Cup final virgin Carroll: Now I'm starting to shine
Published 22:30 20/02/12 By David Maddock
Andy Carroll reckons he's finally arrived at Anfield... just in time to earn a dream visit to his first-ever Cup final.
The Liverpool striker produced another promising display capped with a fine goal at the weekend, to stake a claim for a starting place at Wembley in Sunday's Carling Cup showdown with Cardiff.
Incredibly, this weekend's visit to the home of football will be the first time the England striker has ever experienced the glamour of a final, as a star player or even as a fan.
He has endured a torrid first year with the Reds after his British record £35million move last January, but now feels he is at last hitting his stride and is ready to show exactly what he is capable of.
"This is the best I've felt since I have been here, without a doubt. I feel fit and confident and I think it is showing in my performances," he explained.
"I feel like I am doing well and have just started to get going. I am scoring goals and I feel like I am doing well in games now. It's all starting to come together for me.
"I'm getting around the pitch more and getting involved. I think it shows that I am happier and more confident. I'm just pleased that things are going right, because we have a massive game coming up now."
It seems hard to believe Carroll hasn't been to a cup final, after passionately following his home town club Newcastle as a kid, yet Wembley is his first chance to fulfil the boyhood dreams that captivated him.
He has no guarantees of a starting place in the Carling Cup final, but he certainly hasn't done himself any harm in recent weeks, after the initial false start to his Anfield career. For the striker though, just getting to Wembley is going to be a unique experience.
"I've never been to a cup final, so that's all I'm looking forward to now - it's a massive game for me and the rest of the lads," he added.
"I can't remember anything much about Newcastle's finals to be honest. We have been playing well the last couple of weeks and starting to put the performances in. We are starting to get the goals, so we are looking forward to the final.
"It's great to have won well and scored some goals this weekend, because that allows us to concentrate on the final in the right way."
Many people had suggested Carroll would be leaving Anfield when the January window opened, but his performances in recent weeks have confounded those dire predictions.
He looks a player transformed, but he still has to convince his manager Kenny Dalglish he can form a lethal partnership with number one striker Luis Suarez and earn a starting berth on Sunday...a problem he shares with most Liverpool players this week.
"We have got a massive squad and everyone can play a part in it. We have got such a good team, anyone could come in and play in the final," Carroll said.
"You have just got to work hard in training - Kenny is the manager and he picks the team. But I'm pleased with the way I'm playing now.
"It's the first time Stevie, Luis and me have started a game together, and it was great all three of us scored. But I thought the whole team played well, we gelled together, passed it well and got the goals we have been missing."
Dalglish has a near full squad to pick from as he ponders his line up for Sunday, with only injury doubts over Daniel Agger and Craig Bellamy, but the manager expects them to both be fit.