| 13.5°C Belfast

Carroll saves his bacon in Denmark

When you've played in the Champions League, appeared in consecutive FA Cup finals - winning one - and collected a Premier League winner’s medal, all as a Manchester United player, heading to the relative obscurity of Denmark doesn't appear to be a good career move.

On the face of it, moving anywhere in Scandinavia after playing in the Premier League is a step down, but for Roy Carroll it's a perfect fit.

First impressions played a big part in the Northern Ireland goalkeeper signing for OB Odense last August and although his family have remained in London, only having them with him could make him happier.

“I had chances to go elsewhere in Europe, but I knew that Eric Djemba-Djemba, who I'd played with at United, had come to Denmark so I thought it must be a decent standard,” said Carroll. “I came over, trained with the club and they asked me to sign straight away. Two days later I signed a three-year contract and I was playing in a league match.

“It's been a great move for me. I felt really welcome from the minute I arrived, the club looked after me really well and everything just felt right. It all happened very quickly, but I was happy to sign and I have enjoyed myself so far.

“The club is ambitious, I played in two Europa League games against Genoa at the start of the season and we’re still fighting to win the league.

“The Champions League is where the club wants to be.

“I had been at Derby County, where things had gone well under Paul Jewell. He'd been my manager at Wigan and he did all he could to keep me there before I moved to Manchester United, but I wasn't going to turn that down.

“He left, Nigel Clough came in and he made it clear I wasn't in his plans. The last game I played was the Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester United last February and although I was fit, he decided to go with other goalkeepers.

“I could have stayed and fought for my place, but I knew there was no point; I wasn't going to play.”

As well as Carroll being impressed by his first impressions of Danish football, things have worked the other way as well. He was named as Danish Goalkeeper of the Year for 2009 — even though he only played four months of the year.

“I was surprised when I was told that I had been chosen as the best goalkeeper in the league, but very pleased too,” said Carroll (pictured right with the FA Cup in 2004).

“It's the goalkeepers in the top two divisions who vote for it, so to be chosen by other players who play in my position is a great honour. And to be chosen after only being in the league a short time made me feel very happy.”

Something else that would make Carroll very happy is a return to the international scene. It's close to four years since he won the last of his 19 caps and three since he appeared in a squad.

Carroll's exile began after leaving West Ham for Rangers. His stay at Ibrox didn't work out at all, with just one appearance in a League Cup tie before leaving for Derby after six months.

“Nigel Worthington called me just before the game against the Czech Republic last October,” revealed Carroll.

“He said that he was trying to get his contract sorted out and when he did he would speak to me again. I haven’t heard anything from him since, but I want to play for my country again.

“I never said that I didn’t want to play for Northern Ireland. I just thought that when I wasn’t playing first-team football at Rangers that I wasn’t ready to play international football and I wanted to be fair on the team.

“When I went to Rangers I was told that I'd been signed to compete with Allan McGregor, but that's not how it worked out,” said Carroll. “I don't have any regrets about it, but I only played one game and I was never given a chance to challenge for a place.”

One benefit of his move to Denmark was being able to spend Christmas at home, with a winter break in operation in the league. That is balanced out, however, by a shorter summer holiday, that will last only around a month — which means having to squeeze in a trip to his native Fermanagh.

“It was nice to have Christmas with my family. It's the first time I've ever had that,” said Carroll.

“It was strange though because I'd always been used to playing at that time of year and training on Christmas Day before playing the next day.

“I haven't been home to Fermanagh for a couple of years, but I have seen my family and keep in touch with them.

“I'll be hopefully getting home for a week or so this summer.”

Eventually though Carroll plans to be closer to home, with a return to England on his agenda.

“I came to Denmark to get playing again and things are going well,” he said. “I'm the same as any other player though, I want to play as high as I can and the Premier League is the best league in the world. I've played there before, if the chance comes I'd like to go back.”

Belfast Telegraph