Carrick targets England success

Michael Carrick insists he is prepared to make the sacrifices required to fulfil his potential with England.

With four Premier League titles and three UEFA Champions League finals forming the centre-piece of an outstanding club career, it is bewildering that Carrick should find himself on the brink of what would only be his sixth competitive appearance at international level.

That it will be his first meaningful qualifying game since October 2006 - the trip to Ukraine in October 2009 was a dead-rubber as England had already booked its place in South Africa - is even more startling.

And it could easily have been the full story too given Carrick informed the FA of his decision not to make himself available for EURO 2012 in January, which was restated twice more prior to the departure for Poland and Ukraine in June.

The precise reasons for Carrick's decision have never been properly explained.

Even this week, the laid-back Geordie has found it uncomfortable when conversation moves onto that territory.

Take a little time to piece it all together and a clearer version starts to appear.

Upon taking charge in December 2007, Fabio Capello was unconvinced of Carrick's qualities, a fact that had not changed two-and-a-half years later when the England squad landed in South Africa.

Holed up in that Rustenburg training camp, the sense of isolation only grew with the knowledge Carrick would play no part - not a great reward for leaving behind your week-old son.

A couple of squad calls, but no caps, followed, so in January last year, Carrick merely confirmed a situation he expected would unfold anyway, and told the FA he did not wish to be considered for selection at EURO 2012.

The decision made, Carrick's mind set remained the same, even after Stuart Pearce replaced Capello and Roy Hodgson replaced Pearce.

It was only when former team-mate Gary Neville got involved post EURO 2012, that Carrick changed his mind.

And to prove the move is not as flaky as it would initially appear, he even missed his daughter's first day at school to be part of the group that flew out to Moldova for the start of England's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday evening (Saturday morning AEST) .

"I have two children and a wife and they are a big part of my life but how long have I got left?" he said.

"It's hard. It was my little girl's first day at school this week, going back to the World Cup my little boy was born a week before the tournament. He was seven weeks old when I got back and I had only seen him for five days.

"That comes into it but I have to put that to one side and make the most of what I have left."

And, deep down, Carrick knows that means making an impact with England because, for all the glory and accolades he has collected at United, international football remains the greatest stage.

"It's not so much needing to prove anything to others, it's more from within," he said.

"As a kid England and that was the biggest thing. It should be - and still is. Representing your country is as good as it gets."

It is Sir Alex Ferguson's theory that Carrick has never received the recognition he deserves because he refuses to embrace a public profile like so many top players.

He has started to be talked about though, thanks to the growing influence of passing players in the world game.

When Andrea Pirlo was cutting England apart in that EURO 2012 quarter-final in Kiev, the lament was we did not have our own version.

As it happens, we do.

"Certain situations highlight different things," he said.

"Obviously he (Pirlo) was fantastic. He played so well.

"Whether that's had anything to do with me, I'm not sure.

"What I do know is if I compare myself now to seven or eight years ago, I'm totally different.

"I know the game. Having different experiences helps me cope with certain things.

"Hopefully there's a window before your body starts to slow down. That's the peak that people talk about."

Source PA Sport