Nolan: How I rescued Carroll and put him on the right path
23:51 GMT, 10 November 2012
Andy Carroll's chief concern is to score his first goal for West Ham but his team-mate, Kevin Nolan, remembers a time when such on-field problems were mere trivialities.
A time when, as a star in the making with Sunday's opponents Newcastle, he needed saving from himself and from the paradox that is Geordie adulation.
Old boys: Former Newcastle duo Andrew Carroll (right) and Kevin Nolan set to return with West Ham
The 21-year-old home-town hero was self-destructing and it was at then Newcastle skipper Nolan's door – literally – that the problem was dumped in October 2010.
Carroll was charged with assaulting an ex-girlfriend and to secure bail he needed a place of residence instead of living in a hotel awaiting a house purchase. Nolan answered the SOS.
A combination of Carroll's cooking, Nolan's guidance and the unlikeliest of calming figures – Joey Barton – got the tyro back on the right path.
While happy to laugh off his saviour status, Nolan knows only too well the deadly serious role he played in the rescue mission.
'You can write that if you want, “Nolan saves him!” ' he said. 'I just said to him, and he knew himself, that he had got to keep out of them situations.
'At Newcastle when something goes on, it gets exploded 10 times over and with Andy up there it was magnified a thousand times. It was just because it was him, he's a 6ft 5in lad who's got long hair and stands out.
'He'd been brilliant for Newcastle for 15 months, he was the local boy, everything he did was magnified. You'd have to ask Andy if I'd had an influence on it. Of course I'm going to say yes. As a group we had a committee-type of experienced pros with myself, Joey, Alan Smith, Steve Harper, all different backgrounds, voices and opinions.
Hard going: Carroll is still searching for his first West Ham goal
'The togetherness of the squad and what we were all like at that time helped Andy dramatically. He bought into it massively and he excelled and he's gone on since and I think he'll just even get better and do better things.'
The recipe for turning a boy into a man was all cooked up in Nolan's kitchen.
'I said he could stay, I cleared it with the missus, of course, first,' added Nolan. 'She was down in Liverpool a lot of the time so we were like room-mates. He was a pretty good cook. Pasta with tomatoes, chicken, things like that.
'Since then he has learned so much. There is a different lad standing in that dressing room now. There is a man who can look after himself and does the right things on a daily basis.'
Carroll, 23, will need the thickest of skins to emerge unscathed from what is a fixture laced with potential animosity. West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has always felt harshly done to regarding his rapid dismissal after eight months in charge of Newcastle.
Carroll is yet to score for West Ham but his last trip back to St James' Park, with parent club Liverpool, ended with the frontman being booked for diving before storming off after being substituted.
Nolan said: 'I am hoping I'll get quite a good reception, I'm sure Andy will get the worst one. I've got a lot of good friends there and I'm looking forward to going back and saying goodbyes to people I didn't have the chance to.
'Once one goes in for Andy, hopefully on Sunday, I am sure they will come. It would be a great time to score in front of the club he has loved since he was a kid.'
Carroll's goal-shy start to life in east London is in stark contrast to Nolan, who has picked up where he left off in the Premier League by scoring four times in 10 games.
And the West Ham midfielder, 30, admits he is angered about never having secured an England cap, especially in a week which saw 31-year-old Leon Osman get a call-up.
'Obviously, when you see Leon Osman, who I'm delighted for, getting a call-up it does tell you not to give up hope but I don't know how much more I could do,' he said. 'It does hurt that I haven't got one. I think I have deserved at least a call-up and a chance to prove myself at that level whether it be at Bolton, Newcastle and even now.
'A former England manager said if he knew everything I was about before he was England manager, he definitely would have called me up, which was nice to hear. But then I sort of wanted to strangle him!'