Roy's rollercoaster career is on the up

Published: 22 Nov 2012 13:000 comments

Back playing Champions League football, restored to number one for Northern Ireland, and settled into a sunny climate lifestyle with his family.

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Life couldn't be better for Roy Carroll.

But it wasn't always like that with the keeper going off the rails when he left Manchester United.

"I got a bad name in football," Roy concedes. "I was relatively young, was out of the game injured for six months and became more interested in going out drinking and having a good time."

At one stage, it looked as though Roy's footballing career, which had hit glittering heights at Manchester United before stuttering in spells at West Ham, Glasgow Rangers and Derby County was heading for the rocks. There were tales of heavy drinking and gambling, and he concedes that at one stage no manager would take a chance on him.

So it's to his credit that he has pulled it, and his life generally, around.

When Roy was in the Province last week for the Northern Ireland game, I met him for a long chat. He looked tanned and relaxed, and with a great mature outlook on life.

Roy Carroll always wanted to be a footballer.

Brought up in Tamlaght, he went to Lisbellaw Primary School, then on to Enniskillen High School.

He recalls: "One day our careers teacher asked us to write down things we wanted to be. I wrote down footballer," laughs Roy. "He said that would be very difficult, but I just said no, that's what I want to be."

"When I went back a few years later he shook my hand; he was pleased for me."

He started playing keeper for the High School at the age of 12 and by the age of 14 was playing against men for Fivemiletown seconds.

Football was in the blood. His brother, Bob, had trials with Arsenal but came home.

And Roy also recalls travelling a lot to watch his dad, Bob senior play in goals for Fivemiletown.

"He was an excellent keeper, I remember watching him make great saves. He shouted a lot too," Roy jokes.

By the age of 16, he had transferred to play in the B division for Ballinamallard. And his big break came on the day he let in five goals at Dundela!

One of the Duns scorers that day was Stephen Fettis, brother of Northern Ireland keeper Alan Fettis.

"He asked me if I would like to go for trials at Hull City. He'd scored a few against me so I thought he was taking the mickey! But when I found out he was serious I jumped at the chance," says Roy.

By the time he had just turned 17, Roy was a professional footballer.

"It was tough moving away. I was homesick at the start. In October that year, I phoned my dad and he told me to stick at it, that I could come home at Christmas.

"But by Christmas I was in the first team squad, so had to stay there. My first Christmas away from home and I was microwaving my Christmas dinner!"

Nowadays, Fermanagh has four players in the Northern Ireland squad, but in the early 90s Roy Carroll was a rarity -- someone from the Fermanagh and Western making it big in England.

He moved on to Wigan, and then came the dream move to Old Trafford as Manchester United player.

"The club was fantastic. For the first time I had my own goalkeeping coach and Tony Coton taught me a lot.

"Off the field it was like a big family. It's a great community, with everybody from the dinner ladies pulling together. Sir Alex Ferguson says nobody is bigger than the club."

Roy saw the high life at Old Trafford, a Premiership medal, playing in an FA Cup final, European football and even the famous goal that wasn't against Spurs!

After 70 appearances in four years, he felt it was time to move on.

"I don't regret leaving at all," says Roy. "I sat in Sir Alex's office and he said you will struggle to be number one with a new keeper coming in. I respect him for that. I didn't want another three or four year contract and not play much."

He wasn't to know, however, that events would deal him a tough blow. He moved to West Ham and his first day at his new club saw him sustain a back injury which eventually sidelined him for six months.

Still relatively young at 27, Roy didn't handle it well.

"It was my own fault, The things I did off the pitch were my own fault. I was going out having a good time and not concentrating on football. You can't do that as a professional," he says.

"I was arguing with managers too. I look back now and there are things I wish I hadn't done."

Roy had ill-fated spells at Rangers and Derby, but didn't manage to settle, and then came the chance to play in Denmark.

There were signs that his game was improving.

But Roy turned down the chance of staying.

His wife, Kerry, their son Jordan (now 13) and nine-year-old daughter, Ellie, were living back in London.

"Any day off I got, I was travelling back to see them. I'd had four years of moving around clubs and they still lived in London. I missed out on some of their growing up and it wasn't good that a husband and father was only there once every two or three weeks." he says.

Back in England, he did some coaching with Barnet, and there appeared to be a contract at Preston.

"But," says Roy, "it fell through when Phil Brown changed his mind. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Out of the blue came an offer from a Greek agent to go to a club in Crete.

"It was a small club, but they had ambition. The fans were good and it was a chance to play football again," says Roy.

He discussed it with his wife and the family agreed to move out to Athens.

The lifestyle, he says, is brilliant. Walking about at Christmas time in shorts and t-shirt -- a far cry from microwave turkey in wintry Hull!

Within five months, Olympiacos, the biggest club in Greece came calling. And Roy had no hesitation.

"My family is really happy and when you're a family man that's important. Now, everything is good. My contract is up in the summer, but I'm hoping to stay. It's a fantastic club with passionate supporters," he says.

It's all a far cry from his early days at Tamlaght, and you have to say his career has been a roller coaster.

It's definitely on the upward curve now.

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