For many football fans, Andy Carroll remains a bit of an enigma.
Everyone was surprised when Liverpool made him the most expensive British player ever, in 2011, and it turned out to be for good reason, as he never really looked comfortable in the famous red strip.
His move to West Ham should have been the catalyst for him to regain the form he showed at Newcastle, but after impressing in his first season, but for the first half of this season he has been sidelined with persistent injuries.
But now he has returned and the Hammers look like a different team. An important away victory at Cardiff was followed with a fantastic defensive display to earn a point at Chelsea in midweek, leaving spirits high in Sam Allardyce’s camp, ahead Saturday’s home fixture against Swansea City.
The game ended in a very comfortable 2-0 victory for the home side, as Carroll put in a terrific strikers display, setting up Kevin Nolan for both of West Ham’s goals and battering Swansea’s’ defence into submission.
Ashley Williams has been the Swans most consistent performer, since they returned to the Premier League, and Chico Flores has proved to be a very strong, uncompromising central defender.
But neither of them could do anything to stop Andy Carroll that day. Every ball up to him was either flicked into a good area or to a team mate, his first touch was silky throughout, his layoffs were sharp and accurate, and his physical presence caused havoc in the Swansea area.
He was sent off pretty early in the second half, a decision which was deemed extremely harsh by both Allardyce and Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, but that shouldn’t take the shine of what was a top performance, a performance that England manager, Roy Hodgson, will have taken great pleasure in seeing.
We haven’t had many opportunities to see Carroll in an England shirt, the only meaningful contribution he has made for his country was the opening goal in England’s 3-2 win over Sweden, in the group stage of Euro 2012.
His goal, an imperiously powerful header from a superb Steven Gerrard cross, serves as a stark reminder of what he could bring to the England set-up.
I have written before about the need for England to play more direct football and to utilise the abundance of pacey, skilful wide players we have at our disposal. But those winger’s still need a target man, a player who can not only score goals, but hold up the ball and bring others into play. Andy Carroll can do that.
I’m not suggesting he should start every game, as we have players like Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge who will be selected ahead of him in that centre forward position.
But there is no denying that there are very few English strikers, in fact, very few strikers on the planet, who can contribute to the team in the same way that Andy Carroll can.
With the exception of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, no-one can scare defenders with sheer power and brute force like he can. And when England are pushing for a goal and throwing the ball into the box, is there another player you would rather have in the opposition area to win that ball? I don’t think so.
Maybe it’s too early to say this, as Carroll is only just returning to full fitness and he has a difficult second half of the season to cope with, but I, for one, shall be hoping he stays fit and in form for the remainder of this campaign, as surely there is a seat for him on that plane to Brazil.
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