Nolan: 'We had to let Carroll go. The money was astronomical'

As Liverpool's £35m striker prepares to face his old club, his former team-mate admits it was good business for all
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The Independent Football

As a native of Toxteth, Kevin Nolan was always a natural for the Rigsby role.

After all, his home district of Liverpool borders Wavertree, which gave the world the actor Leonard Rossiter, who played the character in the TV show Rising Damp. Not that the Newcastle captain wishes to be typecast as he prepares for a reunion on Merseyside tomorrow with his erstwhile lodger, the £35m Andy Carroll.

"No, I wouldn't want to be stuck in the Rigsby mould," Nolan said yesterday, reflecting on some of the Rising Damp spin that was applied to the story of him taking "guardianship" of Carroll as a condition of his Newcastle team-mate being bailed on assault charges last October.

"When you look back now, the arrangement was very bizarre," the midfielder added. "But it worked. It was just normal when it was happening. In our family that's what we do for our friends. Even now, down in Liverpool, if Andy feels detached from his family, he knows he's got someone to lean on if he needs it. All my family are there for him."

As it happens, not so much rising cramp as a groin problem on Nolan's part and a knee injury on Carroll's could restrict tomorrow's reunion between lodger and landlord to a sideline affair at Anfield. Nolan has been having treatment all week. "Hopefully I can train tomorrow and get through okay," he said.

Asked whether Carroll would line up against the club he left on January deadline day, Nolan replied: "I don't know. He's been a bit sheepish with me this week. He's desperate to play against the lads and it will put a bit of closure to the thing – the fact that he's not a Newcastle player, seeing us playing against him, and kicking him of course."

Does Carroll need closure, then, three months on from the sudden move that took him away from his native Tyneside as the highest priced British footballer of all-time? "You'll probably have to ask him," Nolan said. "But, in my eyes, it'll hit him when he sees Newcastle, the team he grew up with and loved for so long, and Liverpool, his team now, are playing against them. If he does play on Sunday he'll do his best and it's up to him to deal with that."

But what about Newcastle? Are the club, and the supporters, in need of some closure now another totemic centre-forward has been sold on? It has become a Tyneside tradition, dating back to the days of Albert Stubbins, another Geordie goal merchant who was transferred to Liverpool, for a frowned-upon British record fee of £13,000 in 1946 – and who became such a legend on Merseyside that the Beatles put him on the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, in between Marlene Dietrich and Lewis Carroll.

"People blame Andy for going but you can't really blame anyone," Nolan said. "You can't blame the owners. The money they got was absolutely unbelievable. Andy was sort of, 'What should I do? Should I go? Should I stay?' If a club wants to pay £35m for you, anyone in any business, when they sit down and think about it, they'd say, 'You've got to go.' It was for the best for the club. It's worked out for us better that Andy has gone, although we'd love to have him still here and if he was we'd probably have a few more points on the board and would probably be able to build a great team around him.

"But to get £35m for him... we'd probably have taken £10m for him the season before, or £4m before we got relegated. It just shows what he's done in a short space of time. But now he's got a new chapter in his life and we've got a lot of money to spend.

"£35m! Come on! You can get four or five players in for that. It works the best way you can possibly think of. We're in such a fantastic position now. At the time we had to let Andy go. The money we got was astronomical."

Nolan himself stands to benefit from the major windfall, as one of three key players – along with Joey Barton and Jose Enrique – currently negotiating new contracts. Nonetheless, the £35m man still owes a debt to the guardian angel who took him under his wing, and who kept him there even when Carroll's car was torched in an act of retribution as it stood outside the Nolan household.

Perhaps Britain's most expensive footballer could do some babysitting the next time he is back in Toon. "You're joking, aren't you?" Nolan said, a twinkle in his eye. "I wouldn't leave him with my kids. He'd probably have the house burned down. Or the car."

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