For three months in the summer of 2012, Andy Carroll waited for a conversation with Brendan Rodgers to convince the new manager of Liverpool he could be an asset. That it took so long to come was message enough for the England forward.
The £35m striker was never going to be given the chance to be part of the brave new world at Anfield. Rodgers subsequently admitted that Carroll, a genuine target man at 6ft 4in, was not designed to be part of the slick passing and possession game that has seen Liverpool coming up on the rails in the race for the Premier League crown.
Instead, three months after Rodgers was unveiled as the successor to Kenny Dalglish, Carroll moved to West Ham United, who welcome Liverpool to Upton Park tomorrow. Initially Carroll joined on a season-long loan deal, for £2m. Last summer, the transfer was made permanent, for a further £15m. So £52m has now been spent on the man who would not be king at Anfield.
There could easily be bitterness, but the 25-year-old, who struggled to overcome a complicated heel problem in the summer, told anyone at Upton Park who would listen where the league title would be going this season. Back to Anfield.
“You know, I said from the beginning of the season that I thought they had a great chance of winning the league,” revealed Carroll. “I said that from the beginning, the very start. I said to all the lads that they would win it. All of them were iffing and butting but I turned around and said it.
“From the beginning. I just had a feeling, signing [Daniel] Sturridge, who’s a great player as well, and having played with [Luis] Suarez and knowing what he’s like, having those two together, the way they connect together... they are unbelievable. They look unbeatable.”
Rodgers admitted earlier this season that for Suarez to truly explode, he had to be separated from Carroll. The Englishman was briefly part of a £57m strike force. Typically injury – Carroll had a thigh problem when he moved from Newcastle to Anfield – limited the number of times the duo played together, but Carroll saw enough in private to know what an influence Suarez is.
“After games, he wants to train. When he should be resting, he wants to be out there; he never gives up, never stops running. It’s infectious,” he said. “That’s why all the players around him are performing like they are. He’s a great player. You’ve seen what he’s like. He has 29 [goals] this season; he’s incredible and you can’t doubt that.
“My ability in the air is one of my strengths and that is one of the main points of my game. The ball comes in, I am confident I will get on the end of it. That is just me. It depends on your team. Liverpool don’t put the ball in as they do for us, so it depends what team you play for.
“I’m looking forward to playing against them. It’s a tough game. They are on fire at the minute and they are the team to beat, so hopefully we can do it. It’s my old team and it will be tough but it is just a normal team, so it’s not special, you just want to get on with it. Suarez and Sturridge up front are completely different to me. The way they play is incredible. There is no bitterness at all, no. I moved to West Ham and I am loving it. Apart from the injury setback, everything has been great.”
Carroll has scored twice in the last four games for West Ham. The foot problem is behind him. He remains an outside bet to offer something unique for Roy Hodgson and his England squad at the World Cup this summer.
“I think about it,” he admitted. “That is what I want. I will be devastated if I don’t get to Brazil, but there are a lot of players out there who can get that position and it is up to me to score goals and play well to get there.”