ALAN Pardew claims there is still a possibility of Andy Carroll returning to Newcastle United to reclaim his former place at the head of the club's strike force.
Carroll will be back at St James' Park for the first time as a West Ham United player tomorrow having moved to Upton Park on loan in the summer.
Newcastle officials attempted to engineer their own loan deal for the Gateshead-born striker in the close season, only for managing director Derek Llambias to be unable to agree terms with Carroll's parent club, Liverpool.
With Brendan Rodgers keen to sever all ties with the 23-year-old, Carroll's future is set to be the subject of renewed speculation when the transfer window reopens in January.
And with the forward having previously expressed a private desire to return to the North-East, Pardew can foresee a scenario whereby he one day returns to pull on the black-and-white stripes of his boyhood team.
“He's a Geordie and I think he misses the city,” said the Newcastle manager. “This is his home and at some point I hope he does come back here. Whether that's in my time, I don't know. But I like him, I like working with him and he was brilliant for me.
“I thought there was a possibility of it happening (this summer). We were in there because he brings something different to the table to what we have got and we could probably do with another striker. We were right in there, but unfortunately we weren't able to get it done at board level.”
The 24 hours containing Carroll's departure in January 2011 represented Pardew's most testing spell as Newcastle manager.
The striker, who was the club's leading goalscorer by a distance, departed midway through January transfer deadline day, and the Magpies were unable to recruit a replacement before the window swung shut.
A clearly disconsolate Pardew admitted he felt alarmed at the lack of a replacement, but after surviving until the end of the season, the Newcastle hierarchy loosened the purse strings in the next 12 months to enable him to secure the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.
The £35m received from Liverpool effectively funded Pardew's rebuilding project, and nights such as Thursday's thrilling European tie in Brugge might well not have happened had Carroll remained on the St James' payroll.
“The position we are in, if I'm honest, is because we used the money from Andy's sale well,” said Pardew. “He was a brilliant player for us, but the fee was astronomical. We've used it well and we owe a great debt to him.”
And for all that Carroll's reputation has been knocked since he left the North-East, Pardew is adamant he remains one of the most effective strikers in the English game.
“I've always stuck up for him and I still think he has a role for England,” he said. “As a number nine, there are times and periods in international games where an England number nine can still be a massive threat.
“People keep talking about the modern game, a loose number nine, the way Spain and Barcelona play, but there is still a place at the highest possible level for a player of Andy's qualities. He's one of the best number nines out there.”
Carroll is not the only former Newcastle player to be returning to Tyneside tomorrow, indeed he is not even the only player to have left in controversial circumstances under Pardew to be heading back to the North-East.
Kevin Nolan severed his ties with the Magpies six months after Carroll, and his exit was every bit as acrimonious.
Nolan's position as Newcastle skipper had earned him a great deal of influence in the dressing room, and he felt he was entitled to a new long-term deal that would effectively have secured his future to the end of his playing days.
He now has that deal, but with West Ham rather than the Magpies. Llambias and Mike Ashley refused to acquiesce to Nolan's demands, and he was ushered out of the exit door along with fellow contract rebels Joey Barton and Jose Enrique.
“It'll be nice to see Kevin come back,” said Pardew. “He did a super job here, whatever he was asked to do he conducted himself well and he gets a goal. He has proven that at any level, he will get a goal.
“Both Kevin and Andy would be good additions to this squad, but players have to move on for the sake of the team. That's the Andy Carroll one.
“Kevin was a bit different, he wanted a long contract and we wouldn't commit to it, but he got one at West Ham. He deserves it because he is a great player, but the board didn't think the long contract for Kevin was something he would get here.”
With former Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce completing a triumvirate of Hammers with a point to prove, tomorrow promises to be a testing experience for a home side shorn of suspended duo Fabricio Coloccini and Cheik Tiote.
“If you look at their front four – (Matt) Jarvis, (Yossi) Benayoun, Nolan and Carroll, it's no mistake they are where they are in the league,” said Pardew. “It's a real problem for us on Sunday because they are playing so well.”