Robbie Keane return to Tottenham Hotspur in a deal that lost Liverpool £7 million after a single disappointing season from the much-vaunted Irishman.
Craven Cottage could be a preferable destination for Carroll. Rumours suggest that Fulham manager Martin Jol is considering offering £10 million plus Clint Dempsey in return for Carroll. Brendan Rodgers has admitted his interest in the American striker, who saw almost half of his 50 Fulham goals come in a prolific 2011/2012 campaign for the London side.
The versatile attacker could fit in to Rodgers' fluid style of play and 4-3-3 formation well, and his goal-poaching abilities could prove vital in boosting the Reds' goal count. At 29, Dempsey is six years older than Carroll and thus has less potential for the long-term. Nevertheless, if Fulham owner Mohamed Al-Fayed could stump up the cash then selling Carroll for Dempsey plus a sizeable fee could prove nifty business in the transfer window.
Hammers' boss 'Big Sam' Allardyce is also reportedly interested in Carroll, whose physical presence and height would complement the former Bolton manager's direct style of play fittingly. However, the newly promoted side would only be able to afford to take him on loan, which makes Upton Park an unlikely venue for Carroll to play his football at next season, as Rodgers has described the idea of allowing him to leave on a temporary basis as "ridiculous."
Ultimately, if Rodgers doesn't believe that Carroll has a role to play in Liverpool's first team either next season or in the foreseeable future, then the Reds should look to offload the misfiring striker. However, only permanent transfers for a fee of around £20 million should be considered because loan moves only really work with inexperienced youngsters, not expensive flops. The money generated from his sale could then be used to purchase some more attack-minded players who fit into Rodgers' vision for his Liverpool squad.
Nevertheless, Carroll could still succeed if he remains at Anfield. From what he has said in the press, he sounds like he wants to stay at the club and prove his worth. If he did so, then he could spearhead a three pronged attack, with Suarez and new signing Fabio Borini buzzing around him on the wings, creating chances and providing Carroll with much-needed service.
Whatever happens regarding Andy Carroll, I trust Brendan Rodgers to make the right decision that will benefit Liverpool in the long run.