'Heart over head' - Why Andy Carroll's second exit from Newcastle United is filled with so much emotion

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Saturday, 5th June 2021, 11:00 am

When Andy Carroll walked through the door again at St James’s Park as a Newcastle United player, the romance was instantly rekindled.

Forget the persistent injuries at Liverpool and West Ham United, he was home.

It was no Alan Shearer story – far from it – but a Geordie striker returning to his boyhood club? There is always something special about that.

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Newcastle United have released Andy Carroll following his second stint with his boyhood club. (Photo by OWEN HUMPHREYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The heart controls the mind, he’ll be a roaring success once more. He’ll roll back the years, perform just like he did in 2009 and 2010.

He’ll bully every Premier League defender in his sight. Win those all-important flick-ons. Score headed after headed goal. You know, he’ll even burst the net with the occasional left-footed, turbo-like volley.

Well, at least that’s what I had hoped.

Was it realistic to think that way? No, it was delusion at its finest. But I’m an old romantic and Carroll in his prime Newcastle days is a period I’ll never forget.

And judging by the cauldron of noise from the St James’s Park crowd when he marked his homecoming with a substitute appearance against Brighton, many supporters felt the same.

Let’s not forget, it started okay for Carroll.

He was outstanding during that midweek win at Bramall Lane. Twice he assisted Jonjo Shelvey that week, a 2-1 victory against Southampton being the other.

Injuries, as many predicted, then kicked in but it was his handful of contributions that deservedly clinched him another one-year deal.

And after staying fit for the whole of last season, who knows what could have happened?

I’m being that old romantic again, aren’t I… I’m still coming to terms that he isn’t the powerhouse he once was!

The partnership with Callum Wilson worked a treat during the opening day win at West Ham before a week later, Graham Potter broke it by half-time.

Carroll started just one league game after that. A 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, a selection largely inspired by his performance there in the FA Cup, 13 days prior.

That was the Andy Carroll of the old. A display that proved he can still add value to another team out there, even if his legs have gone a tad.

Purely for sentimental value, I wish it was Newcastle but in truth, Carroll, in the end, just didn’t fit, particularly when Graeme Jones arrived.

Six appearances between February and the end of the season, amassing a grand total of 21 minutes. Faith, evidently, was lost by Steve Bruce.

It was uncomfortable to watch his United career peter out the way it did. A cutaway TV shot to Carroll watching on frustratingly from the bench genuinely pained me.

But asides from all that, it was never a proper homecoming once the fans were taken out of the equation.

Yes, it was only a consolation goal, but no way could Carroll have dreamed of scoring his first – and only – goal back in his beloved black and white in an empty St James’ Park.

We all know how he dreamed it because every supporter has. Gallowgate End, preferably a last-minute winner.

Heart over head, a part of me still wanted to see him given another year.

It’s hard to accept that there won’t be a fairytale ending.

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