The Monday Profile: Scott Carson
Just as Queen Mary I of England was said to have died with the word “Calais” imprinted on her heart, so will some of the more jingoistic among us suspect that “Croatia” might be emblazoned on that of Scott Carson. Not that the Cumbrian keeper is in any mood to quit this mortal coil just yet. Amazingly, he’s still only 24 years of age and given the way another former Liverpool custodian David James has put dodgy days behind him to become the favourite for a starting position in Rustenberg, there may be hope for Carson yet.
A graduate of Cleator Moor Celtic and Workington, he played just three matches for Leeds as the club began to implode after the excesses of the Ridsdale era. His contract near expiry, the Peacocks sent him on his way to Merseyside in January 2005.
At Anfield, Carson suffered from the expectation brought about by collection of wages from a Top 4 club. True goalkeeping talent has been so thin on the ground in recent times, that reserves are often elevated to a position of high regard by many who have never seen them play. So it has been the case in the past with Chris Kirkland and Ben Foster: good prospects both, but lacking the top level match action to deserve such high ratings. Jerzy Dudek and Pepe Reina had no trouble seeing off the youngster, and this resulted in a succession of loan spells: Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and the Villa the beneficiaries.
His spell in London was mixed, earning him a Player of the Year award, albeit in a relegated side. An almost ever present season in front of the Holte End might ordinarily have signalled progression but that solid campaign was punctuated by that match. Steve McLaren threw him in for the do or die decider against the checker shirted East Europeans. Niko Kranjčar’s swirling shot bounced awkwardly and young Scott parried the ball into the net. There was sympathy for Carson and the “wally with the brolly” garnered most of the blame, but this was a shockingly public black mark.
Hence, there emerged a chance to build from scratch and Tony Mowbray did business with Rafa Benitez at the beginning of West Bromwich Albion’s last Premier League Season. At the time, my fellow blogger Frank Heaven said to me that it was a significant acquisition. Albion’s other recruits including Borja Valero and Gianni Zuiverloon were speculative – Carson’s run of top flight seasons indicated a proven buy.
Disappointingly though, Carson could not halt another slide into the Championship and this past season, though marked by a quick return, has never seen the England man challenge the likes of Julian Speroni, Lee Camp, Dorus de Vries and company for the accolade of the best we have to offer. I saw him play very well in a 1-1 draw at the Madejski Stadium in March, but the word from Albion fans is that between sticks is one position where they may need to recruit this Summer. As for Carson, if he doesn’t hang on, a good career move might be to look abroad: one imagines he might thrive away from the spotlight and recapture his confidence, just as a certain ex-boss has done.