blogAuthor: michaelcalvin | Filed under: Blog
When the mood at Anfield darkens and the search for scapegoats begins, the name of Andy Carroll tends to be taken in vain. The lank-haired striker is an easy target, despite scoring the goal which took Liverpool to Saturday’s FA Cup final. There are 35 million reasons to disbelieve.
Carroll cannot help his transfer fee, but has hardly helped himself. Some critics coyly question supposed “lifestyle issues”. Others are more direct. They wonder if he realises his responsibility to Liverpool, club and city. He’s an ordinary kid, asked to play Superman.
It isn’t going to happen, and it misses the point by the length of the Mersey Tunnel. If any player has to be the fall guy for Liverpool’s schizophrenic season – and given the current climate there is no avoiding the indignity – then Stewart Downing fits the bill.
No one needs a better final – assuming he is selected, of course – than the winger who has defined diffidence. Damien Comolli is doing the media rounds next week, to prove there is life after his sacking by Liverpool, and it would be no surprise if he confirms Downing’s name was on his P45. If he is worth £20million, a third-hand Fiat Punto is a bargain at £200,000.
Downing fails any test you’d like to mention, objective or subjective. He has yet to score a goal this season, or provide a solitary assist, in the Premier League. He has scored just twice, against Oldham and Stoke in the FA Cup.
His modus operandi – a dribble, followed by a poor cross or an abject attempt to cut inside – is as predictable as a tabloid exposé involving Simon Cowell. He simply doesn’t look like a player with his CV. His body language screams indifference.
Downing has pace, but so does Kauto Star. He has an England career, but so did the chronically unreliable Glen Johnson until Roy Hodgson, his least favourite manager, was anointed by the Football Association. He has heart, but it requires a microscope to find it.
It takes courage to play for a club of Liverpool’s size and status. It requires character to pull on that red shirt, especially at Wembley. Luis Suarez has it. Stewart Downing does not. The jury is out on Andy Carroll, but he does not deserve to stand alone in the dock.