Is Andy Carroll forcing his way into Roy Hodgson's England plans?
Andy Carroll’s introduction into the FA Cup final against Chelsea almost changed the destination of this season’s trophy but ultimately it was too little too late. The manner in which he took his goal defied the lack of confidence he is supposedly suffering after a tough start to his Liverpool career, but with an international tournament imminent is he starting to find his feet at the right time?
For candidates who are looking to spend their close-season in Poland and the Ukraine, Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager implies a clean slate and with Wayne Rooney’s initial suspension the striking department appears ever-increasingly problematic for the 64-year-old. In the first half of this season the mere discussion of Carroll taking any part in this summer’s competition would have been laughed-off, but as Liverpool’s domestic campaign stumbles to a close, it seems the former Newcastle man is coming to the fore. His enthusiasm and endeavour at Wembley caused Chelsea genuine problems and his introduction was the late impetus for his side as they searched for a way back into the game.
For a majority of this season he has looked weighed down with the burden of his price tag but since his last-gasp winners against Blackburn Rovers and Everton - in the Premier League and FA Cup semi-final respectively - Carroll is starting to resemble the striker who achieved iconic status with his former club. Carroll’s stock has fallen since those days when he represented a future England No 9 in the making, but arguably, the more continuous playing time he now gets, the closer he seems to be evolving into Fernando Torres’ replacement at Anfield.
In early press meetings, Hodgson was quick to play down England’s chances at the European Championships and this may work in his team’s favour - as at the 2010 World Cup we saw what expectation can do to a group of England players. The departing West Bromwich Albion manager may even use this tournament as a breeding ground for the future of the national side, in which case the youthful presence of Carroll could help lay some much-needed foundations. The latter showed in his club’s recent Wembley defeat that he genuinely offers a change of tact from the bench and the pool of strikers Hodgson can delve into is hardly cause for optimism as some are not even regular starters for their respective clubs.
Jermain Defoe epitomises this thought at Tottenham while Daniel Sturridge has lost his way after a promising start to the season with Chelsea. Grant Holt is currently the most prolific English Premier League striker, but with the Norwich City man being currently uncapped, this only enhances one of the difficulties Hodgson faces.
It goes without saying that much depends on the method in which the new manager builds his England assembly, but could Carroll’s relatively impressive resurgence yet earn him his first taste of competitive international football this summer?
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