Out of the blue, Reading have a new striker. Andy Carroll joined the Royals on Monday, agreeing to a short stay in Berkshire that’s due to last until mid-January. His arrival comes at a good time, with Veljko Paunovic struggling for centre-forward options after a string of injuries.
So what will we get with Carroll? To find out we spoke to Newcastle United fan Jake Jackman. He contributes to the excellently named stats and analysis outlet WyAyeScout, and you can also find him on the EPL Round Table podcast.
How did things go for Carroll in his first spell at the club?
During his first spell at the club, he was excellent. Carroll has easily been the best player to come out of the Newcastle academy in the 21st century. That maybe doesn’t say a lot, mind. He was raw up until the 2009/10 season, but the raw tools were obvious and the Alan Shearer comparisons were inevitable. The relegation to the Championship helped him gain a lot of confidence and gave him a chance to lock down a starting place.
He grabbed that with both hands, scoring 17 times as we got promoted in 2010. In the Premier League, he took his game to even greater heights with 11 goals before January, which resulted in the infamous move to Liverpool for £35 million. Prior to his move, I was convinced he would go on to play 50+ times for England. He will probably admit he should never have left, but given the fee offered, I don’t think Mike Ashley gave him a choice.
What about in his most recent two-year stint?
At the time of his signing, people saw it as a little bit of a PR stunt. Carroll was linked with a move back repeatedly before he did join in 2019. He only scored once, but Steve Bruce only gave him eight league starts over the two seasons. Carroll himself spoke about the difficulty of finding his form when he was only used as a late sub in most games.
In his first season back, he got four assists in 618 minutes, which shows the impact he could have on games. He was never really given a fair chance. Carroll always looked better as part of a front two, but we rarely played that way. If Reading want to get the best from him, a front two is definitely the way to go - alongside a more mobile striker.
What are his main strengths?
I won’t surprise many by saying he is still very good in the air. He was penalised a lot for the way he uses his elbows, but I doubt that will be as much of an issue in the Championship. Carroll has developed a very good passing range over the last few years.
His lack of mobility is an issue, but in a static target-man role, he is capable of winning aerial duels and linking up the play well. Few strikers could ping a 40-yard cross field ball quite like Carroll. He does like to drop deep and play these passes often. As he didn’t play as much as he’d have liked, it’s difficult to give a detailed breakdown of his game. I would guess you would see a lot more of his quality with more consistent game time.
In his early career, he was a bit of a liability. There were stories of fights with team-mates (Steven Taylor) and problems when out on the town. Carroll famously had to live with Kevin Nolan following some legal issues.
However, he has mellowed a lot. He has a big family and is married to TOWIE’s Billi Mucklow. Carroll was seen to have a good influence on a lot of the younger players at the club during his second spell. He has certainly become a leader on and off the pitch. Still at times, he does show some aggression on the pitch, especially when he’s pulled up for using his elbows!
Will he be a success for Reading?
It’s difficult to say for sure. I’d consider his second spell with us a success, even if he didn’t have the biggest role on the pitch. Reading are in somewhat of a crisis right now and Carroll is the type of character that will stand up in such circumstances.
He is a player with a point to prove and I think he won’t want his career to fizzle out. As he’s only on a short-term deal, I would predict that he will fully commit to these few months. If he gets game time and builds up some rhythm, I still think he can score goals and have an impact at Championship level.
I definitely feel like he thinks he has unfinished business in football.