More mature Roy Carroll now back for keeps
Having spent four years of his career playing for Manchester United, Roy Carroll knows all about having his every move dissected and analysed.
When you’re a goalkeeper at a club the size of the Red Devils even the slightest of errors is magnified. His ‘save’ from Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes, when the ball had clearly crossed the line, was replayed many times as calls for goal-line technology rose in January 2005.
Now, seven years after his departure from Old Trafford, Carroll is facing the most thorough examination of his career.
They may have difficulties with the Euro in Greece, but the locals have no problem in parting with their cash when they want to read about football.
Having joined OFI Crete last summer before signing for Athens giants Olympiakos just before the January transfer window closed, the Fermanagh man has met with the most intense atmospheres he’s experienced and the most passionate fans.
Fortunately for the 34-year-old he has impressed the demanding crowds, particularly when he saved a penalty with his first touch as an Olympiakos player to help them to a 1-0 win away to Russia side Rubin Kazan back in March.
“There are 14 or 15 newspapers over here which are just for football alone, so that shows you how much interest there is in the league,” said Carroll, who is now settled in the Greek capital.
“Everyone’s very closely scrutinised, but luckily the things that have been written and said about me over here, when I came to Crete and more so now I’ve signed for Olympiakos, have been good.
“Coming off the bench to make the penalty save in the Europa League game was a big thing for me and it got people talking, so it worked out quite well.”
Carroll has become something of a footballing nomad since leaving United in the summer of 2005. In between spells at West Ham United and Derby County he had six months in Scotland with Rangers before heading abroad, first with Odense of Denmark before his Greek adventure.
Although he won Premier League and FA Cup medals with Manchester United, this season has been the most successful of Carroll’s career; Olympiakos won the Greek title for the 39th time and although Carroll only played twice in the championship campaign, he was in the team that won the Greek Cup final in front of 41,500 fans, subsequently securing the double.
He has another year left on his contract in Athens — and with Champions League football next season he hopes to be first choice between the posts.
Unlike when he was in Denmark, Carroll’s wife Kerry and their two children are with him in Greece and when everything is added together he’s enjoying one of the happiest times of his career.
And there’s a little taste of home in Athens too.
“My family are with me in Athens, as they were in Crete and they are quite settled,” said Carroll.
“The kids are at an English speaking school and it’s only 10 minutes away from where we live, which is great.
“Some days we train a little bit later in the day, so I get to take them in and the principal is from Belfast, which is a nice coincidence, so she likes to speak to me.
“I’m not sure how old she thinks I am. She started talking to me about the Northern Ireland greats — George Best and that kind of era.
“The more she talked the more I started to get the impression that she was thinking I played with George Best.”
Carroll will have something in common next week though. Northern Ireland’s greatest ever player ended a three-year exile from international football with a famous display against Holland back in 1976.
And it will be against the Dutch that Carroll finally gets the chance to win his 20th cap for Northern Ireland, almost six years after lasting only 12 minutes of the memorable 3-2 Windsor Park victory over Spain, having been handed a recall by manager Michael O’Neill for Saturday week’s friendly in Amsterdam.
The battle will then start with Lee Camp and Alan Mannus to take the place as the long-term successor to Maik Taylor (pictured with Carroll).
“I spoke to Michael and at the time he was putting the squad together for the Norway game and it was going to be difficult for me to get to Belfast after our game at the weekend,” said Carroll.
“We had been due to play in Crete on the Sunday and by the time we’d travelled back from there to Athens and for me to get to Belfast via London I would have missed a full day of training with the squad and only had one proper session before the game.
“As it turned out the match in Crete was postponed, but by the time I rang Michael back he’d already named his squad and it was too late.
“I pulled my hamstring in the Europa League match against Rubin Kazan, so I wouldn’t have been fit anyway.
“I guess I just wasn’t meant to play in that game, but I am hoping that I will be involved in the game against Holland and give myself the best chance to be in for the World Cup qualifiers.”