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Odd-Man Out Andy Carroll Returns to Anfield (at Least for One Day)

The misfit striker returns to Anfield for the first time since joining West Ham on loan as he continues to be surrounded by noncommittal transfer talk about his future.

Steve Bardens

Welcome to the Island of Misfit Boys, population: Andy Carroll.

Carroll's season-long loan spell to West Ham United has done a good job of putting him largely out of sight and out of mind for many of the Liverpool faithful. With only a handful of matches remaining in this year's campaign and the Hammers paying a visit to Anfield on Sunday, Carroll's future in red is once again up for debate.

An injury layoff earlier in the season kept him out of the line-up for a good chunk of the season, but Carroll is back and on a good streak of form having scored four goals in the last three home matches at The Boleyn Ground, including a brace this past weekend that lead his team to victory over West Bromwich Albion.

"That was the best we have seen of him here, because he has put two goals in, on top of a good performance," Sam Allardyce said after the match. "I hope this kicks him on to being a regular scorer for us in the next eight games. He is in a good frame of mind now and, finally after a long wait, his fitness is good and that's why you are seeing these performances and the goals are coming."

Despite this form, the London club are still coy on whether or not they want to keep Carroll in the capital on a permanent basis. Allardyce says it's a "possibility" and that they'll "look at the end of the season and we will see what negotiations can be done."

Surprisingly, Carroll's price tag is not actually a sticking point. While there is obviously no way Liverpool will recoup the £35 million paid for Carroll in 2011, the club are allegedly satisfied with letting him go for £17 million and West Ham are apparently equally satisfied with paying that amount. With Carroll and transfer prices, it has never actually been about a pound-for-pound honest estimation of the player's worth, so the numbers aren't that meaningful in and of themselves. What apparently is the sticking point is whether or not the player can come to personal terms with West Ham, and it was rumoured during the last transfer window that Liverpool and West Ham agreed to the transfer but that Carroll himself was the hold out.

Many seem to have accepted the idea that Carroll will not be a Liverpool player next season, but if a permanent deal does not get done with West Ham, then it's back to Merseyside for the striker. There are potential destinations other than Liverpool, of course — boyhood club Newcastle United, provided they don't get relegated, or a trip abroad to Italy have both made the rounds on the rumour mill — but where he'd fit in Brendan Rodgers' system after missing an entire year of adjusting to that system is also up for debate.

What's clear is that Carroll needs to be in a squad that will both best showcase his talents and help him fulfill his ambitions to be part of England's national team set up. Carroll hasn't been called up for England since last October and missed out on the last round of international matches in March as he found his way back to form. England's lack of attacking options should help his cause, but sitting on a bench at Liverpool might offset whatever benefit he may reap from Roy Hodgson's dearth of choices.

Liverpool's odd man out will find his way back to Anfield on Sunday for the first time since he went on loan last August, but it's still very much up in the air as to whether or not all future visits to the stadium will be through the visitors' entrance.

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