Roy Carroll without a club
REPUTATIONS are important in football. Unfortunately for Roy Carroll, he doesn’t have much of one.
This is a man who had four years at Manchester United, played for Northern Ireland and recently won awards at Denmark’s Odense.
Considering his position as a keeper, he should be in his prime at 33. Instead, he will head to a gym near his Essex home today in a bid to keep fit on his own as he cannot find a club.
Carroll has a reputation, all right, but one as a heavy drinker and a bit of a gambler.
He accepts most fans remember him for conceding The Goal That Never Was, a lob from Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes which he fumbled a few yards over the line yet, incredibly, the strike was never given.
Managers forgive that sort of stuff. They are, however, more concerned about the rumour mill and whether a player will apply himself in a professional manner.
Yet Carroll has every right to feel aggrieved.
It seems a decision to confront his demons and check into rehab in 2006 while at West Ham for alcohol issues continues to haunt him.
Carroll feared this sudden downward spiral could have killed him so he sorted it.
He fiercely maintains these problems were addressed and have not been a major issue since.
As for the gambling, during that spell at Upton Park he did indeed play poker for money – and owed a fair amount to team-mates at one stage – but Carroll stresses booze was the main problem which needed treating.
After 18 months in Scandinavia – where he won keeper-of-the-year accolades without any stories at all of boozing and gambling while being praised for his good behaviour and attitude – Carroll now realises getting a club in this country is not as simple as he expected.
He left Derby for Odense in August 2009 where, ironically, he would be brought in above Anders Lindegaard, now the new No 2 at Old Trafford.
Carroll said: “I signed a three-year contract and planned to move my wife and two children there.
“But my son, Jordan, is dyslexic and in the end, I felt the move – with him having to learn Danish at school – would be too much for the boy.
“I really loved it in Denmark but I was only coming home twice a month and I missed my family and, to be honest, I missed English football.
“Odense understood, were brilliant and cancelled my contract during their winter break. I thought I would find another club reasonably easily.
“But that has not been the case. It has pretty much ruined my career, the drink thing. Managers keep bringing it up – drink – and it is so frustrating.
“I was never an alcoholic. It was a problem, I admit, because it was getting worse and worse.
“Now I can go out twice a month, go out with friends and have a drink. There is nothing wrong with letting your hair down.
“But I want to play football. At the moment, I sit in the house thinking ‘why isn’t anyone interested in me? Are they worried about me regarding the drink?’
“Even if it is a deal until the end of the season, I would like to prove my point.
“Look at Brad Friedel, David James, Edwin Van Der Sar – he’s got better with age. But my reputation’s made things tough.
“At West Ham I suffered a back injury, was out for six months, had been replaced by Robert Green and I became really depressed.
“I went through a stage of my life when I was binge drinking. I was stupid.
“All I wanted to do was go out and drink. I then woke up one day and said this could not continue.
“I thought if I don’t sort it out, I’d end up six foot under.
“At training on Monday and Tuesdays, I didn’t want to know. Alan Pardew was wonderful with me, though, and was very understanding.
“I went into rehab and ended up in the news pages of your paper.
“Yet my mistake was that I tried to push it under the carpet and I never spoke about it publicly, like I am today.
“Since then, whenever something bad has happened or I made a mistake, it has been ‘Roy Carroll has a bad attitude – he drinks and gambles’.
“At West Ham, we played poker in the team hotels but it was never the major problem.
“I still play poker with friends now and I enjoy it.
“As for going to the bookies, I do not understand racing or know why anyone would want to put money on football as there is no enjoyment in that.”
Yet Carroll also found mud sticks. He found himself the subject of rumour again at Derby when a match against Norwich provoked some strange betting patterns linked to the Far East.
Carroll had been sent off while Norwich keeper David Marshall let in a soft winner.
He brings up this subject and admits: “There was stuff sort of pointing the finger without actually naming me, while Marshall was also mentioned. It was frustrating.”
Yet ask Carroll about life under Alex Ferguson at United and a broad grin appears.
He won a Premier League medal in 2003 and an FA Cup medal 12 months later and admitted: “Sir Alex brought me on against Millwall with five minutes to go because he said I’d done well in the semi-final.
“He actually offered me a new four-year contract in 2005 but would not guarantee first-team football.
“Yet he was always fantastic with me and, even when I left, he always said if I ever needed anything I should ring.”
The son of an English soldier who moved to Ulster in the 1970s, Carroll admits he will never live down that night against Spurs on January 4, 2005.
He said: “It’s football. Freak accidents happen. I know that’s what I am most famous for – ‘the goal that wasn’t’.
“The worst thing about it was I ended up moving to West Ham and Spurs fans live round here in Epping. It was a nightmare!”
As for now, Carroll said: “I just want to play and, while I am keeping myself fit, it’s not the same as training each day.
“I do not want to look like I’m desperate, crying to get back in, but I would really like to return.
“I feel I have several years left in me and I do not want to go back into Europe. I just want a chance in England.”