LONDON — Andy Carroll, the Newcastle United striker, is Saturday set to be named in the England squad for next Wednesday’s friendly against France at Wembley.
But is he really the sort of person who should be wearing an England shirt?
Carroll broke the jaw of teammate Steven Taylor after a training bust-up, he accepted a police caution for an assault on a woman, he pleaded guilty to common assault after a glass which “accidentally traveled through the air” (I kid you not), hit another man above an eye, and he is awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting an ex-girlfriend, for which he claimed self-defense.
Part of his bail conditions were that he lived with Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan — two days after his court appearance Carroll’s car, parked in Nolan’s drive, was torched.
Last weekend, there were lurid front-page stories of the pair being involved in a “drug orgy” at Nolan’s house — the pair deny any knowledge of cocaine on the premises or taking it.
What sort of message would it send out if someone with all this on his resume is rewarded with the ultimate honor?
That such behavior is OK as long as you do the business on the field?
That it doesn’t matter what a player does in his private time if his form is outstanding?
No one expects footballers to behave like monks, but trouble seems to follow Carroll like a magnet.
It probably doesn’t help that Newcastle is a great place to party, the city’s Bigg Market full of bars where girls always seem to be dressed (or, to be more precise, partially dressed) for Waikiki Beach, even when the temperature hovers around freezing.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, Carroll can resist anything but temptation.
It is undeniable that Carroll, 21, is the in-form English center-forward. His physical presence intimidates defenses, he leads the line superbly, and seven goals in 12 Premier League games is an excellent return for a newly promoted club’s striker.
Few top players are without any disciplinary blemishes, either in a football sense or drinking and driving. But there should be a line in the sand over which an England international should not cross, and Carroll has leaped over it like Bob Beamon in the 1968 Olympics long jump competition.
If Carroll wants to reach and stay at the top of his profession he must surely know that he will not do this by pouring goodness knows how many pints of beer inside him and having a fast-food breakfast at 6 a.m. He cannot live like a rock star and be a professional footballer.
There is one school of thought that says an England cap would help Carroll to realize what he would be giving up unless he modifies his lifestyle.
Others feel that by making Carroll a full international, thus going in the record books alongside Sir Stanley Matthews, Bobby Moore and Sir Bobby Charlton, sends out the wrong message — that it’s all right to booze and eat burgers if you can still play outstandingly.
They feel that Carroll should be told to clean up his act and then he will be considered for an England cap.
WOLVES WERE given a suspended £25,000 fine by the Premier League — a non-punishment in reality — after it decided that the team fielded in its league fixture against Manchester United last year “was not full strength and therefore in breach of Rule E20.”
Manager Mick McCarthy made 10 changes from the side that had won 1-0 at Tottenham three days earlier — United won 3-0 nil) but it usually does win at home.
Last Wednesday at Aston Villa, Blackpool manager Ian Holloway made 10 changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Everton because of fixture congestion. Blackpool lost 3-2 after Villa scored a last-minute winner that owed much to dreadful marking from a corner.
Holloway said he will resign “if the Premier League fine me” which it cannot do, it can only punish Blackpool which it has contacted over the matter, so his words are an empty threat.
How on earth three suits on a disciplinary commission can decide what is a strong or weakened team is beyond me.
Had Wolves won at Old Trafford would they still have been fined?
If Blackpool had come away with the point it was 60 seconds from winning, would it still be perceived an understrength side?
Blackpool’s so-called strongest team lost 6-0 at Arsenal but that’s OK. A different side was pipped in the last minute at Villa Park and it is allegedly weak.
In Europe, a club has to register a squad of 25 with UEFA, whose attitude is that those in the Champions League or Europe League can field whichever XI they want. Chelsea has qualified for the knockout stages after four group games — does anyone seriously believe Carlo Ancelotti will select all his top internationals for the remaining two matches?
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.