Andy Carroll has insisted his “daft” years are behind him as he prepares to resume his career at first club Newcastle.
The Gateshead-born 30-year-old striker burst on to the scene as a teenager at St James’ Park and found himself thrust into both the limelight and a series of off-field scrapes as his stock rose on it, eventually resulting in a then-British record £35million switch to Liverpool in January 2011.
Now back on Tyneside after a surprise deadline-day move by the Magpies, he is adamant he is a different man to the one who left the north east eight and a half years ago and by his own admission, that is due in large part to his fiancé Billi Mucklow.
He told the club’s official website: “I’ve got no doubt that I was daft when I was here, and no doubt that I was daft for a couple of years after as well. But I met my missus, and we’ve got four kids living at home now, we’ve got animals, we’ve got responsibilities.
“There’s no more behaviour like it was, you know? I was stupid, I was young, and I was carried away with the lifestyle that I had.
“Now it’s completely different. I’m actually a dad, I’ve grown up, and got responsibilities, so… I’ve got a purpose.”
Despite the promise he showed during his first spell at Newcastle, Carroll’s career has not panned out the way he might have hoped with injuries limiting his involvement with clubs Liverpool and West Ham as well as England.
He is currently working his way back to full fitness after ankle surgery, and is acutely aware of the amount of football he has missed.
He said: “It’s not my fault. I don’t want to be sitting in the gym by myself doing rehab. I want to be outside doing what I love to do, playing football and being with the lads. I’ve been out of it for so long and I don’t want to be like that.
“People think you’re getting paid so it doesn’t matter. No, that’s not the case. I haven’t come into this job to get paid. Yeah, it pays well, but I’ve come into it because I love it – there’s a difference.
“I don’t love being in the gym. Everyone that knows me knows I hate the gym, it’s the worst thing ever. I want to be outside.
“I’m working my ******** off to get fit and I was working my ******** off when I was injured as well. It’s non-stop.”
Head coach Steve Bruce will not rush Carroll back into action before he is ready despite the club’s pressing need for results, and his second debut may still be several weeks away.
However, a man who at his best can terrorise defenders cannot wait until the day he can pull on the black and white shirt once again.
He said: “I’m more buzzing to put it on now, the shirt, than I was when I was 17. I’m so excited.”
- Press Association