THE trouble with youth is that it is wasted on the young. Andy Carroll was 17 when he made his Newcastle United debut in a UEFA Cup game in Palermo in 2006, and had only just turned 22 when he completed a £35m move to Liverpool just over four years later.

He loved pulling on the black-and-white stripes of his hometown club, but freely admits he did not fully appreciate the magnitude of what he was doing or just how privileged he was to be playing for the team he supported as a child.

Only as his career progressed away from Tyneside, with a succession of injuries blighting his progress and preventing him from realising his full potential on both the domestic and international stage, was he able to reflect on what had been and gone.

So, as he walked off the St James’ Park pitch with his arms aloft at the weekend, Carroll wasn’t simply celebrating a 2-1 win over Southampton. He was soaking up a moment he feared had gone forever. It felt great a decade ago; it feels even better second time around.

“I’ve said it to a few people, I appreciate all of this a lot more now,” said Carroll, whose appearance as a second-half substitute completely transformed Sunday’s game. “Making me debut, starting the other day, creating goals, winning games, I appreciated all of it a lot more.

“I didn’t really get the chance to appreciate it the last time. I just kind of thought everyone got that chance at 17. I didn’t really understand it as much as I do now. Coming back, it’s a massive club, massive stadium, massive fans. It’s part of me growing up, but I never really appreciated it as much as I do now.

“Honest to God, I’ve been trying to come back and wanting to come back for years. I would have regretted it if I didn’t get to step on the pitch in the black-and-white again. I definitely would have regretted it.”

Having left West Ham United as a free agent at the start of summer, Carroll fended off a number of approaches from clubs based at home and overseas. There had been talk of a possible return to Newcastle pretty much constantly from the moment he left, but it was only when Steve Bruce was appointed as the Magpies’ head coach that the wheels were finally put in motion.

Some viewed the 30-year-old’s return as a gimmick, a way of deflecting criticism for a failure to spend any money on deadline day, but Bruce was always convinced he could have a positive impact. His faith has been justified, and having helped his manager claim six points in a week with wins over Sheffield United and Southampton, Carroll is delighted to have been able to repay someone whose status in the eyes of the Newcastle support is gradually beginning to shift.

“It was obviously topsy-turvy at the beginning, and he (Bruce) wasn’t really everyone’s cup of tea,” said Carroll. “But I think he’s proving everyone wrong. His tactics last week - we drew against (Manchester) City, we beat Tottenham, Man United, Sheffield (United), Southampton. Seven points in a week is great. It’s down to the manager, as well as the staff, the players, the hard work that everyone is putting in around the club.”

Having started at Bramall Lane, Carroll was withdrawn from the starting line-up against Southampton. With a week of training under his belt, however, he should be primed to return against Burnley this weekend.

“I’m licking my lips for every game and wanting to play,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who it’s against – Burnley, Sheffield, it doesn’t matter. I just want to play.

“I feel good. I feel good around the place and in training. I felt good after the Sheffield game. I am just feeling fresh.”