Carrick given a second chance at England career

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The Independent Football

The Illinois Institute of Technology is not the most obvious place for an English footballer to rebuild his international career but, yesterday, this tree-ringed training pitch in suburban Chicago was the setting for the first step of Michael Carrick's rehabilitation.

It was four years to the day since the Tottenham midfielder made his England debut, as a substitute, in the 4-1 friendly win over Mexico at Derby. However, it is three years and nine months since his second and last England cap, the shambolic defeat against the Dutch at White Hart Lane.

Carrick was then a West Ham player. Injury, relegation, loss of form and a year's exile to the Championship were his immediate future. England was not.

But his move to Tottenham last autumn, a decent season under Martin Jol's shrewd guidance, and the raft of withdrawals from this tour, means the Land of Opportunity is just that for Carrick.

"For me it is a big chance," said Carrick yesterday. "With the World Cup a year away I can put a marker down. Who knows what can happen if have a good couple of games."

"It's a few years ago now since I was last in the squad," he added, "so long I can't remember exactly though it may have been the Germany game, the 5-1 win [it was, September 2001]. I did once wonder whether the chance had passed me by, when I was playing in the Championship. There's a lot goes through your head when you are having a low point in your career and don't know what's happening next. But I always felt I could get back in the Premier League and if I could do that I could prove myself again at international level.

"I probably appreciate being here more now. Things happened so quickly before. Within six to nine months of getting in the West Ham team I was in the England squad and I probably didn't realise how difficult it was. Maybe things have not gone as well as they could have since then but I am still only 23. And now I'm back I'm determined to try and stay in."

After relegation, Carrick stayed at West Ham, while Joe Cole, Glen Johnson, Jermain Defoe and David James left. The others have subsequently featured regularly in England squads.

"I stayed, I can't change that," he said. "In a way it might have been a good thing. I've had a few ups and downs. At the time the downs aren't good but you become a stronger person for it and probably a better player. I never got down on myself. You create problems for yourself once you do that."

Even after Carrick returned to the Premiership his fortitude was tested. The move to Tottenham took a long time to be realised, and having made it he was unable to get into the team.

"It was a hard time waiting for the phone to ring, not knowing where I would go to, or even if I would stay at West Ham. Then it was tough not being in the team. When you go to a new club you want things to happen quickly. But I never felt I'd not made the right move. Then I got my chance and took it."

That followed the departure of Jacques Santini and promotion of Jol. "It's probably a good job he got the job," Carrick said. "He's been behind me all the way. He's given me confidence and more responsibility within the squad than I've had before. I feel like I'm improving all the time." Proof of this, he hopes, will be seen at Soldier Field, when England play the US, on Saturday.

* The Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel has been recalled by Colombia for their friendly against England in the US on Tuesday. Angel, who missed Colombia's last two World Cup qualifiers at the end of March through injury, is in a 22-man squad named by the coach Reinaldo Rueda

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