English rely on Liverpool players after dire year
No club is better represented in England's European Championship squad than Liverpool, yet few players here have experienced a more disappointing domestic league season than those at English football's fallen giant.
After being part of their team's worst Premier League finish since 1994, England's six Liverpool players are hoping for more success on the international stage.
And it's Andy Carroll who Roy Hodgson could be relying on for goals in Monday's opening match against France in Group D, with first-choice striker Wayne Rooney suspended.
English football's most expensive player, who was signed by Liverpool from Newcastle in January 2011 for 35 million pounds (then $65 million), managed just four league goals last season as his side finished eighth.
''A lot was written about Andy throughout the season. Some of it was a bit harsh, to be honest,'' Liverpool and England teammate Stewart Downing said. ''They've paid a lot of money for him, but that's not Andy's fault. He didn't play as many games as he'd have liked ... towards the end he really came into form, last six or seven games.''
Even the Scottish manager of Liverpool's fierce rival Everton seems to think the 1.93-meter (6-foot-4) Carroll can terrorize defenses at Euro 2012.
''Until Wayne Rooney is available for the final group match against Ukraine, the lead role in Hodgson's attack looks likely to be taken by Andy Carroll and tournament football might just suit England's latest No.9,'' David Moyes said.
''In international games players can open your eyes. Carroll scored four Premier League goals last season and might seem a throwback but some big strikers who don't fit the look of an international player have ended up being key men for their countries ... he will be a worry to any team at set plays and, if England get the ball up and around the opposition box, in positions from where they can deliver crosses.''
It didn't work very often for Liverpool, though, with the 18-time English champions finishing way out of the lucrative Champions League places.
A League Cup success and reaching the FA Cup final wasn't enough to save the job of manager Kenny Dalglish, who returned for a second stint after winning eight league titles as a player and coach from 1977-91.
''I just think that as a whole group we were not clinical enough,'' Downing said. ''We were a bit unlucky and I do feel sorry for the manager leaving as he could see that we were building ... at Anfield we battered every team but didn't score enough goals.''
Also with Downing in the England squad from Anfield are midfielders Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, and defenders Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly.
''If there were eight Manchester United players in the team and they didn't win the league, would people be asking why they are here?'' Downing asked reporters in Krakow.
Few players have taken more flak that Downing, who failed to score a goal or manage an assist in the Premier League in his first season since being brought to Liverpool for 20 million pounds (then $32 million) from Aston Villa.
The 27-year-old Downing was asked if he was embarrassed by his poor form.
''The goal thing is, the fact that I didn't get enough goals,'' he said. ''I'm in the team to set goals up and put them on a plate but if no one puts them away ... but I should score more goals.''
But he mounted a staunch defense of his ability, having earned 34 caps since 2005.
''I've been continually picked by the last four or five England managers, I've been signed by two top managers in the game,'' Downing said. ''For me, that's enough. Obviously, these managers are seeing something in my performances and my ability. That's all I concentrate on. I keep my head down and get on with my job.''
Rob Harris can be reached at www.twitter.com/RobHarris