THERE is nobody better equipped to talk about what it takes to realise your potential than the person you have always aspired to be.
As someone who based his game on Alan Shearer, Andy Carroll would do well to listen to whatever advice the former Newcastle United captain has for him. Carroll has arguably been the biggest success story of the season for Newcastle United, yet he has also managed to be one of its biggest concerns.
Having established himself as one of the most exciting young players in the country with performances of growing maturity and authority on the pitch, Carroll has found himself in trouble with the authorities for his behaviour off it.
The 20-year-old has been charged with causing Actual Bodily Harm and will be tried at Crown Court next month following an incident at the Blu Bambu nightclub in Newcastle’s Bigg Market before Christmas. Having worked with him last season during his brief stint as manager, Shearer has had a unique insight into the mind of a player who, he believes, stands at a crossroads in his career.
“I’ve been very impressed with him, he has done really well,” said Shearer (pictured right), who tried his best to impart whatever knowledge he could on the training ground last season.
“He has held the ball up, he has won headers and he has scored goals. Whether you like it or not, you can play brilliantly around the pitch, but if you don’t score goals as a centre forward that’s no good.
“That is what you are judged on, scoring goals, that is what you are in the team to do. He has been prolific in recent weeks and it’s great to see.
“He is a handful. That’s what I like about him. You just know defenders will be coming off the pitch and they won’t have enjoyed playing against him one little bit.”
As Shearer will concur, there is no questioning Carroll’s talent. Some have even gone so far as to describe him as unplayable at times this season as he thrives on an extended run in the side in the Championship. But there has been reason to doubt whether he has shoulders broad enough to cope with the pressure on him and the constant attention that surrounds him.
There is perhaps no better sight in football than one of your own making the transition from fan to footballer, but there is more than just adulation that comes the way of a local hero. There are more pitfalls in a young star’s career than many in football would care to admit, and Carroll progress as a footballer has to be matched by his development as a man.
“There are one or two things going on off the pitch that he has to sort out,” said Shearer. “Everybody makes mistakes and I’m not going to hammer him for them.
“Nobody is perfect and we have all done things we regret, but you can’t keep making them when you’re in his position.
“One of the reasons I decided to move away from Newcastle was that I wanted to go somewhere and learn my trade. I wanted to experience something different, get away from my mates. I think that made it easier for me.
“I’m in no way saying Andy should do that, but he has done it the hard way in some respects. He is a local lad playing for Newcastle United and there is a lot of pressure on him because of that. There are a lot of distractions out there and he has to make sure, if he has made these mistakes, that he has learnt from them and doesn’t make them again.”
Ultimately, while Shearer’s advice will have been echoed by Chris Hughton and every single senior player at Newcastle, only Carroll – who has scored 11 goals in 30 appearances this season – is responsible for his actions.
For Shearer, Carroll has a wonderful chance to inherit the number nine shirt he vacated, but one good season in the second tier of English football is a baby step on the path to greatness.
“He has come on a lot this season and I think the biggest reason for that is he is playing regularly,” added United’s record goalscorer.
“He has got his chance with Newcastle in the Championship and he has taken it.
“I was only there for eight games last season and I didn’t even have him for all of those. He had a nasty ankle injury, but you could see the potential.
“But this is just the start for him, he is still a young guy, 20 years old playing for the club he supported as a boy. He has a lot of talent, but he can still improve in almost every area.
“The challenge for him is carrying that on, next season and the season after that.
“It looks as though Newcastle will be promoted and it will be a big season for him if they are back in the Premier League. It’s not up to me to say he should be Newcastle’s next number nine. If he wants that shirt, he has to say that himself and he has to prove he is worthy of it. He has a chance, of course. It up to him if he wants it.”