ALAN Shearer has warned Andy Carroll that he still has to prove he is worthy of Newcastle United’s famous number nine shirt after a hugely encouraging season in the Championship.
Shearer has been thrilled by Carroll’s progress this season and he is confident the Gateshead-born striker will continue to improve as a player as long as he remains completely focused on his football career.
The former United captain and record goalscorer worked with Carroll during his eight-game spell as manager at the end of last season, and feels that the 20-year-old has to learn from his mistakes if he is going to become the player he should be at St James’ Park.
Shearer said: "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 he does. It up to him if he wants it."
Carroll has scored 11 goals this season, seven of which have come in the last nine games, as the England Under-21 international begins to develop into a potent as well as physical target man.
It is a goalscoring record he should be proud of – although Shearer knows that the real test will come if Newcastle are promoted back to the Premier League next season.
Plenty of English strikers have scored goals regularly in the Championship, but only a select few have carried that form into the top flight with them.
And Carroll still has to prove he is good enough to fill the boots once worn with such distinction by the man who he began his career trying to emulate when he was just a ball boy at St James’ Park.
Shearer said: "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.
"He has done a really good job this year, but it’s his first season of regular first- team football.
"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."
And Shearer has warned Carroll he can not afford to be distracted by the trappings of fame and fortune which come with football success.
He said: "There are one or two things going on off the pitch that he has to sort out.
"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."