Andy Carroll was almost dumped by Newcastle United as a 15 year-old.
It was only the intervention of John Carver, who had been handed a new role in charge of the Academy by successor Graeme Souness, that prevented Carroll being thrown on to the scrap heap.
England’s latest call-up has come a long way since the days when he was playing as a defender for Newcastle Under-16s, simply because at his age group there weren’t enough left-footers.
“It often happens,” said Carver, now working with another Toon old boy, Gary Speed, at Sheffield United.
“Left-footed players are asked to do a job for the team.
“Andy had joined us as a forward but was moved into the back four due to the shortage of left-backs.
“At the end of that season, a decision had to be made on his future and a couple of the coaches didn’t think he was good enough.
“Others pushed his claims and, in the end, it was up to me to decide whether he got a two-year scholarship.
“You can’t judge someone when they’re playing out of position. Fortunately, I’d seen him play up front, so it was a no-brainer.”
Carroll’s promotion to the England side for tonight’s clash with France does not surprise Carver, who recalls something the late Sir Bobby Robson told him during their years together when he was assistant boss at Newcastle.
“Sir Bobby always said the best way to judge a player was to imagine yourself up against him,” added Carver.
“If you enjoyed playing against a certain opponent, then he couldn’t be the greatest footballer.
“No defender relishes the prospect of coming up against Andy. He certainly passes Sir Bobby’s test. He ruffles up defenders, bullies them, doesn’t give them any peace.
“Of course, he still has a lot to learn, but I don’t go along with those who think he is not ready for England.
“Who would you rather mark? Andy Carroll, Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch?
“Andy had never been a prolific goalscorer,” said Carver. “His big hero has always been Alan Shearer, but, to me, he was much more a Duncan Ferguson clone.
“I saw him as someone who would get you 10 or 12 goals a season but help his partner score 20.
“But he has become a lot more prolific and the credit has to go to Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood.
“He’s got a great shot, scores from all angles and is almost unplayable in the air.”