HE lasted 70 minutes at the venue of legends but didn’t do himself any harm.
Andy Carroll was solid if unspectacular on his international debut for England against the French.
It wasn’t quite the glory of Alan Shearer in 1992 at Wembley but last night a dream was realised for a young Geordie who was playing for the Newcastle United reserves at the home of West Allotment Celtic two years ago.
Carroll had only just started kicking a ball in 1998 when France won the World Cup but last night spearheaded England’s new generation against a Laurent Blanc team desperate for better times.
It was an emotional one for his Geordie friends and relatives in the stand but he done them all proud. Carroll looked a relived figure as he trotted out for the warm-up following a day of “will he or won’t he?” speculation after Newcastle United contacted the FA to raise concerns over his fitness.
Yet those anxieties must have been quickly wiped away as Carroll made his way out to face a 85,495 crowd.
At that stage it must have felt like more than a friendly affair as the national anthems were pumped out beneath the Wembley arch with Carroll stood next to Liverpool star and strike partner for the night Steven Gerrard.
It could not have been a prouder moment for parents Tommy and Susan, those who introduced him into football at Low Fell Juniors, the Academy staff at Newcastle and his managers from Glenn Roeder – who handed him his Toon debut – right up to Chris Hughton.
The opening quarter of the game saw England offer little in the final third in terms of real clear-cut chances with Carroll looking like an isolated figure – but as always in the career of the young Geordie he scrapped and battle to try to make something happen. However, what Carroll did have to do he did it very well.
Some good combination play with Gerrard, several flick-ons from the long balls England did manager to produce and a shot on target after a rare first-half opening for Capello’s side.
All in all, Carroll’s opening 45 minutes of senior international football had been much more than respectable.
Therefore while his reappearance on a wet Wembley pitch may have left Newcastle and their fans feeling slightly edgy, it was no surprise Capello went with him again for the second period.
Having slipped behind to Karim Benzema’s first-half goal, nothing that Carroll done could stop them doubling their lead when Mathieu Valbuena rattled home a second for the French.
Carroll kept pushing though and after giving Mexes a rough ride in first half he also served up plenty of food for thought for his replacement Mamadou Sakho and his defensive partner Adil Rami.
He leapt up in trademark style on 70 minutes to head Gerrard’s free-kick at Llrois. But it proved to be his final act of the night on the hallowed Wembley turf.
Jay Bothroyd replaced Carroll with 20 minutes to go and the Geordie left the field to a rich standing ovation.
He’d done his bit. Toon fans will now hope he can do it again on Saturday at the Reebok Stadium.
The only difference being that he will turn up at Bolton Wanderers as Andy Carroll – the England AND Newcastle United number 9.