Bust up on the bench

What next for Andy Carroll’s stalling career?

The World Cup is around the corner and it’s the time of year when strikers somehow discover a rich vein of form and fitness which carries them into pole position for places in the summer squads. Any Liverpool fan can attest to Michael Owen’s Lazarus style recoveries in the early springtime, shaking off the injuries and playing his way into Sven’s England squads.  It’s a win, win situation really; the club get the goals, points and prizes, while the man gets the selection and a nice advertising deal with a sandwich company etc.  One club certainly not benefiting from this though is West Ham United.  Andy Carroll is making headlines for the wrong reasons again as his latest antics could leave his future in doubt with the Hammers.

He has been sent home from training following a bust up with David Moyes.  The England international took exception to being an used sub in their recent 4-1 defeat at home to Manchester City.  Storming from the bench late on, Carroll wasn’t seen again. His manager has clearly taken issue with this stroppy behavior and banished him from first team training.  It is yet another low in a series of setbacks and personal issues for Carroll and it leaves his first team role at West Ham up in the air.

Moyes will probably need him as he now looks anxiously over his shoulder at the bottom three.  In these circumstances though, a striker like Carroll should be thriving.  There is enough quality at West Ham in Lanzini and Arnautovic alone to provide a steady supply of chances for any striker. However, once again it’s not his football exploits doing the talking.

Big Money, big flop

The Manchester City game on Sunday was a far cry from April 2011 when the big man scored his first goals for Liverpool against the same opposition.  You could still hear the grumbles across Stanley Park and chuckles from further afield; Liverpool had paid thirty-five million pounds for the former Newcastle man with a better injury record than goal scoring. And he’d arrived crocked!

Be that as it may, the signs were there that Carroll was a good player.  The fee was ridiculous, but the talent was there and plenty on the Kopp hoped he would be at the very least a direct goal threat if all else failed.  His first two goals for the club, in a frenetic first half performance against City certainly gave us all a bit more hope.  Besides, though not very numerous, big centre-forwards had previously done well at Anfield.  John Toshack was a perfect partner for Keegan in the 70s as Emile Heskey was for Owen in the early 2000s.  Peter crouch was also a big hit in his three years at Anfield.  It wasn’t out of the question for us to wipe the smile of people’s faces and turn Carroll into a success at Liverpool.

The summer of 2012 saw additions like Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing (shudder), which gave us the impression that the centre-forward wouldn’t be short of service in the coming season.  However that campaign descended into dismal disappointment, with the league results at one stage bordering on relegation form.  Downing managed zero Premier League assists and Carroll fired in just four Premier League goals.  The chuckles  were growing.

Alas for Carroll and Liverpool it wasn’t to be.  A combination of injuries and the big man just not gelling where finally finished off by the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in 2012.  His short career at Anfield was over before it had really started.  However in just a short time despite injuries and bad form, he still managed a brace of goals against City and Everton, one at Wembley, as well as a Cup Final goal against Chelsea.  He possessed a hammer of shot and the quick ability to drag the ball out of his feet and into a rapid snap shot when not facing the goal.  This along with sheer towering presence meant that there was a player in there somewhere; West Ham seemed to be a decent home for him.

Cruel game

His early career antics off the pitch are well documented as are the rumours that he left Newcastle United under a cloud following a public bust up with Steven Taylor.  Perhaps a more teetotal approach would have aided his career earlier on, but you simply cannot escape injuries if you are prone.  The modern game is mercilessly quick, with players often burnt out at twenty-nine or thirty as opposed to thirty-four / thirty-five.

Just look at Fernando Torres or Wayne Rooney, both still have a great touch and intelligence on the ball, but both are about as speedy as a modern Hollywood movie.  Their bodies have experienced so much wear and tear that they simply cannot cover the yards required with any pace.  The same can be said for Carroll.  At an age when he should arguably be a strong candidate for England’s World Squad, he is barely making the bench of a team battling relegation.  His body simply won’t let him.

Since joining West Ham, initially on loan in 2012, he has missed nine hundred and ninety nine days or one hundred and twenty three games through various injuries. They are staggering numbers which go some length to explaining why his career has simply never taken off.  It would be impossible for anyone to hit good form, let alone win a place back in their national team, given such a horrific injury record.

Be that as it may though, he is still a West Ham player in the Premier League and should still be looking to contribute.  His frustration is understandable, but he has created yet more negativity and uncertainty around a football club blighted by bad headlines in recent years.

Carroll could be the lynch pin centre-forward the club needs to get out of a relegation battle and elbow their way up the league.  Instead, he finds himself, before even turning thirty, facing another summer exiled from the national team and possibly having to find another club unless this spat cannot be healed amicably.  The sad question for Carroll is who realistically would want him?  High wages and lack of game time are hardly an enticing prospect. He could face the music and head abroad, thus putting the final nail in the coffin of his once promising career in the English game.  Russia seems a distant prospect indeed, China on the other hand is perhaps more realistic.

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