Newcastle boss Steve Bruce will be reminded of his “darkest hour” as a manager when he unleashes Andy Carroll on the Premier League once again.
Bruce, then in charge of the Magpies’ arch-rivals Sunderland, saw the striker dismantle his rearguard at St James’ Park in October 2010, paving the way for Kevin Nolan’s hat-trick and a double from Shola Ameobi to clinch a 5-1 derby victory on Tyneside.
Bruce said with a grimace: “You’re going to remind me of that, are you? My darkest hour.
“He was unplayable that day. He absolutely bullied us from start to finish and when he’s like that… At that time, he was as good as you’d get. You look at the big, powerful number nines – did he go for a British record fee?”
Carroll did indeed leave his hometown club for Liverpool for a then British record fee of £35million in January 2011, but both his spell at Anfield and the one at West Ham which followed it were disrupted by injuries.
The 30-year-old has not played since he ran out for the Hammers in a 1-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester City on February 27 after undergoing ankle surgery.
He returned to full training this week having had to remain patient following his return to Newcastle at the end of the summer transfer window, but he has already made an impact.
Asked if he had unsettled a few defenders on the training pitch, Bruce said: “Yes, he would unsettle any b****r the way he is. He’d unsettle any b****r by the way he rampages around.
“There were times when he was younger when he was unplayable, when he was at his peak. If we see a glimpse of that, it will be worth the wait.
“He deserves a break. When you hear what’s happened to his ankle – the screws weren’t big enough, the operation wasn’t a success – to have to go through and do it again, mentally you have to stay with it.
“Mentally, he’s tough as they come. He has to be to get over it and put himself in this position, which has been a lot of hard work.”