On Monday, Andy Carroll, one of English football's bright young things, was sent to live with his club captain, Kevin Nolan, in an attempt to keep him out of trouble off the pitch. Trouble, however, seems to follow the Newcastle United player. He and his mentor looked out the window of his temporary home on Wednesday night to see Carroll's new Range Rover go up in flames.
The chrome-plated car, bought after Carroll recently signed a lucrative new five-year contract with the Premier League club, was badly damaged.
It was the latest incident in a football season that has taken a rapid downward trajectory. Things had all begun so brightly in August with the 21-year-old scoring several goals in Newcastle opening games of the season, prompting fans to giddily compare him to Alan Shearer, one of his illustrious predecessors in Newcastle's famous black-and-white striped No 9 jersey.
Carroll was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning and appeared before Hexham Magistrates' Court on Monday, charged with the alleged assault of a teenager. He is accused of assaulting his former girlfriend with the case adjourned to 10 January. As a condition of his bail, he was ordered to stay at Kevin Nolan's house, a detached property in the up-market Darras Hall estate in Northumberland, where Nolan, the Newcastle United captain, lives with his wife and two young children.
Northumberland police have appealed for witnesses to the incident that also saw Nolan's garage doors daubed with graffiti. Yesterday the letters "W I" in black paint could be seen peeking out from behind a sheet that covered the rest of the doors.
Carroll, a big, bustling centre-forward who played his first game for Newcastle aged only 17, made a spectacular start to the current season as his side returned to the top tier of English football. The striker scored a hat-trick in his second Premier League game, a six nil defeat of Aston Villa, prompting talk of an England call up in the wake of the country's disastrous World Cup. Fabio Capello, the England manager, has yet to be convinced and Carroll hasn't made the squad. His form on the pitch for Newcastle has since wavered. He has been troubled by an ankle injury and was dropped from Newcastle's first team. He has not scored a goal since August.
Chris Hughton, the Newcastle manager who left Carroll out of his team last month, defended his player this week. "The most important thing is to give him the support and the guidance that he needs, and that he continues to keep doing what he does right on the training pitch and in matches," he said.
"He is easy to manage," Hughton said, adding that involvement in footballers' lives off the pitch was part of what managers had to deal with in modern football clubs.
"We are all aware there have been other issues with him – Carroll is not the only individual that you can say that about. These are the things we have to deal with, and we have to deal with them in the appropriate manner.
"We are in an environment where the game has changed because everything is highlighted more than ever.
"That is the world we live in, and that very much affects football."