Carroll set to take centre-stage
Roy Hodgson drops biggest hint yet that Andy Carroll will lead the line for England at Euro 2012
As the European Championships draw ever closer, much of the pre-tournament speculation surrounding England has been about who will fill the void left by the suspended Wayne Rooney.
With England's shining star unavailable for the opening two matches, one of Roy Hodgson's first tasks as the newly-appointed England manager was to decide who would be given the unenviable task of replacing Rooney.
And Hodgson gave England fans a sneak preview of what to expect from his side during the solid, if unspectacular 1-0 friendly win against Norway last weekend.
Liverpool's Andy Carroll led the line that day, and the 23-year-old striker worked hard in a bid to convince Hodgson that he was capable of firing England to Euro glory next month.
Carroll will no doubt be looking to build on his performance in Norway, Hodgson's first game at the helm, with a goal against Belgium this weekend.
With his upturn in form at the end of season, plus a positive performance in Oslo last Saturday, Carroll has seemingly done enough to fire himself to the top of the pecking order in the striking department.
Hodgson has dropped his biggest hint yet that Carroll, the £35million man, is the one who has been chosen to lead the line for England at Euro 2012, as today saw the official release of the England squad numbers ahead of this year's tournament.
Carroll, who scored only four Premier League goals in the 2011-12 season, has been handed the number No 9 shirt, indicating that the is the favourite to start the games against France and Sweden in Rooney's stead.
Having endured a difficult season on Merseyside, Carroll is optimistic that he can use the Euros to prove his critics wrong, both at club and international level.
Speaking to The Sun, Carroll said: "I was delighted to be in the squad. The manager wants a big man up front and he's picked me, so it's great.
"Now I've got a chance to show what I'm about."
Carroll insists that whilst much has been made of his significant price tag, he has never been affected by all the speculation.
"The fee didn't bother me, I always believed in myself. But things weren't going for me and I didn't play as many games as I hoped for Liverpool.
"But finally I did get a run in the side towards the end of the season. I did well, got my confidence up and now I'm here. I feel fitter now than I did at the beginning of the season or even halfway through the season. I just needed that run of games.
"Now, I'm feeling good and fresh. At the end of the season I felt like I was moving a lot better and getting involved in games more than I did at the beginning — and it feels great."
England fans will be hoping that Carroll's end of season form can be carried forward to the international scene with England.
Similarly, the former Newcastle striker will be chomping at the bit to prove the doubters wrong, and what better way to do so than by impressing on one of football's biggest stages?