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Jim White: Carroll looks wrong man in wrong place

After a period of unhappy relations with the wider footballing world, it has been a terrific few days for Liverpool FC. First, they win easily in the FA Cup. Next, they win away at the home of the Premier League leaders in the Carling Cup, putting themselves within touching distance of a Wembley final for the first time in 16 years.

And then, best of all, Newcastle United make noises that they might well be interested in taking Andy Carroll back to the north east. A little unkind, perhaps. Further indication of Kenny Dalglish's assertion that Carroll's problems are exacerbated by cynical naysayers in the media, maybe.

Except that last night Carroll gave yet more evidence that, as his club's most expensive signing in history, he represents the worst value for money this side of a Starbucks double macchiato. Or Fernando Torres.

Of course Carroll did not ask to be transferred to Anfield for £35m 12 months ago. Had he arrived for a sum closer to his true worth, he would not be under such fierce continuous scrutiny. The unsought weight of excessive valuation has hung heavy around his neck ever since his move, restricting him to three goals in a year, anchoring him to the turf in every game he plays.

Not that anyone could accuse Carroll of not trying last night. As he stood in once more for the suspended Luis Suarez, an assumption that the best way to play your way out of a slump is to work hard informed his every effort.

With his porn-star pony-tail flying, he gamely lumbered after everything that moved up front for Liverpool. But the ball seemed programmed not to fall easily for him. It skimmed off his head from a Stewart Downing cross, it pattered into Micah Richards's path from one of his lay-offs, it landed on Joleon Lescott's forehead every time the two of them competed for it.

And while his opposite number Mario Balotelli briefly demonstrated that big men can have the quickest of feet, Carroll's own feet seemed largely designed to trip him up. As they did when he charged after a through ball and splatted into the turf under no challenge but his own, his tumble serenaded by mockery from the home stands. This, incidentally, was all during a period of Liverpool ascendancy.

Behind Carroll, Steven Gerrard bossed possession, controlling things with his urgent, insistent passing and scoring with an unequivocally struck penalty.

Craig Bellamy, meanwhile, piled in on everything, offering his former clubmates a constant threat. And that was just his facial expressions.

But from Carroll there came little of note, beyond a diving header from a Bellamy cross which skimmed wide enough of Joe Hart's post not to cause the 'keeper any alarm.

The pity was, his inconsequential performance came when he was up against Stefan Savic, another of the reasons the suspended Vincent Kompany is valued so highly around the Etihad. If ever there was an opportunity to bully a centre-back in the way that Carroll's frame insists must be in his armoury, this was it. But he failed to take it.

A year on from his move south, Carroll remains a victim of what appears to be the most ill-fated transfer window in football history. The four most prominent players to step through it have all found themselves, for different reasons, cursed. Carroll, Torres, David Luiz and Luis Suarez: how all four must wish they could reverse the clock.

The absent Suarez, at least, had not been forgotten. They Liverpool faithful chanted his name loud and long. Then, in a suggestion that rapprochement may not be uppermost in their minds ahead of the FA Cup summit with Manchester United, added "we're not racist, we only hate Mancs".

Of Carroll's name, however, there was not a whisper. And he, at least according to the team sheet, was playing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent