CHRIS Hughton believes Andy Carroll could bring classic English centre-forwards back into fashion if he builds on an exciting season in the Coca-Cola Championship.
Carroll has perhaps benefited more than anyone from Newcastle’s spectacular fall from grace last season as he has been given the chance to play regular first-team football in the second tier.
That has rapidly accelerated Carroll’s development and there is little question that he is the most improved player in the Magpies squad with 19 goals in 41 appearances – enough to earn him a place in the PFA Championship team of the Year this week.
And, despite the England Under-21s much-publicised problems off the pitch – he is due to attend Newcastle Crown Court tomorrow for the start of a trial into an alleged assault at the Blu Bambu nightclub before Christmas – he is one of the most exciting prospects in English football.
Hughton has steadfastly stuck by the striker – who has also reportedly caught the eye of England coach Fabio Capello.
And United’s manager is confident that the 21-year-old can carry his Championship goalscoring form into the Premier League next term.
Hughton said: “He’s a player who has a wonderful leap. He is a very good technical header of the ball.
“He’s an old style centre-forward, going back to the 60s and 70s. He’s a real classic striker in the old-fashioned mould and when you consider he’s only a young player with the ability to develop his game, he is a good prospect.”
Some would argue that Carroll’s ability to terrorise Championship defences does not automatically mean he will be able to do it at the highest level.
Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored 25 goals last season for Mick McCarthy’s side but has managed just two in 25 games this year in the top flight.
Those with longer memories will also point to former Sunderland targetman Kevin Kyle, who scored 16 goals in 50 appearances in the 2003-04 season when the Black Cats lost in the play-off semi-finals to Crystal Palace.
Nevertheless, Carroll does appear to have something special, presuming he can get his act together off the pitch and continue to listen to the coaching staff around him. And with Wayne Routledge
in the side, along with the set-pieces of Danny Guthrie and the trickery of Jonás Gutiérrez, Hughton – who is looking to add another winger to the squad over the summer – believes Carroll has the service he needs to thrive.
He explained: “It’s a bit like Peter Crouch. He’s probably four inches taller but they’re similar – if the quality of the ball is good enough, and the trajectory is right, then it’s just a question of whether he can get it on target.
“What he has proved is that when he gets the right delivery, he’s a very good header of the ball. Wayne Routledge has helped him.
“When you get a player of his prowess – and Shola Ameobi’s too – in the air then you need to get the ball into the right areas and Wayne deserves credit.”
Hughton, though, is also keen to slow the Carroll bandwagon as he insisted that the youngster still has plenty of room for improvement.
He said: “What we must remember is that he’s developing his game on the ground. For a big man he does quite well with the ball on the ground, but it is an area that he needs to continue to develop.”
Meanwhile, Ameobi hopes that his Championship winner’s medal is not the only silverware he picks up in his career as he looks forward to building on the team’s achievements this season.
Ameobi has admitted the squad will need to be strengthened over the summer in order to give Newcastle the best chance of holding their own back in the top flight, but he feels the foundations are in place to go on to bigger and better things.
He said: “Hopefully this can be the start of a great era for us. Hopefully it isn’t the last medal I will win and I will be looking to get a friend for it in the next few years. It’s about consolidation now. It has been a long hard road from last May – we don’t want that type of disappointment again.
“We want to make sure we stay in the Premier League again. We have to make sure we are on top of our game next season and stay on it.
“We have the players here now but we aim to get a bit more quality in during the summer.”