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Left behind at a club who moved on from him almost immediately after spending £35 million to sign him, the striker is wise to return to the more natural home of West Ham

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By George Ankers

Andy Carroll's torrid time as a Liverpool player is finally over.

The question of whether or not he would accept a permanent switch to West Ham had rumbled on ever since the end of the season but there can be little doubt that it is the right decision.

Injury may have disrupted a large part of his loan spell but it was obvious from his first game that Carroll had found a much more natural home at Upton Park. While, 220 miles away, Liverpool were already a team moved a long way on, the towering striker was bullying Fulham as the crosses rained down on him.

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Carroll's 2012-13 West Ham stats
22
Games started
2
Games as substitute
7
Goals scored
4
Assists
84.3 Minutes per shot on target
325 Accurate passes in forward area
34 Chances created
All stats from EPLindex.com
When he signed for the Reds in January 2011, Carroll was supposed to form a defence-terrifying partnership with fellow new boy Luis Suarez. Almost immediately, however, his new team became focused on the Uruguayan. The £35 million man was soon Liverpool's third most frequent substitute.

Not that the price was the problem. The England international is nowhere near a £35m player but that was always an unfortunate side issue, a product of the money that the Anfield outfit had just raised by selling Fernando Torres and the time-sensitive deadline-day push to secure the deal. It was not Carroll's fault.

Quickly, Liverpool realised that making best use of his strengths was not the direction in which they wanted to go. Other forwards, like Craig Bellamy, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge, were recruited as the Reds continue to engineer a transition out of mediocrity. The lengths to which they went to make Suarez feel as welcome and secure as possible are well documented. There was affection for Carroll at Anfield but not the same total institutional support.

So the club must have breathed quite the sigh of relief when another side emerged who were willing to solve their £35m problem.

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Liverpool's overextension in acquiring Carroll put him out of financial reach for anyone simply looking to take a punt on a second-chance starlet. Whoever made a move, even just to loan him on his huge wages, had to know that it would work. Serendipitously for all involved, West Ham could hardly have been more sure.

Sam Allardyce is no Tony Pulis but his appetite for a strong target man is well known and, combined with the presence of the striker's former mentor, Kevin Nolan, the link made too much sense to ignore.

Nolan, who took Carroll under his roof while at Newcastle to keep him out of trouble, offers a bond of friendship and complementary skills that fit the forward more naturally than any combination that he could find at Anfield. With the Hammers captain just behind him and Allardyce organising the rest of the side around him, Upton Park is by far the better place for him to grow into his potential.

"We seem to get on really well on and off the pitch, we just click and that's helped us with our games," Nolan told the club's official website in April after his young team-mate helped him to 100 career goals. "We feel we can score against anyone and cause anyone problems. I'm delighted that he's here and I'm hoping he will be for as long as I'm here."

Sources spoke of Carroll's temptation to put some unfinished business to bed by returning to Liverpool and fighting for his place. While it is good to see that his ambition remains intact after the frustration of his struggles in a red shirt, the romantic desire to win back a starring position at a big club has only been restored by his success in a smaller pond.

The 24-year-old still has the time and talent to make it big at an even bigger team than Liverpool are now but this transfer is an acceptance that things had fallen even further out of place in the Reds' development for him to do it there. Anfield was the wrong move at the wrong time but at least it has led to somewhere where Carroll can flourish.

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