Euro 2012 has turned into a tournament made for Michael Carrick. The problem is that Michael Carrick fell out of love with playing for England a long time ago.
On Wednesday afternoon, as the extent of Frank Lampard's injury became clear, Carrick's name was mentioned by more than one journalist at the England team's golf day at the Grove in Hertfordshire. Could this be the ultimate last-minute call-up for the nearly man who at long last, was about to step on to centre-stage for England?
After all, Roy Hodgson had said on the day of his squad announcement, when he revealed that Carrick had effectively retired from international football, that he might just be persuaded to return in a crisis. Now that Scott Parker is only considered fit to play an hour of games surely this is reaching the point of crisis?
It was made very clear by the Football Association on Wednesday that Carrick is not an option, whatever caveats he might have given Hodgson. His agent discreetly informed the FA in January he no longer wished to be considered and his nine-year, 22-cap international career came to an end with so little fanfare that no one knew.
Who do England have to call upon in central midfield, aside from Parker? There is Steven Gerrard, one of the finest midfielders in Europe, and then the inexperienced Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones. No England manager has been left this short in central midfield for years.
No Lampard; no Gareth Barry and Parker carrying an Achilles problem. Jack Wilshere, Tom Huddlestone and Jack Rodwell are injured. Paul Scholes is still retired. Tom Cleverley lacks the experience to be called in ahead of Henderson and beyond that the options run very thin. Joe Cole? Not played for England since the World Cup finals. Leon Britton? David Beckham? Joey Barton?
It is a pity that it had to come to this in a position which England have been blessed with a wide choice of good players for a long time. They might not have always deployed them to the best of their abilities, and the Lampard-Gerrard experiment dragged on longer than was necessary but Hodgson has been cruelly exposed in one position.
Injuries to players of the stature of Wilshere, Lampard, Barry and Parker would hit any team at Euro 2012, let alone one which will play only its second game under a new manager tomorrow. It begs the question just how adaptable, some of Hodgson's midfielders can be.
Jones and James Milner can both acquit themselves in central midfield. The intriguing option is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who has already impressed the senior squad players in the short time the England camp has been together. Hodgson picked him as a winger but he played him in a more central position against Norway.
Asking an 18-year-old to play at a major tournament is one thing. Asking him to do so in an unfamiliar position is quite another. But there is something of a can-do spirit about this England team. Once more, they will have to roll with the punches.
midfield state of play
Injured: Barry, Wilshere, Rodwell, Huddlestone, Lampard (right)
Retired: Carrick, Scholes
And that leaves...
Henderson, Jones, Gerrard, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Parker, who is carrying an injury
- More about:
- Frank Lampard
- Jack Wilshere
- Joey Barton
- Premier League
- Roy Hodgson
- Stephen Carter
- Steven Gerrard
- Tom Cleverley
- Tom Huddlestone
- West Bromwich Albion