It’s often said that Lionel Messi is the footballing heir of Diego Maradona, but despite all the goals, trophies and accolades, it turns out we were all mistaken. The real successor to Maradona has been residing much closer to home.
With his lethal elbows, shaggy mane and lumbering gait, Andy Carroll would appear as far removed from Diego as a bowl of delicious ice cream to a helping of mud consumed with your bare hands.
But learned supporters of the game have noted similarities between Maradona and Carroll. If you squint hard enough, the manic energy and penchant for the spectacular are shared between the Argentine maestro and his equine apprentice.
His argument with a home fan after Reading’s draw with Birmingham two weeks ago was also in keeping with Maradona’s insistence on wearing his heart on his sleeve.
The remaining doubters – the ones not already sent to re-education centres – will surely have been won over by events on a chilly spring evening in Berkshire, where Carroll paid perfect homage to one of the GOATS.
With Reading in desperate need of points to avoid dropping into League One, the 34-year-old rose highest to meet a Femi Azeez corner with his head and give the Royals a crucial lead against promotion-chasing Luton Town.
Five minutes later, another Azeez corner was swung into a panicking Luton area. Amidst the carnage and frightened droppings, Carroll doubled Reading’s advantage with a second clinical finish.
The catch? The former England striker had punched the ball into the net with all the subtlety of a Tyson Fury haymaker.
Having been cautioned between the aforementioned incidents, Carroll’s karaoke tribute to Maradona’s Hand of God saw the striker receive a second yellow card and immediately put Reading on the back foot.
Luton’s equaliser was inevitable. So was watching Carroll trudge from the field, dejected and eyes full of belligerent tears, like a child that’s had his playdate cancelled because he’s punched his sister.
— Thomas (@rfctom) April 19, 2023
“I’ve seen the incident back and Andy didn’t mean to handle it,” Reading interim boss Noel Hunt said afterwards. “If you go for the ball with your head, sometimes you do close your eyes and blink and lose the flight of the ball.
“There’s got to be some kind of common sense here. It’s just harsh. Where are you supposed to put your hands?
“Andy said it was accidental and he’s gutted about it. He’s hurting more than anyone.”
The draw kept Reading in the relegation zone with three matches of the season remaining. The last of those, against a Huddersfield side that’s just a single point above them, cannot be described as anything other than humungous.
“I suppose that we’ve got to be happy with a point at the end,” Hunt added. “We started the game really brightly and I thought that we controlled the game for the first 15 minutes.
“But then we gave away a few easy balls that caused us to drop off a bit but we addressed that at half-time.
“We went ahead with a great goal and we thought that we’d scored again. But then it got chalked off and we had a man sent off.”
The former Royals striker also said that Reading may consider an appeal against Carroll’s red card. We hope they succeed; the Geordie Maradona is providing us with some terrific entertainment.
By Michael Lee