THE St James’ Park crowd have always enjoyed a special relationship with their No. 9s – even more so if they were born and bred on Tyneside.
Andy Carroll may wear a No. 39 shirt but the striker raised in Gateshead secured a place in the hearts of Newcastle fans after his equalising header against West Ham.
For Carroll it was a chance to emulate his boyhood hero Alan Shearer, who has been a huge influence on the rookie striker.
“I grew up watching Shearer.
I had a season ticket at Newcastle and he was just scoring goal after goal and was brilliant to watch as a kid,’’ he said.
“Before Alan retired I had a training session with him and that was unbelievable. Watching him close up just proved to me he was the best finisher ever.
“He pulled me aside and did some finishing with me – it was a big help.’’ To hail Carroll as the new Shearer would be unfair on the young forward, who turned 20 last week.
Shearer was a scoring sensation from an early age and by the time he was Carroll’s age was an established Premier League marksman.
But Tyneside’s latest homegrown target man shares many of his hero’s attributes, among them the type of bravery and work ethic that Newcastle supporters expect.
Of his debut first-team goal, Carroll said: “That was one of my all-time life dreams come true. It was the best feeling in the world. Something I will cherish all my life and something I have dreamt of since I was a little boy.
“But hopefully that is not it, I want a few more.
“I have a lot of things to work on but every player does and no-one can say they are the finished article. I am only 20 and I have to do a lot of work on scoring.’’ But Carroll has already identified one area of his game that requires improvement.
Shearer’s trademark raised hand goal celebration was copied by youngsters all over the North-East. But when his looping header sent the home fans into raptures, Carroll seemed overwhelmed as he was mobbed by his teammates.
“I didn’t know what to do. I just jumped up, stuck my hand in the air and kept my emotions all in. But it meant a lot to me,’’ he admitted.
“My parents come to every game and I have two brothers as well. I was happy to get the goal in front of them, I had to nab a few extra tickets.’’ Chris Hughton revealed Carroll was jeered by teammates when he arrived at training sporting his new ‘cornrow’ hairstyle last week.
But after scoring, Carroll is in no hurry to call on the services of a hair shearer.
“Everyone was saying it was getting shaved off if I didn’t get a goal, but it is now my lucky haircut so I will have to keep it and see how many goals I get with it,’’ he joked.
“If I had the braids taken out like the lads said on Thursday and Friday it might not have gone in but the braids cushioned it in.
“It took two and a half hours in the barber’s. It was long and too messy, I just wanted to do something different.
The lads wanted it taken out but there was no way they were getting their way. It had to stay in even though I got so much stick.”