In West Ham United’s 1-3 win at Middlesbrough on Saturday, Andy Carroll treated supporters to a flash-reel of his career.
2 goals were followed by a 67th minute substitution for a ‘slight’ groin problem, for which the striker will undergo a full scan this week to discover the severity.
Carroll is expected to be fit for the visit of Manchester City on February 1st and he was quick to allay any fears his would be a lengthy absence.
“I’m all good and looking forward to the next game. I haven’t trained all week. I had a couple of days off in the gym” he said.
Such is the sensitivity with how West Ham must handle Carroll now that any injury or substitution through precaution can spread panic.
The unfortunate story of the 28-year-old’s career is that any sign of consistently good form is suddenly snuffed out by another injury setback.
A total of 127 games have been missed by the striker since he ruptured an ankle playing for Newcastle in 2008 and there is consistent suspicion that the 14th injury of his career, such is the prolific rate with which they arrive, is just around the corner.
There was the case of whiplash suffered after scoring an acrobatic volley in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend before the strain to the groin that cut short his prosperous afternoon on Teesside.
As much as his overhead kick against Palace was stunning, his strikes at the Riverside were more typical Carroll; a powerful header from a corner supplied by Manuel Lanzini and a poacher’s effort from close range after Victor Valdes had failed to hold onto a shot from Pedro Obiang.
Then followed the inevitable reminder of the other side of the brutish centre-forward, the brittle fitness that he has never overcome.
“My groin is a little bit tight. I didn’t want to risk anything. It was a little bit stiff so maybe that’s one of the reasons it’s tight” he said.
The return of Carroll is one of the reasons the outlook for West Ham now appears to be much brighter, despite their tribulations with Dimitri Payet.
His goals, and he also scored in the 1-4 rout of Swansea on Boxing Day, since returning from the knee injury that ruled him out for 3 months in August have helped the Hammers climb the table from 17th to 10th in the space of 8 matches.
Perhaps aided by Payet’s insistence on downing tools in favour of a move back to Marseille, a more conventional-looking West Ham have bounced back from the disastrous 1-5 FA Cup thrashing at the hands of Manchester City with Carroll leading the way.
Manager Slaven Bilic, who deserves credit for keeping the lid on West Ham’s season and limiting any damage the Payet situation threatened to cause, believes the striker’s resurgence is owing to a newly found satisfaction off the field.
“Andy’s very happy in his private life,” he said. “I think he’s found his peace, he’s 100% fit and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t now enter his best five years of football.”
Carroll mentioned a possible England recall as a target for those coming five years but he will be aware more than anybody of the vulnerability of his own body.
Attraction to the treatment table
His abilities and opportune return to from, outlined in over an hour’s worth of flawless hold-up play at centre-forward on Saturday, have cleared some of the clouds that have gathered over the Olympic Stadium this season but his attraction to the treatment table also explains why the Hammers are still chasing Brentford’s £15-million-rated Scott Hogan.
Aiming to build on last season’s promising showing and the move across the capital to the 60,000-seater Olympic Stadium, co-owner David Sullivan promised to “bring a top striker in” as a “statement of intent” but it can be argued that if Carroll had remained reliably fit and on form, the misguided pursuits of Michy Batshuayi and Alexandre Lacazette could have been avoided and Payet may not have grown so disillusioned.
You only have to flip back to April of last year and the 3-3 draw with Arsenal, with Carroll netting a hat-trick of headers, to remember how devastating the striker can be in the air and one wonders how prolific he could be if he remained fit enough to thrive on the service provided by Lanzini, Michail Antonio, Sofiane Feghouli and, of course, Payet.
A forgotten, bonus option
Just under 4 years since joining the Hammers Carroll is still not the main striker his £15 million price tag suggested he could be, his string of injuries have limited him to the role of striking handyman; the forgotten, bonus option who is on hand to cause defences problems whenever fit.
His latest bout of fitness has arrived in a campaign which has seen him held-up at gunpoint as well as investigated for reportedly embarking on an afternoon drinking session with goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
This run of goals has seemed more of a bonus for Bilic and West Ham due to its perfect timing. For Carroll’s own sake, he must keep it going whilst keeping the club doctor at bay.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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