The Michael Carrick mystery

June 2010 and as Michael Carrick perched on a substitutes bench in Bloemfontein, his tracksuit attire remaining steadfast in its immobility, the Champions League winning midfielder must have speculated as to what he had done to upset the England setup. 2 years later and in what is the most exasperating déjà vu scenario for Carrick, he has once again been unsuccessful in his attempt to influence his country and will not be on the plane that departs our shores for the unforgiving European Championships in Ukraine and Poland.

The news of Carrick’s omission from the squad had been especially criticised since the probable withdrawal of Frank Lampard through injury. Jordan Henderson has been alerted that he may be required to cover the Chelsea midfielder. With many fans and pundits confused as to the selection of Henderson considering his inconsistent form at Anfield, Michal Carrick must be perplexed as to why his solid, reliable performances for his club have not been required for his country.

It would be prudent to argue that a new manager for England demands a refurbishment of the national squad.  With an overhaul of the countries youth development regime generating excitement surrounding England’s future, an expectation to focus on younger talents in the squad selection was somewhat apparent. Lessons learned from South Africa indicate that youth will win over experience, frustratingly highlighted in England’s humiliating defeat to Germany. Hodgson sat on the fence with his choices. A generous mix of youth and experience allowed the new man at the helm to please the fans on either side of the argument. However, with injuries to Gareth Barry, John Ruddy and now Lampard debilitating the squad, his more controversial stand by selections have had to be drafted in as cover. This list of back up players included Henderson but unjustly, did not include Carrick.

As the current squad heads toward D-Day on June 11th, speculation is mounting as to what Hodgson’s starting line-up will be. However, no debate has erupted as to who starts in the centre of the park for England, with everyone expecting this to be Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker. If Michael Carrick had been selected for the squad, one would assume that he would be sitting on the bench, as will Jordan Henderson come kick off. Therefore, the most important aspect of these players’ games needs to be impact. Who can come off the bench and chip in with a goal or an assist should we be staring defeat in the face? Who can play that decisive ball to start an attacking move? Who is able to sit back and defend should his country require it?

Both Carrick and Henderson have the ability to fulfil all of the criteria. However, with the experience that Carrick has, surely he would be the man to turn to should England be in the face of adversity. How many times have United snatched a late winning goal thanks to the commitment of their players? You only have to look at this season when the Red Devils came from 3-0 down to grab a late draw at Stamford Bridge. Carrick played that day and was at the heart of the comeback, running the engine for United’s downtrodden team, only to increase their revs in the second half to produce a sensational comeback.

On the other hand Henderson has been part of a Liverpool team that have not had the most illustrious of seasons. An abundance of defeats especially at home, indicated that the squad did not have the experience to recover and change an adverse situation into a positive one, a trait that was so adeptly shown by United. Henderson showed glimpses of his passion and ferocity but had very little impact when the chips were down. With so much pressure on the national team to deliver, Carrick has the experience and ability to deal with demanding, uncompromising situations and has shown this countless times for his club. I doubt that Henderson would have half the maturity that Carrick imposes on a game and a disappointing tournament for England would mean even more weight for the former Sunderland man to carry on his shoulders; shoulders that are already bearing the disappointed jeers from Liverpool fans concerning his form for the club in relation to his large transfer fee.

With all the debating in the world, it does not affect that fact that Michael Carrick will not be going to the European Championships. At 30, the midfielder still has opportunities at national level in future tournaments. For now though, he must remain at home with his thoughts. With much controversy surrounding players and the shame that they bring by announcing themselves unapproachable for England, Carrick would be one player that could justifiably announce himself unavailable for the nation. Having one of his most consistent seasons with one of the most feared clubs in the world is not enough for the Newcastle-born player to earn a call up for his country. Instead, a player who has partly formed one of the most criticised Liverpool teams in recent memory has been chosen. Whether Hodgson thought he would have to delve so deep into his stand by list remains to be seen. It is hard to see what more Carrick can do to gain the attention of the England setup.