DANNY Simpson has urged Newcastle United’s supporters not to boo Andy Carroll as he makes his first return to St James’ Park.
Gateshead-raised Carroll is set to play on Tyneside for the first time since his £35million move to Liverpool, a transfer that has yet to see him recreate the form that made him such a hot property during his time at Newcastle.
And even though the striker has struggled for form in his first full season at Anfield, Simpson (pictured right) is convinced that Carroll remains a clear and present danger to Newcastle United’s Europa League bid.
It is a sign of his diminished reputation that Carroll may not even start against his boyhood club, who preferred Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez for the Anfield defeat by Wigan last weekend.
Even though he has come in for criticism from Newcastle fans, the England striker remains a popular figure in the United dressing room and Simpson has witnessed Carroll’s struggles with a measure of concern. He believes a lack of games and more self-analysis have caused Carroll’s problems but believes that on his day the forward remains a serious menace. Liverpool can haul themselves back into contention for the top six if they win on Sunday – with or without Carroll’s goals.
“Its been tough for him, but people forget he’s still young,” Simpson said.
“He didn’t ask for that price tag, obviously Liverpool put that on him. He’s got ability and he’s still young.
“When you look at the strikers they’ve had over the years, it’s a big move for him and there’s a lot of pressure, but he seems to have calmed down a lot and in the last few weeks hes been playing well. When he was
here he wasn’t scared of anyone, I think that’s why everyone liked him, because it didn’t matter who he was up against – he went in and bullied them and scored 10 or 12 goals for us in that short space of time.
“He had a good year, year-and-a-half here, led the line well and got his move, but he’s still got the quality. He’s still a threat and he’s still dangerous.
“We’re actually still good friends and I speak to him and text. I’m sure he’s looking forward to coming back up here and he had a good spell here, so hopefully people will remember what he did for us and he’ll get a good reception.” There will also be a reunion for another former team-mate, José Enríque – also popular in the dressing room despite his departure.
“José has done brilliantly. He’s gone there and hit the same form he had here. For me I’m surprised he hasn’t been called up for Spain,” Simpson said.
“I still speak to him every other day. I’m looking forward to seeing him as well, he was a good friend of mine. To be fair, for a Spanish player he had good banter! It’ll be good fun playing against him... And hopefully I’ll get to kick him!”
Simpson also feels the pressure is off United after racking up points against Norwich and West Brom. He said: “The last two wins have brought relief for us. It’s nice to get the points back on the board because we had the draws against Wolves and Sunderland and the defeat by Arsenal in the last minute.”
Simpson’s future remains clouded in doubt and the defender admits there has been no progress towards a new deal. He insists the team and its Europa League push is the rightful priority.
“It (the situation) is exactly the same. It’s not even a talking point at the moment,” he said. “I’ve got over a year left. It’s about the team, not about me. Now the team wants to kick on and get into Europe, which would be amazing considering where we were a few years ago. We just want the chance, so it’s about looking after ourselves on and off the pitch.”