Andy Carroll has been quick to reach prominence – now he can earn it

Andy Carroll would be in the public eye in the friendly with Ghana even if Wayne Rooney and others had not been released from the England squad.

Andy Carroll has been quick to reach prominence – now he can earn it The centre-forward is in the odd position of first achieving prominence in football and then being required to show he is worth it. This sequence of events should be to the liking of the 22-year-old.

His rise to fame and wealth is, after all, linked to the soaring valuation that saw Liverpool hand over £35m to Newcastle United in January. The price was influenced by the knowledge that £50m had already gone into the Anfield coffers with the sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea. At the heart of all the commerce, though, is a consensus that Carroll is a talent to be coveted.

Fabio Capello was convinced a while ago and Carroll's debut came against France at Wembley in November. The deserved victory for the visitors was not a context in which Carroll could appear at his best but before his substitution there was a moment when he was able to turn and get behind the centre-half Philippe Mexès, even if enough cover remained to nullify him.

That sort of incident holds out the tantalising hope that England may have a centre-forward who goes beyond the stereotypes of the job. By and large candidates can be divided into target men and scorers. There was, for instance, a spell when Capello was hailed for having Emile Heskey hold the ball while Rooney got into position to score. It was a rudimentary method suited to qualifiers more than the finals of a competition.

The approach has shifted lately, with Darren Bent acting as a poacher of a spearhead who is always positioning himself to be picked out with one sharp pass or cross. It would be better still if the attackers could not be stereotyped in that fashion. Carroll, in theory, can take his toll of a defence in a range of ways. He has, at the minimum, the makings of a scorer.

This season, Carroll has scored 11 Premier League goals. It is a more creditable tally than it might seem since injury sidelined him from late December until the start of this month. There have also been disorderly incidents in his private life but Capello brushed them aside as youthful indiscretions, a stance readily adopted by the England manager who has neither signed a player nor spent large sums on him.

Even so, there is still a great deal at stake for Capello, who stands down next year. His great reputation is in need of repair and that will not be accomplished unless England qualify for Euro 2012 and give a good account of themselves. In particular, it would benefit him if Carroll and others were the embodiment of promise for the national team.

Capello is a proud man who cannot but know that his standing has fallen in England. He is not instinctively thought of as a nurturer of newcomers, yet Jack Wilshere is fast turning into a mainstay at the age of 19. The manager has even looked a touch desperate in his promotion of youth. Jordan Henderson made his debut against France and played 90 minutes but looked bemused and the Sunderland midfielder is not in the England squad for the time being.

There is an eagerness to change the face of the team and it is no fault of Capello's if Kieran Gibbs, who also started in the France match, is not a candidate for Arsenal in the league at the moment. The manager will recall with clarity the way in which his side were left looking exhausted and obsolete when brushed aide by Germany at the World Cup finals.

It would have been mortifying for Capello to be seen as an outdated figure rather than the constant authority he was taken to be from his time as a midfielder onward. He is now inclined to refer to 9-1 as the sole formation remaining in football. The comment comes with a humour that has an undertone of bitterness. Capello had not wanted to abandon his assumptions yet no other course remained to alter tactics and personnel.

The desirability of altering the line-up radically was as obvious to him as to everyone else and, if fit, Kyle Walker would have been on the verge of a first cap despite making only nine Premier League starts for Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.

All the same, there are obstacles to Capello. It would be shallow to cast aside the familiar players if he suspected that the replacements would be poorer still. He knows better than to anticipate applause for his long-term thinking if England spend the summer of next year at home.

Capello's team are not treated as potential winners of Euro 2012 but that apparently downbeat outlook might at least let the side exceed expectations.

If the team are unlikely to achieve greatness in Poland and Ukraine, there could still be sufficient impact to make Capello and, more importantly, the supporters feel that his tenure has not been one more folly for England.

Powered by article was written by Kevin McCarra, for The Guardian on Tuesday 29th March 2011 07.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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