Exclusive: 'I'm not here for a jolly up' – Andy Carroll opens up after first Newcastle United start in NINE years
It had been nine long months since he had spent so long on the pitch, and Andy Carroll was exhausted, mentally and physically, when he came off at Bramall Lane.
But it was worth it. Newcastle United beat Sheffield United 2-0 – the club is up to 11th in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s home game against Southampton – and Carroll had set up the second goal, a controversial strike from Jonjo Shelvey.
Carroll, re-signed as a free agent in the summer as he recovered from major ankle surgery, had been handed the first start of his second spell at St James’s Park.
And the striker was an influence at both ends of the pitch.
“It’s a long time since I’ve played that long,” said Carroll, who also helped his team out defensively. “I’m just mentally, physically exhausted, it’s been a long time. I’ve been wanting it for a long time.
“Getting a start and getting a win like we did, being under the cosh a lot of the game, is just a dream.”
Carroll was fielded up front ahead of £40million summer signing Joelinton, who could return to the starting XI against 17th-placed Southampton.
“I’ve felt I’ve been ready for a while, but I’m not the manager,” said the Gateshead-born player. If I was, I would have played myself straight away! You’ve got to listen to the gaffer. He chose me, and I’m just delighted with the start and the win.”
Newcastle were put under intense pressure after taking the lead through a 15th-minute Allan Saint-Maximin strike, his first for the club. Javier Manquillo delivered a ball into the box, and Saint-Maximin got up to head it into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
“They took control of the game, and we showed the desire that we wanted to win,” said Carroll, who left West Ham United in the summer after his contract at the London Stadium expired. “We got the first goal, we held it, and we worked hard on the counter to get the second.”
Steve Bruce’s side showed a resilience and an intelligence at Bramall Lane, where Shelvey played on after Carroll flicked a ball forward to him despite the assistant referee raising his flag.
The home side stopped, but Shelvey carried on and scored past an almost static Dean Henderson to take his goal tally for the season to four. Referee Stuart Attwell awarded the goal after consulting VAR.
“Obviously, I knew it was tight,” said Carroll. “I was watching down the line. I knew where I was, but I didn’t really know how tight it was until afterwards. We’ve looked at it, and it was onside.
“Jonjo said that the ref said that ‘if the lino flags, carry on’, and that’s exactly what he did. It’s a goal.
“We could have just stopped. Jonjo said before the game the ref said to continue if it’s flagged, and that’s exactly what he did. He got the goal. A lot of players probably stopped. Lucky Jonjo’s the one that went through.”
Carroll, signed on an initial one-year deal by Newcastle, was happy to have played his part on what was his first Newcastle start since December 2010.
“The lads at the back, and Martin (Dubravka), were fantastic,” said Carroll, who was sold to Liverpool for £35million in January 2011. “They deserve the credit, really. Obviously, getting an assist is great for me.”
Newcastle – who came from behind twice to draw 2-2 against Manchester City at St James's Park last weekend – are just two points off sixth-placed Manchester United after a tough run of games.
“We’ve looked at it (the table),” said Carroll. “You look at the teams we’ve played. We drew against City and beat Tottenham. We’ve played the top teams as well. We’ve got the 19 points, and we’re happy with the way we’re playing at the minute. We’ve just got to continue that.
“The fans never stopped singing. We gave them something to sing for. It’s just great.”
It was claimed in September that there were fears inside the club that Carroll wouldn’t start a game until after Christmas.
Bruce rubbished that claim at the time, and Newcastle’s head coach believes Carroll can be an important player for the club.
“Andy Carroll can be crucial for us,” said Bruce. “It's pretty evident, and I think everyone can see that he needs games, but he's got through 65 minutes. What their centre-halves dish out is right up Andy's street, so it was a decision that worked. It also gave Joelinton a little rest."
Carroll, after playing 72 minutes at Bramall Lane, is determined to make an even bigger contribution over the coming weeks and months – and proving that he is up to the rigours of Premier League football.
“I don’t know where that came from,” said Carroll. “I haven’t come here just for the fun of it and to be back home. I’ve come here to do a job, and my job is to start games, play games, score goals, create goals.
“That’s what I’m here for – I’m not here for a jolly up.”