The Ex-Files: Darren CarterLeave a comment
May 15, 2014 by bluenosebible
“Darren Carter for the Premiership… the Premiership!”
At just 18 years of age, Darren Carter scored the winning penalty to send Birmingham City into the top flight for the first time since 1986.
But despite looking like there was a bright future ahead for the Solihull-born midfielder, a mixture of bad luck and injuries played a part in a career that drifted away.
On January 29 2002, just five months before the famous play-off final, Carter made his first team debut against West Bromwich Albion in a 1-0 defeat at The Hawthorns.
In April, the box-to-box midfielder scored his first professional goal at home to Crewe Alexandra in a game which guaranteed a play-off spot.
Following a 2-1 aggregate win over Millwall in the semi-final, Steve Bruce’s side and thousands of Bluenoses travelled to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium for the tightest of finals versus Norwich City.
After a stalemate in the 90 minutes, Iwan Roberts gave the Canneries the lead just a minute into extra time, but Geoff Horsfield levelled things up as half time approached in the extra half hour.
The sides couldn’t be separated after two hours so the winner was to be decided in a penalty shootout, a year after Blues had been beaten in the same manner to Liverpool in the Worthington Cup Final.
With the score at 3-2, Carter sealed promotion to the top flight with a great penalty into the right hand side of the net.
It looked all set for the midfielder to develop into a key player at St. Andrews, but did the step up to the Premiership come too early in his career?
After making just three starts in the 2002/03 season, Carter was finding it difficult to break into the side.
Despite this, he selected by England for the U20 World Youth Championships in the U.A.E where the Three Lions picked up just one point from their three matches.
Carter played 11 times for England U20s over the season and was once sent off for a tackle on a certain Cristiano Ronaldo versus Portugal.
The following season took a similar track to the last before he was loaned to Championship side Sunderland in September 2005.
It was a move that worked wonders as Carter was recalled in after just two months and became a more regular player in the side.
The midfielder also managed to score his first Premiership goal at Craven Cottage in a 3-2 victory over Fulham.
At the end of the season, Carter moved to West Brom for £1.5 million, who were managed by Bryan Robson at the time.
He actually made his debut against Birmingham in a 3-2 defeat at The Hawthorns, but still struggled to break into the side with the majority of his appearances coming from the bench.
The only goal the midfielder scored that year, a winner at home to Arsenal, won the club’s ‘Goal of the Season’ Award, but the Baggies were relegated at the end of the season.
After a season in the Championship with the Baggies, Preston North End signed the Brummie for reportedly over £1 million.
Carter made 94 appearances for Preston during his time at the club and after their relegated to League One in 2011, the midfielder was released.
While searching for a new club and training with several clubs, including Blues, he suffered a serious groin injury which ruled him out for a whole season.
Cheltenham Town manager Mark Yates then took him to Whaddon Road for a season in 2012/13 before he moved to current club Northampton Town where he helped the club stay up in League Two.
While playing, Carter has also been doing media work for BBC WM as well as Free-Radio Birmingham for a couple of years and has occasionally commentated on Blues’ matches with Tom Ross.
However many matches he commentates on, he won’t cover many better than that play-off final in 2002.
What are your thoughts on Darren Carter and his time at Birmingham City?