Over the last few weeks, Andy Carroll has gone from being described as Liverpool's "maligned" striker, to its "unplayable" striker. He's finished the season so well, many are calling for his inclusion in England's 23-man squad for this summer's European Championships.
If Carroll makes the party, it would be a triumph for both player and club. The 23-year-old joined LFC as its record signing in January 2011. The next year would see him face the slings and arrows of critics everywhere. His employers were not spared either.
After finally shaking off the injuries that slowed the beginning of his LFC career, Carroll regained his fitness. His confidence, which was suffering, slowly came back as well. His form was the last to arrive, but he began to reap the fruits of his labor as winter gave way to spring.
Goals against Blackburn, Everton and Chelsea suggested that Liverpool's £35 million ($55.5 million) man was starting to come around. He met John Terry, England's top center back, twice in the span of four days last week. After bossing the Chelsea captain around the penalty area, pundits suddenly remembered that he was an England international under Fabio Capello, and he might be useful this summer.
England has a dilemma to solve at the striker position, as Wayne Rooney must serve a two-game ban, and there are no ready candidates with the experience and pedigree fill his shoes. The fit and in-form Liverpool player wouldn't be the focal point of the England attack, but he would give the Three Lions a unique dimension or "plan B" as our friend Nick Casey reminds us.
Liverpool wouldn't mind if Carroll spent six weeks around some of the world's best players. He would stay fit and sharp during the brief offseason, and return to LFC brimming with confidence. It would make it more likely that he would carry his end-of-season form into the 2012-13 campaign.
England will name its Euro 2012 squad on Wednesday, and it's unknown if manager Roy Hodgson will include Carroll. Rooney is a lock. There are any number of candidates for the other three or four spots up top. Carroll has made a strong case with his late-season surge.
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