But Andy Carroll did – and he has no regrets. If anything, Carroll is enjoying playing for Newcastle United even more the second time round.
The striker, outstanding in last week’s wins over Southampton and Sheffield United, is appreciating every minute he has on the pitch playing for his boyhood club, which is 10th in the Premier League with 22 points.
“I’ve said it to a few people, I appreciate it a lot more,” said Carroll, who rejoined the club in August as a free agent.
“Making my debut, starting the other day, creating goals, winning games, I appreciate it a lot more. I didn’t really get the chance to appreciate it the last time. I just kind of thought everyone got that chance at 17.
“I didn’t really understand it as much as I do now. Coming back, it’s a massive club, massive stadium, massive fans. It’s part of me growing up. I never really appreciated it as much as I do now.”
Gateshead-born Carroll – who had spent the previous seven years at West Ham United – had been dreaming of a return home “for years”.
“Honest to God, I’ve been trying to come back and wanting to come back for years,” said Carroll. “I would have regretted it if I didn’t get to step on the pitch in the black and white again. I definitely would have regretted it.”
Newcastle were trailing 1-0 at the time, and Carroll set up Jonjo Shelvey’s equaliser with a superb cross to the far post. Federico Fernandez claimed all three points with a late winner.
Steve Bruce, United's head coach, had opted against starting Carroll for a second time in four days given that he’s getting back to 100% fitness following an ankle operation late last season.
“I was disappointed not to start, but I understand what the gaffer was saying,” said Carroll. “I had to come on and give something, because we were getting beaten. Luckily, we got the win after.”
Carroll had been ready to start against Southampton after recovering from his 72-minute run-out at Bramall Lane, but he understood Bruce’s decision.
“I completely understand what the gaffer says, and there’s no point in risking it,” said Carroll. “He’ll use me when I’m needed. It’s shown with his tactics against Sheffield United, and again against Southampton. He changed formation, and we went and won.”
Carroll’s ball to Shelvey was the type of delivery he would love to get in the box.
“I said to Jonjo it’s about time he gives me something, but we’ll take them anyway,” he said. “I feel good. I feel good around the place and in training. I felt good after the Sheffield game. I’m just feeling fresh.”
Carroll, importantly, isn’t feeling the ankle which has seen him miss so much football over the years.
“It’s no problem at all – I don’t even think about it,” he said. “It’s brilliant. It was hard when the ankle was playing up, but as you can see it’s the same size as the other one when in the past it hasn’t been!
“It’s feeling good. I like to get myself about, so it’s been tough when I haven’t been mobile and been a bit stiff. But I’m feeling good. I’m working hard in the gym and with the staff. I’m protecting myself through the weeks training, with the manager helping with the days and what I do and what I don’t do.”
Carroll – who told the Gazette last week that he hadn’t returned to the club for a “jolly up” – is also enjoying playing for Bruce, who “wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea” when he was appointed as Rafa Benitez’s successor in the summer.
“It was obviously topsy-turvy at the beginning – he wasn’t really everyone’s cup of tea,” said Bruce. “But I think he’s proving everyone wrong. We drew against City, we beat Tottenham, Man United, Sheffield, Southampton. Seven points in a week is great. It’s down to the manager, the staff, the players, the hard work that everyone is putting in around the club.”
One thing that’s been missing so far is a goal for Carroll, who has only had one shot on target so far.
Carroll is patiently waiting for the next opportunity that comes his way.
“No I haven’t (had many chances), but it doesn’t matter when you win games,” said Carroll. “I’d like to get a chance, I’d like to score and get off the mark, but the points are more important.”
Next up are Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday – and the game is seemingly made for Carroll.
Asked if he was licking his lips, Carroll said: “I was licking my lips on Sunday morning, and I didn’t play. Every game I’m licking my lips and wanting to play. It doesn’t matter who it’s against – Burnley, Sheffield – it doesn’t matter.”
Is Carroll – who made his Newcastle debut in a UEFA Cup tie away to Palermo in 2006 – looking up the table?
“It’s just one game at a time,” he said. “We don’t really look how high or anything like that. We’ll just take one game at a time, and the last few games, it’s been working.”