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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A Fight For The OK Carroll

In the same week the front page of the News of the World screamed ‘COKE AND ORGY SHAME’, the back pages were heralding a new dawn for the English centre forward. Central to both these stories was the slightly controversial Newcastle striker Andy Carroll. That the NOTW article was a non-story will come as no surprise – ‘young, rich, single man has sex with young woman and denies taking cocaine,’ being the gist. But it isn’t this that concerns me. What concerns me is Joey Barton clambering onto the ‘Carroll for England’ bandwagon (and presumably furthering his own case, which is stronger) and urging Fabio Capello to dispense with his penchant for ‘goody two-shoes’ players. Would these ‘goody two-shoes’ be the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, Joey?

Admittedly, in comparison to Barton, the current England squad’s misdemeanours are slight. All are yet to enjoy extended stays at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, at any rate. Which, ironically, is exactly where Carroll could find himself should his trial in January go badly. Now, we are all for blooding young English talent for the full international side should the opportunity arise. But Carroll, while playing well enough for Newcastle, has barely featured for the under 21s throughout his formative career. He is, after all, a young man living as a house guest of a team mate and currently on bail. The heady status of a Premier League footballer and all that goes with it, no matter the integrity of the NOTW article, are clearly attractive trappings to him.

Therefore, a slight note of caution to the Carroll lobby is necessary. Shall we just see if he avoids jail for assault in January before deciding whether he can make his international debut perhaps, chaps? Anyway, Carroll’s off the field behaviour has garnered enough press and it was not my intention to add to it. My not unsubstantial ire (yes, I have been known to enjoy a rant) is reserved purely for the potential that Carroll may be awarded a debut based on his footballing ability. Last weekend against Arsenal, he rose like a salmon over Fabianski to net a great winner at the Emirates. He also lumbered around the pitch like a slightly less hairy, English Sébastien Chabal. I saw him absolutely smite it into the crowd more than once with that hammer of a left foot. I saw him take an air shot that saw him nearly land on his arse and I also saw him engage in some impressive link-up play. A mixed bag, then, but a decent performance.

It is here, though, that England have been many times before. And it is here that I thought – albeit in vain – we would move on from the post-World Cup naval gazing. But no. Apparently, what we need to take us out of the dark ages is ANOTHER massive centre forward. Talk about short memories. I despair. When I dreamed of Fabio, root and branch in hand, I imagined Adam Johnson on the right, cutting inside and laying off a slide rule pass to Jack Wilshire who then feeds the marauding Jack Rodwell. A quick one-two and Wilshire has found Rooney who quick as a flash, sticks it in the back of the net, the opposition bewildered. And the ball wasn’t in the air once. This is what I dreamed.

Less than six months ago, everyone was lamenting England’s deficiencies in possession, ball retention, the aimlessness of their play and the archaic 4-4-2. In recent weeks, Capello has called up 33-year old Kevin Davies. KEVIN DAVIES FOR FUCK’S SAKE. Handing Carroll a similar accolade suggests the oh-so English desire for their traditional number 9 remains. Which beggars belief, obviously. England, I genuinely feel, are just never going to learn. It doesn’t matter who is in charge. 4-4-2. Big man up front. It is just simply not going to change.

As a plan B, lumping a big man on at the hour mark is not a new trick. Even the World Champions do it; Spain turn to Fernando Llorente from time to time. The thing is, Spain are much less likely to turn to Plan B than the England side so disjointed at home to Montenegro. In fact, I get the distinct impression that, as a plan, it will never quite dislodge itself from the English psyche, regardless of how many Barcelona or Spain or Arsenal matches are consumed. Ninety minutes of Rorke’s Drift-style blood and thunder, three lions on a shirt, backs against the wall commitment will continue to be preached.

You’d be missing my argument if you accused me of indulging in a spot of heightism here. Carroll might have the faultless footwork of a member of the Bolshoi ballet, but his presence will make England play the way they always do when they have a big man up front. It’s as if everyone gets a spot of ‘the Carraghers’ and cannot help themselves from hoofing it 60 yards onto the big man’s head. Carragher still does it now even though he must realise Fernando Torres replaced Peter Crouch a fair while back. The temptation to miss out the midfield, therefore, proves too great constantly and we encounter an extended head tennis match. It has always been this way. And it seems nothing is likely to change any time soon.

Kevin Davies, Andy Carroll, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, I don’t really care anymore.

*As if we couldn’t guess, Mark Bright was among the first to champion Carroll’s England claims, read here . Oh Brighty. I didn’t want to have a second go at you in a week. Not when, as you state in the second paragraph of your article for no particular reason that you ‘won the Adidas golden boot’ for ‘scoring 25 goals, 24 of them in the league’. Rob and I were both six back in 1989 but I do remember that last season, when Andy Carroll was busy scoring 19 goals in all competitions for Newcastle, we both cut a dash in the Top Corner Southwark Men’s Wednesday night league, joint top scoring on 12 in 10 games.

Carroll is like Mark Hateley is he Brighty? God help us then because he was shite. “But probably his greatest asset is he’s an excellent header of a ball, a dying breed in my opinion,” spouts Metro’s footballing expert. BRILLIANT. FUCKING BRILLIANT. Let’s set a record for pumping as many long balls up to him in 90 minutes. I cannot wait.

So Carroll is like Hateley because he is a) tall and b) has long hair. Ok. Other players we think Andy Carroll is like: Barry Venison. Carlos Valderamma. Fabricio Collocini. Roberto Baggio. David Ginola. Carles Puyol. Brian May. Slash. Francis Rossi. The Ultimate Warrior.


  1. Ultimate Warrior would never play for Newcastle

  2. I always enjoy a bit of magic sponge action Bushby. However, not sure i agree re waiting for his trial before giving Carroll a go. You make the point yourself - the England squad is full of scumbags (England and Liverpool superhero Stevie G must thank his liverpool faithful for keeping his good self out of Her Majesty's). England are a hard team to love.
    I personally think in the circumstances (the Roon away, Defoe and Bent injured, the incredible Hesk retired) that Carroll is worth a punt in the France game. Now im not saying he's the new Jesus but what's caught my eye from what I've seen is his pace and footwork rather than his height.
    I do take your point re tall players inspiring England to play long ball irrespective of the big man's talents. But this is England - fast players inspire punts down the channel for them to supposedly sprint on to. So that leaves us requiring small slow strikers to change the national passion for giving the ball away? As you suggest, the problem is deeper than that. We need more Paul Scholes' (and not stuck out on the left wing). Perhaps Wilshire will be a step in the right direction.
    Carroll is what, 21? As with Wilshire, he's worth a dig.
    The alternatives are?