West Ham will not be the only club sweating on the verdict of a Football Association disciplinary panel that convenes tomorrow to discuss whether Andy Carroll’s three-match ban for his sending off against Swansea on Saturday should be overturned.
With the powerful striker being so important to their hopes of escaping from the bottom three, all the relegation contenders – which means every club in the lower half of the table – have a vested interest in the result.
A neutral view would be that Carroll, while annoyed by the clumsiness of Chico Flores’s challenge, was not lashing out in retaliation and that his brushing of the Spaniard’s forehead produced a ludicrous over-reaction, convincing Howard Webb and his assistant on that side of the pitch, Scott Ledger, that Carroll was guilty of what Law 12 calls “violent conduct” or “serious foul play”.
Losing the former England striker for matches against Aston Villa, Norwich and Southampton would be a heavy blow to West Ham – and consequently a boost to their rivals in distress – at a time when he is just returning to full fitness after missing the first five months of the season. Carroll dominated Swansea in the air and set up both goals in the 2-0 win with headed assists for his former Newcastle team-mate Kevin Nolan.
“It will be absolutely diabolical if it is not overturned,” Nolan said. “They have got to do the right thing. If someone is going to say that red card should stand, then that is just silly and there is no point in having these appeals.”
Swansea’s manager Michael Laudrup has spoken to Flores before about play-acting and promised: “If he was over-reacting, then of course I will speak to him.” But the Dane is not convinced that this leopard is capable of changing his spots. “We are what we are, we don’t change our personality,” he added.
If Carroll avoids a ban and stays fit, with Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing supplying crosses from the flanks and Nolan picking up the second ball – the strategy that Sam Allardyce planned last summer – West Ham have an excellent chance of avoiding financially ruinous relegation two years before they move into the Olympic Stadium.