Andy Carroll Returns

I somehow completely missed Carroll's incredible bearded phase in January. - Michael Steele

On the eve of his first match against Liverpool since moving to London, Andy Carroll is positively bubbly — that's a West Ham joke — about how well his old team are doing in his absence. Cheers, Andy!

Andy Carroll was doomed from the start to never live up to the enormous price tag Liverpool paid for him in January 2011. The amount paid is so indelibly etched on the brains of Liverpool fans that it need not be mentioned, to the point where it still cast a shadow over anything positive the striker contributed to his new club.

Alas, if the price tag didn't get him, his being a square peg in the round hole of Brendan Rodgers' footballing philosophy would have. Sent out on loan and eventually sold to West Ham, Carroll was quickly labeled surplus goods for what Rodgers was trying to achieve. Facing Liverpool for the first time since his move, though, Carroll is amiable about his former club despite his own challenges there.

"There is no bitterness at all, no," Carroll said of his Liverpool departure. "The way they play is incredible. They are on fire at the minute. Suárez and Sturridge up front are completely different to me.

"I said from the beginning of the season that I thought they had a great chance of winning the league. I said to all the lads that they would win it. All of them were giving it 'ifs and buts' but I said it. I just had a feeling. They signed Sturridge – who’s a great player as well – and having played with Suárez I know what’s he like. Those two together, the way they connect together, are unbelievable. They look unbeatable."

It's not exactly common for a player who had such a negative experience at a former club to speak so enthusiastically of them, but then again Andy Carroll has a zest for life that just can't be contained no matter what might befall him. Now that he's settled in at a club with a style of play better suited to his talents, the Geordie giant is enjoying his football and will likely play a big role in West Ham's attack on Sunday.

"It's one of the great sights you see in football when you see a big target man really go and attack the ball," said Brendan Rodgers, apparently harbouring a secret love for target men so long as they're not a part of his team. "There's no doubt that's West Ham's strength and when you see big Andy that is what we have to cope with. We've done it before and I'm sure we can do it again.

"What's important is you can't let someone of that ilk have a free run at it. You've got to be really intelligent as a defender. We've come up against big centre forwards and dealt with it well."

Rodgers pointed to the combined quality of centre backs Martin Škrtel, Daniel Agger, and Mamadou Sakho as having more than enough skill to adequately deal with any threat Carroll may pose. With Skrtel and Agger likely to be Rodgers' choice at the back, they'll be intimately familiar with what he brings to the table for the Hammers. Bring it on, big Andy.

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