Gareth Barry’s injury could well have finally provided Michael Carrick with a chance to shine at a major tournament, had he not ruled himself out contention.
Since leaving Tottenham Hotspur for Manchester United in the summer of 2006, Carrick will have invested in his fair share of Brasso for his winners medals: four Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League, and a Football League Cup. You could also throw in a FIFA World Club Cup and four Charity Shields for good measure.
For a player of such decoration, his international record doesn’t come even close to reflecting the success he has enjoyed at Old Trafford. The last time he pulled on the England shirt was over two years ago when he won cap number 22 in a 3-1 win over Mexico. He was then named in the squad for the 2010 World Cup Finals, but didn’t spend a single minute on the pitch during a miserable tournament for Fabio Capello’s men.
In fact, due to the failed qualifying campaign for Euro 2008, Carrick has only ever appeared in one match of a major tournament, and that came under Sven Goran Eriksson in a 1-0 second round win over Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup. So, ahead of his 31st birthday next month, you would perhaps think despite his frustration at previous omissions, he would be eager to improve on this record under a new coach who may well have offered him game time in Poland and Ukraine.
Instead, the midfielder informed the Football Association several months ago, certainly before the appointment of Roy Hodgson, that he did not want to be considered for the trip unless he was given assurances that he would be more than just a bit-part player. He isn’t the first to seek such conditions; Jamie Carragher, Ben Foster and Paul Robinson have all felt their time better served elsewhere in the past.
“I wouldn’t dream of putting Michael Carrick on a standby list after he’s made it clear in the past he doesn’t want to be involved like that,” Hodgson said after selecting Jordan Henderson, of Liverpool, ahead of the former Spurs man. “I’d have to be convinced he was better than the four I’ve selected, and that he’d be happy to come out of retirement.”
An injury to Manchester City’s Barry, and his decision not to call upon Henderson after all, means the England coach is now down to just three of the four central midfield players he referred to above: his captain Steven Gerrard, Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, and Scott Parker of Tottenham. Phil Jones, Carrick’s team-mate at Old Trafford, could also fill the holding midfield position, yet many feel any involvement the former Blackburn Rovers youngster may get would come as a right fullback at the expense of Glen Johnson.
Whilst Hodgson’s stance of not picking players who have placed conditions on their involvement is perhaps understandable, one must feel that the situation surrounding Carrick suits neither party. England’s inability to retain possession has often been a major criticism of their tournament failings in the past (Bloemfontein, anyone?), yet one of the best passing players in the Premier League will be sat at home when Group D kicks off in Donetsk on 11 June. How can this possibly be of benefit to Hodgson and his side when they try and negotiate their way past France, Sweden and Ukraine into the knockout stage?
As for Carrick, of course you feel some sympathy for a player of such talent to have collected so few international caps, but he must be regretting his stubbornness. If Hodgson can’t offer him assurances now, then it is unlikely he will be able to do so in two years time ahead of the World Cup Finals of 2014 when the player will be approaching his 32nd birthday. So this was probably his last chance to add to that single tournament appearance against the Ecuadorians six years ago, and his reluctance to make himself available has cost him such an opportunity.
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