ANDY Carroll is set to have his England hopes dashed for a second match running today, and the striker’s latest injury could cause Newcastle United a major headache at the weekend.
The Gateshead-born 21-year-old reported for international duty last night. However, his first experience of the senior squad is expected to be brief after complaining of a groin injury in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham.
England’s medical team will assess the problem today and are expected to rule Carroll out of Wednesday’s friendly with France.
Of greater concern to Newcastle is the thought of being without their number nine for Saturday’s Premier League trip to a resurgent Bolton.
Fellow striker Shola Ameobi missed the draw with Fulham, and according to manager Chris Hughton “will be tight for next weekend” after injuring his ankle in Wednesday’s defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
Were both strikers to be ruled out at the Reebok, Hughton would be left with Peter Løvenkrands, Nile Ranger and Xisco to choose from.
Løvenkrands demonstrated again on Saturday he is low on form and confidence, while his replacement for the final quarter of an hour, Nile Ranger,
is yet to score in the Premier League. Spanish Under-21 international Xisco remained on the bench for the whole 90 minutes even as Newcastle pressed for a winning goal. It was his first involvement in a matchday squad since the second week of the season. His last Newcastle start was in January 2009.
Carroll has scored seven goals already this season, and he and Ameobi are fundamental to the team’s style of play because Hughton likes Løvenkrands or Kevin Nolan to play off a tall targetman. He was widely expected to be called into Fabio Capello’s England squad for last month’s qualifier at home to Montenegro.
He was left out of the Under-21 squad for a home-and-away play-off with Romania, but Bolton’s Kevin Davies was surprisingly preferred instead.
Carroll’s impending court case for assault may have been a factor, but last week Capello met with Football Association officials and won their blessing to pick the Newcastle player.
The Italian’s is an experimental squad for the Wembley friendly – Carroll was one of four uncapped players – which contained only four strikers.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is also a doubt after coming off injured for Aston Villa against Manchester United on Saturday. West Ham United’s Carlton Cole has been drafted in to supplement Peter Crouch and Cardiff City’s Jay Bothroyd.
If Carroll’s off-the-field activities are a concern to the FA – and Capello admitted as much at the weekend – there have been other irritations.
There was disquiet when Carroll pulled out of September’s matches against Portugal and Lithuania, but recovered in time for his next club match, at home to Blackpool.
If Newcastle have injury concerns up front for the Bolton game, suspensions are causing them problems in midfield. The in-form Joey Barton was sorely missed against Fulham, serving the first of a three-game ban.
Cheik Tioté will also be unavailable at the Reebok after collecting a fifth booking of the season fouling Andy Johnson.
The combative Ivorian has made an instant impression since joining from FC Twente in August, but Hughton was philosophical about his absence.
“Tioté is a competitive player, he would have had a long way to go to get to that deadline where the fifth booking doesn’t count (for a suspension),” he reasoned. “We have to work around it. It was inevitable. We miss him next week and we just have to get the benefits of it because he is a big loss.”
Tioté is in the Ivory Coast’s squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Poland in Chorzow, so should at least be able to keep his match fitness up ahead of Chelsea’s visit on November 28.