Carroll keeps feet on the ground

Andy Carroll will not allow himself to get carried away after taking the first step towards filling the legendary Alan Shearer's boots.

Carroll has been handed the number nine shirt worn with such distinction by the former Magpies skipper, as well as the likes of Jackie Milburn and Malcolm Macdonald before him and the 21-year-old Geordie repaid manager Chris Hughton's confidence in him with a superb hat-trick in Sunday's stunning 6-0 demolition of Aston Villa.

An approving Shearer was among the crowd at St James' Park to witness the feat, as were England boss Fabio Capello's lieutenants Franco Baldini and Stuart Pearce.

However, England Under-21 international Carroll, who has been courted by Scotland on the senior international front and has also attracted interest from a series of Barclays Premier League competitors, is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

He said: "I just concentrate on myself. I know I can play football and score goals like I did, and that's what I go out there to do.

"Obviously, it's great for people to see what I can do, but I'm just happy with the three points and all the lads playing like they did."

That sentiment was mirrored by Hughton in the immediate aftermath of the game, but the former Republic of Ireland international could hardly have been more pleased with the way his fledgling striker responded to the pressure of wearing the number nine shirt for the first time in a Premier League game on Tyneside.

Newcastle were already leading 2-0, courtesy of Joey Barton's piledriver and Kevin Nolan's close-range header when Carroll thumped home his first 11 minutes before the break.

He made it 4-0 with 67 minutes gone and then after Nolan had helped himself to a second, started and finished a flowing move in injury-time to complete his treble, all three of them scored with his left foot, a significant achievement for a man known more for his prowess in the air.

Carroll said: "It was a great game, a great performance by all the lads and getting a hat-trick in the first game of the season at home was just fantastic.

"There were no headers in it, they were all left-footed and really it was just the quality of the balls that went into the box for me to score the goals."

Both Carroll and Hughton know the youngster will have to reproduce that sort of form on a sustained basis if he is to live up to his billing, and the Magpies were today one of several clubs linked with an interest in Manchester City's Paraguay international Roque Santa Cruz.

However, team-mate Jose Enrique has been hugely impressed by the academy graduate and is convinced he can score the goals the club need to achieve their first objective for the season, top-flight survival.

The Spaniard said: "I have told him I hope he scores 100 goals this season because it would be good for us!

"He is a young lad and he has to learn a lot, like me, but if he continues the same way, he can win a lot of games for us.

"I said to him after the game, it was not just his goals, he was really, really good.

"Being a striker here is very difficult because Alan Shearer is a legend.

"But Andy is a striker who is good with his head, he's strong and he is going to be very important for us."

Newcastle return to action on Wednesday evening when they travel to League Two side Accrington in the Carling Cup second round ahead of Saturday's tricky league visit to Wolves.

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