Carroll gets a debut as England turn to youth
Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Kieran Gibbs to start for England against France
England coach Fabio Capello will use tonight's friendly at Wembley against France to blood youngsters Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Kieran Gibbs. All three are confirmed starters with the 21-year-old Carroll having shaken off a groin strain. But Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has left the England squad after failing to recover from a leg injury and doubts remain over goalkeeper Joe Hart (back) and Phil Jagielka (flu). Ben Foster and Micah Richards are on standby should either of the pair fail a late fitness test.
Though the 21-year-old Gibbs made his international debut in August against Hungary (the Arsenal left-back's one and only cap to date), neither Newcastle striker Carroll nor Sunderland's 20-year-old midfielder Jordan Henderson have played at senior level before. And Capello revealed that Carroll would have featured for England during last month's Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro had it not been for his off-field antics. The Newcastle star appeared in court twice in October on two separate charges of assault and was also accused by a tabloid of indulging in an alcohol-fuelled orgy after a league match against Sunderland. "I will speak to him about his private life," said Capello. "Everyone makes mistakes when they're young. He's really young, he's 21. We have to help him."
But Capello also a issued a warning to Carroll, making it clear it's time for him to grow up now that he is representing England. "He has to understand now that he's in the senior team, and there will be journalists, photographers, everyone focusing on him," said Capello. "Life will be different now. His behaviour has to be better. He can't make mistakes like he made before."
With experienced players such as Ashley Cole, John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard all out injured, it will be down to captain Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard to guide the youngsters through what should be an entertaining encounter against a French side that is also looking to rebuild after a disastrous 2010. And Ferdinand believes the new generation of England players has what it takes. "There's nothing better than seeing a young lad come through and make his debut," he said. "They're not fazed these young lads. They've come through the youth system together and they're loving it."
Ferdinand echoed Capello's words about Carroll's need to mature but also expressed sympathy for the big Geordie frontman. "Responsibility is a big thing. As a young player, it took me a while to understand the responsibilities of a footballer," explained Ferdinand. "The sooner you learn that as a young players, the fewer mistakes you'll make over your career.... [Carroll's] in a goldfish bowl in Newcastle. It's different to most places in England. In London you can hide and get away from things. In Newcastle you can't. He's not a small lad, either. He can't walk in somewhere and not be recognised. For a young man to come into that, in the first 18 months of his career, and be thrown into the spotlight, that can be hard... there are so many different factors that determine whether you become a top player, but going out drinking will definitely be to your detriment and will hold you back from being a top, top player."