When Andy Carroll rose and thumped the ball home for England against Sweden during the 2012 European Championships, England purred with delight. Here was justification for their way of playing football. Forget the Spaniards and all that possession, all you need is a cross swung in and wait for the big center forward to power the ball past a keeper grasping at air.
You would think it was the goal that had won the competition rather than just a group game. The TV channel broadcasting the game repeated the goal ad nauseum; even the media, who had been so critical of England in the run up to the competition, seemed to delight in the manner of the goal.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish spent an astonishing 35 million pounds to bring the pony-tailed striker to Anfield. A few fingers tapped foreheads as well. Carroll, who had played less league games than David Beckham had played full internationals, was being sold for more than Carlos Tevez or Cesc Fabregas or Zlatan Ibrahamovic.
England nodded sagely, pointing to Carroll’s passport as justification for the transfer fee. “The English Premium,” they muttered wisely.
What followed was a disaster. Carroll struggled at Anfield but he did perk up a bit towards the end of the season and that, given England’s dearth of talent, was enough to see him called up for the European Championships.
Obviously there was one gentleman out there who was less than impressed by Carroll’s goal and the hoopla surrounding the goal. Brendan Rogers is one of a new breed of football managers making waves in the top flight. Along with the likes of Paul Lambert and Roberto Martinez they had their teams playing neat passing football that could put the ‘big’ teams on the back foot.
Their teams were about passing and movement and with all due respect to Andy Carroll, and this is where it is normal to insert a comment about him having a good touch for such a big fella, he is not a striker who is going to run his socks off for the team, either tracking back, pulling wide or offering a team mate an option. He is the maypole, his teammates are expected to dance around him. In other words, play the traditional way.
Rogers, Lambert and Martinez when it comes to that, isn’t English. The fact that he wasn’t overly impressed with Carroll soon became apparent. Rogers took the hot seat at Anfield and almost immediately there was talk that the 35 million pound man was surplus to requirements.
The talk wasn’t about if Carroll was moved on. Was there any club willing to spend a big sum on a man who, if you watched the way Spain or Barcelona played the game, was yesterday’s man? Liverpool, it appeared, were keen to sell and obviously they wanted to recoup as much of their investment as they could.
There has hardly been a rush of clubs knocking down the doors at Anfield no matter what the reaction to his goal in Ukraine. West Ham were rumored to be introduced. Their manager, Sam Allardyce, is partial to the big front man and whatever the Spaniards do he is a man who will stick to his guns. Fulham were mentioned. But it is to Newcastle that most people think Carroll will move if Liverpool, or Rogers, decide to get rid.
Brendan Rogers does not have a big name in the football world and it is refreshing to see a young manager being given a plum job so early in his career. By shipping Carroll he will be sending out a strong message to the club and their fans. Carroll may have been signed by Dalglish, King Kenny as he is still known, but that means nothing to the Northern Irish coach. He is going to be his own man.