Alan Pardew, the Newcastle United manager, yesterday hit back at Andy Carroll's claims that he was forced out of the club on Monday by saying that the £35m striker threatened to leave unless he was given a new contract – but failed to explain why Newcastle had not acquiesced.
As the fallout from the controversial sale of the 22-year-old striker to Liverpool became increasingly bitter, Pardew described Carroll's claims that he was betrayed by his boyhood club as "slightly misguided" and pinned the responsibility for the transfer on the player.
Key to the latest round of exchanges was Pardew's assertion that Carroll told him on Monday that if Newcastle did not agree to give him a new contract – to replace the deal he agreed in October – then he wanted permission to speak to Liverpool.
Sources close to the player have indicated that Newcastle had the opportunity to improve his £25,000-a-week salary after Carroll's England debut in November and would have satisfied the player with a raise to the relatively modest – by Premier League standards – £40,000-a-week.
Yesterday, Pardew sought to portray Carroll as the prime mover in the deal that made him the most expensive British player of all time. However, this sat awkwardly with Carroll's revelation that he flew to Liverpool in Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's helicopter and that he was refused any improvement on the five-year deal he signed in October.
There seems little doubt that Carroll used Liverpool's £70,000-a-week offer to try to leverage a new deal from Newcastle on Monday. It was also clear that Ashley and his chairman Derek Llambias were eager to accept the inflated £35m fee and Carroll's attempt to force a better deal for himself gave them the ideal excuse to sell him.
In an interview yesterday with the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle, Carroll said again he had been "forced" into handing in a transfer request by the club. He said: "I was pushed into a corner and had no choice. I wasn't wanted by them and they made it clear they wanted the money."
He added: "I didn't want to leave. I'm gutted that I wasn't wanted at my home team after everything I have done and the progress I have made. I didn't want to leave at all. Make sure they [the supporters] know I didn't want to leave."
Caught in the middle of a bitter public relations battle, Pardew put his credibility on the line by claiming that Ashley had assured him the entire £35m would be made available to him in the summer for transfer fees and wages.
Asked why the club had not simply given Carroll a new deal, Pardew said: "It doesn't make sense." He added: "If I gave Andy a new contract tomorrow where does that leave me with all the rest of the players? And what would that figure be? I asked him what that figure should be [on Monday] and I said 'What do you want?' and he wouldn't give me an answer. That more or less said to me the answer itself.
"The situation with Andy was extraordinary. We were getting bids from clubs all through the window. We were confident the figures involved were not going to affect it. I was fine about it. [On Monday] there was a shift in attitude. That was the situation that changed. He had a five-year contract which he signed in October."
Pardew said that the club had promised to put Carroll on a better contract in the summer but the player declined and asked for permission to speak to Liverpool, which was granted once their offer had been accepted. "He wanted to renew it [his contract] straight away. He made it clear he wanted to renew it now, and [if not] he wanted to speak to the club [Liverpool]," Pardew said. "That was when the power shifted."
He added: "We haven't forced him out. I know he is emotional at the moment – he's bound to be because he's a local boy. We asked him to clarify what he wanted to do. He wanted a new contract now or he would give us a written request. We then made the decision we made to accept this huge, huge offer. He got on the helicopter – nobody forced him to go. He had a five-year contract here."
There are questions over whether Carroll's tactics on Monday were well-chosen. His new agent is Mark Curtis, who represents the striker's friend and former Newcastle team-mate Kevin Nolan as well as the former Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce. Carroll used to have a contract with the agent Peter Harrison, who was the subject of a BBC Panorama undercover operation.
Having said since he took over at St James' Park on 9 December that Carroll would not be sold in the January transfer window, Pardew said that "extraordinary circumstances" – the fee and Carroll's request for a new contract – had meant that the club had changed their mind.
With his side facing Fulham in the Premier League tonight at Craven Cottage, Pardew admitted to being "disappointed" and "frustrated" at the loss of his most celebrated player. "It does not feel good," he said. "The players feel the same, and of course the fans too. Their big icon has left the club.
"I said to Mike, 'Look, if that boy is going to go, this money has to be reinvested in the team. All of it.' And he assured me of that. So to Newcastle fans, that is the most important message I can give. That money will be used. It could not be used [on Monday], we made a couple of bids and were quoted extortionate figures. It was ridiculous.
"It would have been paying over-inflated prices for a lesser product than Andy Carroll. So unfortunately, as I sit here now, I am weaker than I was yesterday. No, I'm not comfortable with it, but it is what it is."