Gerrard can spark Carroll renaissance

Liverpool great Steve McManaman tips £35m striker to flourish alongside fit-again captain

MISFIRING £35m England striker Andy Carroll has been backed to rediscover his goalscoring touch now that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is fit to resume his role as the team’s inspiration.

Carroll has netted just three in 21 appearances this season, plummeted down the England pecking order amid criticism of his fitness and struggled to justify his billing as the most expensive British player ever.

But the eight-match suspension of strike partner Luis Suarez means he looks poised for a lengthy chance to state his claim, with tonight’s FA Cup third round tie against League One Oldham his latest audition.

Former Anfield hero Steve McManaman believes Carroll will prove his doubters wrong, and that the recovery from injury of Gerrard promises to be the catalyst for the youngster’s improvement.

“Gerrard is Liverpool’s best player, and arguably England’s best player. His assists are wonderful – ask Fernando Torres what they were like,” said McManaman (inset), ESPN football analyst, ahead of the broadcaster’s coverage of three FA Cup matches this weekend.

“His delivery, crossing, passing, his ability to read the game is second to none, and it should help any centre forward, whether it be Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres or Andy Carroll.

“It’s all about quality. I thought Carroll played well against Man City [on Tuesday] but he was up against a very good defence, and Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure were brilliant the other day. He won’t come up against defenders like that every single week.

“Against Oldham, there should be that extra yard of space on the pitch, there should be a central defender that doesn’t read the game as well as Kompany.

“The most important thing is that he is playing well. I’d rather he was playing well every game than just nicking the odd goal – and I think he’s been doing that of late.”

ESPN football analyst Steve McManaman was speaking ahead of the sports media company’s live and exclusive coverage of three FA Cup third round matches this weekend: Birmingham v Wolves (12pm tomorrow), Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa (4.30pm tomorrow) and Arsenal v Leeds United (7pm Monday).

CARROLL’S STRUGGLE | HOW £35M MAN HAS FLOUNDERED

THIS SEASON VS LAST

Comparison of Carroll’s start to this season at Liverpool and his flying first half of the last campaign at Newcastle lays bare his poor form. in his last 20 games for the Magpies he netted 11 times at a rate of one every 151 minutes; this time he has managed just three in 21, or 0.14 goals per game.

427mins
Between Carroll goals this season

CARROLL VS BA AND

TORRES

Even the man Carroll replaced, £50m Fernando Torres, has fared slightly better than him this year, while the man who replaced Carroll at Newcastle, Demba Ba, has put both firmly in the shade with 15 goals in 21 games, or one every 107 minutes, compared to Carroll’s 427 minutes.