Why all of England should love Andy Carroll


Rejoice! Rejoice! For he has returned! See how the sweat gleams on his face after only the briefest of warm-ups. Watch in awe as his shadow falls across the six yard box. See how his pony-tail shines in the late afternoon sunshine. Andy Carroll has returned and we are a richer people for his presence. 

I’ve always liked Carroll. There is something rather glorious about the sight of him in full flow. When I watch him thundering into the penalty area, his hooves pounding the sludge like a snorting, black-hearted destrier, something deep within me stirs.

I have read ‘Inverting the Pyramid’, I follow @zonal_marking, I even watch Serie A every now and then. And yet, I am but an Englishman. An Englishman brought up on the blood, snot and thunder of bad football. Carroll summons my soul back to a simpler time.

There is absolutely no reason why he can’t be Gateshead’s answer to Didier Drogba. Granted, the fact that he has only scored eight league goals in two years is a rather convincing counter-argument, but consider this. Carroll is big. Drogba was big. Carroll is fearless. Drogba was fearless. Carroll can sustain battle damage without tumbling to earth like a butterfly with scorched wings. Drogba once spent 10 minutes on the ground with a strained finger nail. One day, the goals will come and they will come like a flood, sweeping away defences in their path. One day.

International football doesn’t faze him. Look how he led the line for England in the European Championships against Sweden, crushing the spirit of our Scandinavian cousins every time he loomed into their airspace. Remember that header, that magnificent header? The super slow motion capturing every wobble of his ale-fattened cheeks. SPANK! Wobblewobblewobblewobble!

Remember what happened when Roy Hodgson, in his wisdom, dropped Carroll back to the bench to make way for a pudgy, formless Wayne Rooney? Oh, he may have scored the winner, but his close range glancing header against Ukraine - a veritbale open goal at his mercy - was the very antithesis of Carroll’s thunderous thwonk.   

And still there is a fragility that holds Carroll back. One niggly injury after another has kept him from finding his groove since he left St James Park in January 2011.

Every time he seems to settle, he falls again to a hurty-knee or a twangy-hamstring or a spell of not being very good. This is the great tragedy of English football, that this hairy spearhead has been cursed with such ill fortune. Tomorrow night, we go into battle with Brazil. That we do it without Carroll is our loss and their gain. For he is us. He is you and I. He is England. 

We have tried to play with a back three, we have tried to play with inverted wingers and a false nine. Doubtless there are cats out there who have tried to chase postman and dogs who have tried to purr. We are what we are. Sometimes, you just have to shrug your shoulders at the chalkboard and lump it up to the big man. Even Arsenal, blessed with the similarly bulky Olivier Giroud, have realised that now. 

Swansea were reminded of what it is to face a fully armed and operational Carroll at the weekend. They have our pity. Even big Ashley Williams, the near-slayer of Robin van Persie, was powerless to prevent him from scoring the winning goal. Even he could do nothing to stop Carroll knocking his opponents over like skittles, rising like an Amish barn and striking out for victory with his great big sweaty bonce.  

Were the Swans merely the first victims of a renewed force in English football, or will this tousled colossus crumble again? Our breath is bated.

Read more from the magnificent Iain Macintosh