Roy Carroll: Journeyman Keeper

Roy Carroll

Roy Carroll’s career has been one of highs and lows, from title triumphs to high-profile errors, in a career that has spanned over two decades Carroll has played football at the highest level, represented his country, overcome off-field struggles and also has a managerial career that is currently bettered by few others.

Ray Carroll was raised in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and started his footballing career as a goalkeeper for Fivemiletown United and Ballinamallard United before getting his chance to move across the water when he signed for Second Division side Hull City in1995. Carroll made his debut for Hull in January 1996 and impressed enough against Swindon Town to retain his place in the side. Carroll would go onto make a total of 23 appearances during the 1995-96 season as Hull finished rock bottom with only five wins all season but Carroll impressed enough to win the clubs Player of the Year trophy and was the subject of interest from clubs higher up the football pyramid such as relegated Premier Division side Bolton Wanderers but Carroll opted to stay with The Tigers. The 1996-97 season started well for Hull in the Third Division but they eventually slumped to a mid-table finish and after making 50 appearances for the club in total Carroll was sold to Third Division champions Wigan Athletic for a fee of £350,000 to help ease Hull’s financial woes.

Carroll was Wigan’s record signing at the time but he had to be patient when he first signed and didn’t make his debut for the club until November 1997, when he came on as a substitute in a 2-1 defeat against Watford. After this Carroll went on to firmly establish himself as Wigan’s first choice keeper and a fan favourite, finishing runner up in the clubs Player of the Year award on two occasions and also being names the Second Division Goalkeeper of the Year in the 1999-2000 season. Carroll was also part of the Wigan team that won the Football League Trophy in 1998-1999, starting the final as the Latics beat Millwall 1-0. Carroll helped Wigan reach the play-offs in three of his four seasons at the club but unfortunately they couldn’t win promotion and eventually in July 2001, after 169 appearances for Wigan in all competitions, Carroll couldn’t say no when one of the biggest clubs in the world came calling.

In July 2001, Carroll signed for Manchester United for a fee of £2.5 million. Carroll spent four seasons at United and while he was mostly understudy to Fabian Barthez and Tim Howard during this time he proved a more than able deputy when called upon during his first three seasons and he was rewarded at the end of the 2003-04 season when he started the FA Cup final as United beat Millwall 3-0. In the 2004-05 season, his last with United, Carroll was handed more of a chance as he shared goalkeeping duties with Howard but unfortunately a number of errors, including a particularly high-profile one when he spilled a long range effort from Spurs Pedro Mendes over the line, only for the goal to not be given anyway, led to Carroll being released.

After leaving United Carroll signed for newly promoted West Ham but despite a good start injuries as well as entering rehab to overcome alcohol and gambling problems halted Carroll’s progress with the Hammers and he was eventually released after two years and this was followed by a brief spell with Rangers and a spell with Derby County, during this time The Rams were relegated from the Premiership with the lowest points tally in Premiership history.

After leaving Derby in August 2009 Carroll moved abroad and had a successful spell with Danish side Odense Boldklub, during which time he was named the Superliga Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009. In January 2011 Carroll’s contact with Odense was cancelled and he had trials with a number of clubs in England including Barnet. During this trial period at Barnet the clubs manager, Martin Allen, was left and Carroll was named as caretake manager for the sides Herts Senior Cup final against Stevenage, which they won 2-1. This result means Carroll has won his only game as a manager to date and must surely be one of the only ‘manager’s to have won a trophy in their first game in charge.

Carroll got his playing career back up and running when he joined Greek side OFI Crete in August 2011, despite some fitness issues and struggling for form upon first season Carroll soon regained his footing and put in some impressive displays that soon began to attract the interest of bigger clubs in Greece. In January 2011, Carroll was on the move again when he signed for another Greek Superleague outfit, Olympiacos. Carroll stayed with Olympiacos for two and a half years, making 33 appearances and helping the team win the league three times and the Greek Cup twice. Carroll also revived his international career while in Greece. Internationally Carroll made his international debut in a 0-0 draw against Thailand and went onto make 19 appearances up until September 2006, when he played in Northern Ireland’s famous 3-2 win over Spain but was forced off after less than 15 minutes with a groin injury. It would be six years before Carroll played internationally again, when he came on as a sub in a friendly over Holland and he has since went on to win a further 25 caps for his country, was named the Northern Ireland International Personality of the Year in 2013, was part of the Northern Ireland squad for Euro 2016 and still provided backup for Michael McGovern at the moment.

In August 2014, Carroll moved back to England and signed for Notts County where he spent the next two seasons, making 84 appearances, and then he returned to his native Northern Ireland and joined up with this former international teammate Davis Healy when he signed for Linfield on a one year contract in August 2016. Last season Carroll was a key player as Linfield won the league, Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield and was rewarded for his fine form with another year at Windsor Park.

Carroll remains Linfield’s first choice keeper though this season Linfield are well off the pace as they currently occupy 5th place and are nine points behind league leaders Linfield and have also been knocked out of the County Antrim Shield but Linfield were ruled out of the title chase by many people this time last year and came out of nowhere to when it and with the Irish Cup starting for Linfield in January you would be foolish to rule the 40-year-old Carroll out of winning some more silverware.