Newcastle boss Steve Bruce is hoping Andy Carroll can roll back the years to re-establish himself as one of the most feared frontmen in the Premier League.
The 30-year-old striker, who left Tyneside for Liverpool in a £35million switch in January 2011, returned to his first club in a deadline day move on a incentivised contract as he works his way back from ankle surgery, the latest in a catalogue of career-blighting injuries.
Bruce said: “He was desperate – a bit like myself, I suppose – to come back, and of course the big question mark of everybody is can we get him back quickly and can he stay fit?
“If he stays fit, then a fit Andy Carroll is as good as you’re going to get. We’ll do our utmost. He is determined to come and be successful again here.
“It’s his home-town club – it was a no-brainer, really, one of those where you’re delighted to do it.
“He’s not young Andy Carroll any more, he’s at that veteran stage. But when the club sold him for a record fee, he was the best pound for pound centre-forward there was in the country.”
Bruce confirmed Carroll is unlikely to be involved for two to three weeks, although record signing Joelinton and former Nice winger Allan Saint-Maximin could be unleashed on Arsenal in Sunday’s Premier League opener with the latter tipped to make an impact one way or another.
Bruce said with a smile: “I think I’m going to have a bit of fun and games with him. He’s not your normal one.
“He’s eccentric off the pitch and a little bit like it on it too. There are times where I wonder if he knows what he’s doing, but he’s got that natural flair that gets you off your seat. We’re hoping in the big games, the big moments, he can produce that little bit of magic that could win us the match.
“The big players have that. They can produce something to win you a game out of nothing.”
For Geordie Bruce, Sunday’s game will be a homecoming, even if it is played out against the backdrop of renewed antipathy towards owner Mike Ashley with some fans preparing to boycott the match.
Asked about his reception to date, the former Manchester United defender said: “It’s still a little bit surreal, but I’m back.
“I had to get a tyre fixed at Kwik Fit yesterday and there were a few funny faces, ‘What are you doing in here?’.
“It’s great to be back. I feel like I’m home.”
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