It is remarkable to think that come this summer the total amount in transfer fees lavished upon Andy Carroll will probably exceed £50m, proving beyond doubt that there are few bubble economies like young English strikers who show a glimmer of promise.
Tonight, live on television, Carroll and West Ham United face Tottenham Hotspur at Upton Park in the fourth game of his latest injury comeback. When fit he is an automatic choice for Sam Allardyce, who will seek to push through that £17m move from Liverpool in the summer, provided West Ham survive in the Premier League and Allardyce himself stays.
Considering how gloomy things have been at times for Carroll this season, including an injury lay-off that took two months out of his season from the start of December to the end of January, and a record of two goals in 15 games, the resolution that beckons is not a bad scenario.
Nevertheless, there seems to be a reluctance on Carroll's part to consider that West Ham is a good option for him. He was slow to take up the offer of a loan move until it became obvious at the start of the season that Brendan Rodgers did not want him at Anfield. The possibility of a hero's return to Newcastle keeps getting floated, but however much Alan Pardew might like him, Carroll does not fit the profile of players that club now sign.
Carroll has not been able to reproduce anything like the form at Newcastle that brought him 11 goals in 19 league games more than two years ago, which persuaded Liverpool to spend £35m on him. Naturally, injuries have played a part, but that in itself makes him a less attractive proposition for a lot of clubs. Since that crazy last day of the January 2011 transfer window, he has scored only 13 goals for Liverpool and West Ham.
It is worth noting that Fernando Torres, the other lost boy in that great deadline day frenzy, has scored 27 goals for Chelsea since then. Torres has played more (111 appearances, as opposed to Carroll's 72) but even so, his strike rate is a game better than that of Carroll.
This time last year Carroll started for Liverpool in the League Cup final against Cardiff City. In March and April he went on the run of form that earned him a place in Roy Hodgson's England squad although, looking back at it, he only scored three goals in that period. It helped that two of them were in high-profile games, the FA Cup semi-final against Everton and the final against Chelsea.
He was arguably unlucky to lose his place in the England team at Euro 2012 once Wayne Rooney returned from suspension but, having picked him loyally whenever fit, even Hodgson lost faith in November. He did not select Carroll for the squad for the friendly against Sweden in Stockholm and, even when injuries reduced him to two fit strikers, decided to call up Wilfried Zaha rather than Carroll.
In many respects, Carroll is fortunate to have been given the opportunity at West Ham and a manager who shows such great faith, even though his own future hangs on Premier League survival. It has been hard to criticise Carroll's commitment when he has played at West Ham, even if the memory of a barnstorming debut against Fulham on 1 September is now somewhat distant.
Carroll has impressed with his effort every time he has pulled on a West Ham jersey this season, which admittedly is not often, but he has not exactly had a transformative effect on the side's fortunes. With Carroll in the team West Ham have won four, drawn two and lost five, with that record in keeping with the side's overall ratio of wins to losses.
It is hard for a young man of 24 who has been through one very rapid and exciting ascent in English football to accept that he may have to be realistic and take a few steps back. It is hard when you are still the most expensive British footballer of all time to accept that a club where a mid-table finish is a success is your level, especially when you were supposed to be the England team's next big thing.
It is easy to say that Carroll left Newcastle too early and that the £35m fee put too much pressure on him. Yet even at the time it felt ridiculous and looking at Carroll's career now it seems absurd. But more than two years on, he is not doing West Ham any favours by playing there. If anything it is a good fit for him.
Carroll's style of play requires a team adapted to work to his strengths. Clearly, Rodgers was not prepared to do so at Liverpool, and his forward signings, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge, indicate he never will be. By contrast, Allardyce has adapted West Ham to play the Carroll way, although not to the tastes of all their support. For Carroll it is a lot better than trying to fit a system that does not suit him.
Perhaps Carroll will come again as a force in English football. Aside from that night out in Dublin before Christmas in which he appeared to lose his protective leg brace over the course of the evening (his agent later claimed Carroll had it on underneath his trousers) he has been relatively free of controversy. Certainly, Hodgson has always been a fan and will be at Upton Park tonight to check up on him.
Young English footballers are a commodity. Just look at the expectation that surrounds the likes of Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling and Zaha. Carroll may well have been overvalued but there is no shame in resurrecting one's career at West Ham. He might yet interest the country's biggest clubs once again, but if he does not then there is a lot to be said for a manager that wants you, and is prepared to play your way.
Why are police worried by travelling Hull fans?
The strange case of the policing arrangements for Hull City supporters attending their team's away game at Huddersfield Town next month continues to puzzle. West Yorkshire police have insisted that the away allocation be reduced to 1,500 and that all away fans must be bussed in and out from Huddersfield in the "bubble policing" style, usually used for tinderbox fixtures like the Blackburn and Burnley derby.
Yet, there is no history between the two sets of supporters and only 14 Hull fans were arrested over the course of the whole of last season, none of them for alcohol-related offences. Superintendent Ged McManus, of West Yorkshire police, said that the measures are in place to reduce "alcohol consumption" and decrease "risk to the wider public". Quite rightly, supporters' groups fear the case could set a worrying precedent and are taking it to court.
Elliott saga shows racial abuse is not in the past
The resignation of Paul Elliott, one of English football most high-profile anti-racism campaigners, over his use of a term so racially offensive that it is impossible to think of one worse, is a sorry story indeed.
Elliott has resigned from roles on the FA's judicial panel, and Uefa committees, having used the word "n*****" in a text message to former Charlton player Richard Rufus. Both men are black. This is a man who has been praised extravagantly in the past for his potential as an administrator and appointed CBE for services to equality. One fallout over a business deal and he uses the kind of language we hoped was dead in football. If it springs to the lips of the man in charge of equality so readily, perhaps such language is not a part of history as we thought it was.
it is hard when you are the most expensive british player of all time to accept that a mid-table club is your levelReuse content