UK news Roy Carroll: Fergie kept his word and made me a Cup winner, and I'll forever be grateful for that last news
MetiNews.Com - When it came to the Manchester United of Sir Alex Ferguson, few thought it wise to challenge the gaffer. Fewer still lasted any length of time at Old Trafford having done so.
Breaking News ! "When it came to the Manchester United of Sir Alex Ferguson, few thought it wise to challenge the gaffer. Fewer still lasted any length of time at Old Trafford having done so. But when Roy Carroll accepted a heart-breaking demotion to the substitute’s bench on the eve of the 2004 FA Cup final, it wasn’t just a decision that the Northern Irish keeper felt he couldn’t argue, it was one with which he felt he had no argument.The Fermanagh man had joined United almost three years prior, only after a move to Leicester collapsed when the Foxes instead opted for the more experienced Ian Walker.Carroll had gotten through those initial surreal days of jumping from Wigan Athletic to one of the handful of biggest clubs in the world. The three weeks of sleepless nights between sealing the transfer and the start of pre-season soon forgotten after entering a star-studded changing room where even the then most famous footballer in the world still felt the need to introduce himself.“Hi, I’m David Beckham.”Despite the presence of World Cup winner Fabien Barthez at United, he’d made his debut sooner than expected, named to start for the first time against an Aston Villa side containing Peter Schmeichel, the Reds legend still held up as an example to any with aspirations to United’s number one jersey, and was Ferguson’s first choice as the championship winning season of 2002/03 came to a close.The arrival of Tim Howard from Everton that summer brought fresh competition, but Carroll regained his place when an error from the American against Porto cost United in the Champions League.In the semi-final against Arsenal - at the time aiming to replicate United’s 1999 treble, although they would end up with ‘just’ the title thanks to an an unbeaten league campaign - he’d made key early saves to allow an eventual 1-0 victory, first denying Dennis Bergkamp one-on-one, then, from the resulting corner, showing brilliant agility to spring back up and thwart Kolo Toure when it looked for all the world that the Ivorian was about to nod into an empty net after Edu’s chip came back off the bar. But with six weeks until the final against second-tier Millwall, Howard would work his way back in, Ferguson’s decision conversely strengthening the relationship between himself and his benched keeper.“Sir Alex, I always found him to be the type to tell you the truth whether it was good or bad, and that’s why I respect him so much," reveals Carroll.“The semi-final was one of those games, I had to make a few saves early and they seem larger then when you win the game 1-0.“But that doesn’t mean you deserve to keep your place for the final. You still have to perform.“There were a lot of games in between and I knew I was playing pretty badly in the league games. As a footballer, but a goalkeeper especially, you know yourself when you’re not at your best. You have to be at the level every game, you can’t for a second think that if you’re not performing that you’re still going to get to play.“If you’re not performing in the games before the cup final, you give the manager a decision to make, and Sir Alex did what he had to do."He said to me ‘Roy, you just haven’t been performing well', and I could only agree with him.”There was a carrot to go with the stick, Ferguson adding that he hoped to take the unusual step of bringing his reserve keeper on as a sub should the game be going well. As the minutes ticked away though, Carroll assumed his chance had gone. His manager, though, having hoarded his substitutions, called for him, Nicky Butt and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the moment Ruud van Nistelrooy’s penalty made it 3-0 in the 82nd minute.“I didn’t think it would happen, but Sir Alex is a man of his word. That’s why he’s not just a great manager but a great man," Carroll says.“I could go on and on and on about that experience. To play those eight minutes, to lift the trophy, it was amazing. That’s every young lad’s dream. Especially coming from Northern Ireland, a small country, and County Fermanagh, a small county, it just shows you that the opportunity is still there. I’ll never forget it.”While a handful of Carroll’s international colleagues - Tony Capaldi, Alex Bruce and Craig Cathcart - would lose later finals, no player from Northern Ireland has won a medal since. Nobody came closer than Carroll himself.By the next year’s final, Carroll knew his days at Old Trafford were numbered. He loved playing for United but loved playing football more and, with the imminent arrival of Edwin van der Saar from Fulham, had decided to turn down the chance to extend his stay.While others in the same situation could have found themselves frozen out, Ferguson placed his trust in Carroll more than ever before. While it was not all plain-sailing - containing as it did the infamous Pedro Mendes ‘Ghost-Goal’ controversy - his last season in Manchester would see him play 26 times in the league and make five further appearances in the Champions League.Come cup final day and the meeting with rivals Arsenal, there was little debate over who’d be between the sticks.
. “That’s what football is about for me though,” says Carroll, who counts the 4-2 win that tempestuous Super Sunday as one of his best moments in football.“With Arsenal and Man United, it was always a battle. Football is about passion, and in those days there wasn’t a more passionate game than United versus Arsenal. You saw that on many occasions between the supporters, between the players. It was two great clubs, at that time with two great teams.”The 2005 FA Cup final was not to be a great game however, though still a particularly painful one for Carroll and his team-mates, losing on penalties after dominating 120 minutes of a 0-0 draw.“We were all over them but we just couldn’t score,” said Carroll. “You think of United, you think of those late winners, but it just wouldn’t come. Then when you're talking penalties, like we saw in the Irish Cup last week, it’s just pot-luck.”Having barely troubled the United goal all afternoon, Arsene Wenger’s men made no mistake from the spot. Lauren, Freddie Ljunberg, Robin van Persie, Ashley Cole all dispatching the ball with unerring accuracy, while only Paul Scholes, up second for United, saw his kick saved.Carroll guessed the right way for Arsenal’s fifth and decisive effort but was fingertips away from Viera’s winning strike. “It’s strange for a keeper because nobody blames you, but you still want to take that chance to be a hero. But I couldn’t get near the penalties. They were great penalties. It’s a horrible way to lose any game, let alone an FA Cup final, and an awful way to finish at United.“But that’s a perfect example of what a career in football is like, one year being so amazing and one year being so horrible. You’re up and down like a yo-yo all the time.”Moving onto West Ham, Carroll could have found himself playing in the final for a third year in succession but a lengthy spell on the sidelines after back surgery meant it was Shaka Hislop, not the Northern Ireland man, suffering the pain of seeing Steven Gerrard’s unforgettable injury-time equaliser fly into his bottom corner with Liverpool going on to win on penalties.“I can still picture that now watching,” Carroll says. “The ball should have went back to our keeper and been booted up the pitch, then we win. But instead the throw goes to Liverpool and Steven Gerrard does what Steven Gerrard does.“I remember coming onto the pitch in my suit and trying to lift Anton Ferdinand who’d missed his penalty.“I felt like I knew what he was going through after the year before. I tried to give him a bit of support because that’s incredibly hard to take for any player.”That was Carroll's last experience of the FA Cup showpiece but there’d be many more memorable days left in a career that would subsequently take him to Rangers, Derby, Odense, Crete, Olympiacos, Notts County and, finally, back home to his boyhood club Linfield where an ACL injury ended his playing days last spring at the age of 41.It’ll be a long while, you figure, before any player hangs up his gloves with an array of winners medals as diverse as an FA Cup, a Greek Cup and an Irish Cup, and Carroll has now turned his attention to the next generation, his RC1 goalkeeping school seeing him pass on the knowledge he accumulated over the course of more than 500 club games as well as 45 international caps.“I want to give something back to Northern Ireland football,” he says of his motivations. “When I was growing up I didn’t feel like I got enough goalkeeping coaching and that’s something I’d love to help make sure doesn’t happen to kids today.”You really need to work on the technique, but not only that, the mental side too.”As I know only too well, it’s a tough position to play when you know any mistake you make will be a goal. You have to give kids that belief. When I was 14 or 15 there weren’t too many people who believed that I’d go on to play for the best team in the world but I did.”We haven’t produced enough goalkeepers, and in my view we should be having four or five a year going across the water.”And it’s not just England and Scotland - to Australia, to Greece, to Denmark or Spain, kids can play anywhere.”From County Fermanagh to the biggest cup final of them all, Roy Carroll offers considerable proof of that."
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