Belfast Telegraph

Roy Carroll has appetite to help Linfield land more silverware

By Graham Luney

Long before a ball was kicked in anger at the start of the Danske Bank Premiership in August, Irish League fans needed to sit down and recover from the shock of four big-name arrivals.

Northern Ireland internationals Roy Carroll, Sammy Clingan (both Linfield) and Paddy McCourt (Glenavon) hoped to sprinkle some of their magic dust on pitches across the country while Rangers legend Nacho Novo pulled on a Glentoran jersey.

McCourt left the Lurgan Blues in December and is now aiming to resurrect his career at Finn Harps and Novo has failed to inspire a Glentoran team that has slumped to eighth place in the table.

Clingan showed glimpses of his class at Windsor Park but the midfielder's career continues to be haunted by injuries.

Carroll, however, has made the biggest impact of the fab four by some distance - on and off the pitch at Linfield, where his leadership qualities and shot-stopping skills have helped keep David Healy's side challenging for the big prizes.

The man who began his career in the youth ranks at Fivemiletown United and Ballinamallard United may be approaching his 40th birthday in September but he's been the best goalkeeper in the Premiership this season.

And the good news for Blues fans is that the former Manchester United No.1 is not in the mood to hang up his gloves just yet.

With his one-year deal expiring at the end of the season, Healy will make a call on his former international team-mate's future but Carroll's performances this campaign certainly warrant a new contract.

The Fermanagh man, who has won 44 Northern Ireland caps, says his mind is sharp and his body feels good. Ahead of Saturday's Tennent's Irish Cup quarter-final against Crusaders at Seaview, the former West Ham and Wigan stopper has hinted that an extended stay at Windsor Park could be on the horizon.

"I'm still enjoying my football and being with the boys at Linfield," said Carroll.

"The training three times a week and the game on the Saturday is all rewarding for me at this stage of my career.

"At the moment I've got the desire to keep going but we'll see what happens. Football is a funny game, I've had a lot of ups and downs in my career and of course I lost my place in the Northern Ireland team to Michael McGovern.

"If the club want me to stay and still see a role for me then we'll talk about that. I'm 40 in September but the key thing is I'm still enjoying it.

"My body feels good and I'm feeling good. I've just missed two league matches and I feel very strong and confident.

"When you get to my age I have to be fair and honest with myself and Linfield and then we'll come to a decision."

Carroll, who was first choice goalkeeper under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United for four years, came to Linfield to win trophies and Blues boss Healy knows his No.1 is a man for the big occasion.

The superb marshalling of his defence from this commanding presence has been a distinctive feature of the Blues' season and it's also fantastic to see Carroll's appetite for success remain as strong as ever.

"Every game is a big game at Linfield and the boys did really well to win the County Antrim Shield," he said. "We beat a good Crusaders side and the Irish Cup quarter-final is another tough one.

"The boys want to win the big trophies including the Irish Cup so we are working hard towards achieving that goal.

"We have beaten Glentoran and Institute in the competition and you have to see off big sides if you want to win it.

"Every game is tough and this is a one-off cup tie. Football is full of surprises and just this week Leicester City found the spark that was missing to beat Liverpool - anything can happen. We've got to find a way to make the semi-finals.

"The boys are looking forward to it. They'll give it 100% and you hope that's enough to win the game.

"In the league there's still a long way to go in the title race and with the gap seven points it's not over yet."

When Carroll is unavailable to feature, Gareth Deane and Alex Moore are ready to answer Healy's call.

RBAI student Moore may be just 18-years-old but his composed debut in the 1-0 win at Glentoran on Saturday suggested he is another pair of safe hands at Windsor Park.

"Alex has been playing very well for the Swifts and helped them win the Steel and Sons Cup," said Carroll.

"He's a very talented keeper and he was rewarded with a starting role against Glentoran.

"He was going to be nervous as that's perfectly natural - if you don't feel the nerves there's something wrong with you, but we have been training together and I have seen how hard Alex works and I'm delighted for him.

"What he must do is keep his feet on the ground and keep working hard. A goalkeeper is the hardest position to secure, there's only room for one in a team and there's myself, Gareth Deane and Alex who have played for the first team.

"His performance against the Glens will give him confidence and he needs that. He's 18 and needs to play games to develop but in a big game he made a very impressive debut and it looked like he had been in the first team for years.

"Alex doesn't have anything to prove, he's got a big future in the game and it's all about taking the chances that come and showing what he can do. The key is working hard in training and that goes for all the young lads at Linfield who I enjoy working with. When match day comes you have trained well and are ready."

When Carroll does bring the curtain down on his career, his passion for coaching will move up another level and he's currently assisting the Fermanagh boys ahead of the SuperCupNI tournament.

"I'm giving the Fermanagh lads a bit of help," he added.

"Learning is important but can be very hard and the boys will get better as they get more experience. I'm passionate about coaching and helping the young players."

Carroll's footballing journey has quite simply been remarkable and there's plenty of life in the old dog yet.

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