June 7, 2017 by Kane Styles.
Stephen Carr; a Birmingham City hero and regarded by many as the best right-back in the club’s history – opens up about his time at St. Andrews.
Carr made over 100 appearances for the club and became the first ever Blues captain to lift a major trophy after the league cup triumph in 2011.
Kane: ” So lets start off with what you’re getting up to now after hanging your boots up. You have got bars in Marbella and Gibraltar, how are they doing?
Stephen: “It’s expanding. We started off with a beach club then went into a restaurant, after opening a couple of restaurants we opened a nightclub. We’re opening a new beach club now called Mahiki beach and there’s one which people might know in London. As a group it has grown quite quickly, and it is a bigger business than just a little bar now so it’s going really well.”
Kane: “Are you enjoying life over there?”
Stephen: “Yes, it’s very hard not to enjoy it and the kids love it. It’s different, sometimes you don’t feel like you’re in the real world and you’re in a little bubble, it’s a holiday place. But when the kids and all go to school it brings you back into the reality of it all, you soon get into the swing of things. But it’s really good, it’s a great experience and who knows whether I’ll stay here for the rest of my life.”
Kane: “When you left Newcastle you did not join Blues until around seven months later – how did that move materialise?”
Stephen: “Well, I couldn’t get a move and that’s the reality of it. I had a few injuries at Newcastle, people probably thought I was injury prone so I went home and I just kept training. Only through Ian McGuinness (the doctor at Newcastle at the time who went on to become doctor at Blues) he obviously knew Alex and he got me a trial. It’s as simple as that, I got a trial to go over, and I was actually meant to be going on holiday just after Christmas I think. Bit by bit I found my feet and I had to prove myself again which is quite difficult when you get older. I was happy to get another opportunity and it went very well for the club and myself.”
Kane: “How did you find your first season?”
Stephen: “The first few months were quite tough to be honest because I wasn’t match-fit. I was on a trial and it was like being a kid again, you had to prove yourself so I knew that was going to be quite difficult but once I got fit I was fine. Once I got playing and started training I got into it. It was quite nerve wrecking because it went to the last game, we got promotion and it was amazing, a great journey.”
Kane: “McLeish went on to make you captain, what was it like playing under him and how did he compare to other managers you worked with?”
Stephen: “I get asked this a lot and I hate comparing managers because I take different bits from everybody. I think he was quite clever, he got a team together that he knew had certain individuals and I think he was amazing. He had me, Lee Bowyer, Ben Foster, Joe Hart and Barry Ferguson who he knew what type of character he was and he believed in us to sort the dressing room out at times but sometimes that can’t happen and he would step in, he trusted the players opinions. It’s quite clever play from his part and I think he had a good bond with some of the players, some came from other leagues like Roger Johnson and Scott Dann who wanted to prove themselves in the premier-league. It was a really good balance.”
Kane: “The season when Blues finished 9th in the premier league, we went 12 league games unbeaten, what was the key to success?”
Stephen: “A group of players that had to prove themselves. We had the likes of Joe Hart, myself, Lee Bowyer and Ferguson who wanted to prove themselves. It was a good team spirit that wanted to extend the run as long as we could, we got a buzz. It was a great work ethic, not always top quality but we battled through games and worked hard for each other and we knew each others jobs. We respected each other and we went out there and played like that.
Kane: “Your commitment was tremendous, on one occasion I was told you broke your toe and had regular injections, what was that period like?”
Stephen: “I had a doctor who enjoyed doing it haha but the injections would make me sick and I would instantly sweat. It may sound like something so small but you can’t play with a broken toe, you can’t f*****g put your boot on. I loved training and I couldn’t not train so I had injections every day, you couldn’t feel the pain so I didn’t care to be honest. It was not a nice injection at all, it also wasn’t appreciated that someone would find it so amusing for four weeks haha. There is enough players out there who have gone through hell to play, it’s very hard to change the way you are and when you have been brought up like that it will never change. I remember Barry Ferguson had a broken rib and he had injections into him, nasty, absolutely nasty but he decided to play and he would not let the team down. That’s the character of some people and some will go to whatever length to play.”
Kane: “We had that game away at Villa, the referee award a very controversial penalty to them. You got a ban for what happened that afternoon, do you regret what happened?”
Stephen: “No. I don’t regret it, you should never regret and emotions were very high. We played very well in that game actually and should have won but when you get done by a decision, and you know what it means to everyone including the players and the fans, you have to listen to it and live with it. I know the fans have to live with it and it’s nasty when you get done by a decision, it’s horrible. I do not mind if you get done by something good but I mean it was a tough decision, he got the ball and the referee couldn’t see it. But, my reaction no because that is how I felt at that moment in time, end of. I got punished for it, fair enough and I probably did deserve it for doing it but I would never regret it no, why should I. It was the emotion I felt.
Kane: “After that occasion, Blues fans created a song about you, are you familiar with it?
Stephen: “Yes, I am. It’s quite funny and it is great that they have something to sing to the Villa fans. That’s football I mean it’s about having fun and enjoying yourself. For me, I find it very amusing and it’s good they have something to sing. I got a one match ban but so be it, it is what it is, I’ll never think nothing of it. It’s amazing how fans create these songs, brilliant.
Kane: “On the topic of derby games, what was it like playing in those games?”
Stephen: “Every club I have been at, they believe that they have the best derby. Every fan thinks that their own derby is the biggest in the world and they should. So, I’ve never compared a derby, I’ve had the Tottenham derby, Newcastle derby and the Birmingham one. Each one of them are special in their own way, it’s different. I love going to the ground, the atmosphere and I loved being hated. Birmingham especially because it’s closer and you feel it a bit more, any footballer should love it, it’s amazing. ”
Kane: “What was it like playing with the likes of Ben Foster, Barry Ferguson, Craig Gardner and Scott Dann?”
Stephen: “Amazing. When I look back at it, I tell you what it was a very good team. The Scott Dann’s and Roger Johnson’s were new to it, but they were new to it with a hunger to prove themselves. Craig Gardner, who is the local lad, we knew what we’d get out of him. It was full of experience with Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson, both played in the champions league. James McFadden, too. We had some great players you know, Phillips and it was just a great group of lads, the best group of lads I have played with based on team spirit. That dressing room was excellent, it did not take any c**p from any other players, everybody was equal which I loved. It’s very rare that you get that in a dressing room, nobody looked at anybody as if they were any bigger. Everybody had a job to do.
Kane: “It was you who set up that goal which sent Blues to Wembley against West Ham, what was that night like?”
Stephen: “Up and down. I remember playing at West Ham, we played well there and we got done. We were up against it, but we had a desire and when we came out in the second-half we knew we were going to win that game. We had enough about us to do it and I think that’s all it was, complete desire to get through it. Craig Gardner was one of the best strikers of the ball I have seen, him and Ian Harte were frightening how they hit the ball. The atmosphere was out of this world, absolutely crazy.”
Kane: “We won the final against Arsenal, you lifted the cup as Birmingham City captain, how did that feel?”
Stephen: “It was a great honour. I never thought I’d ever be in that position again after not getting a club for seven to eight months. To be walking up the Wembley steps a couple of years later was phenomenal. It was a experience that I will never forget, my kids who were older appreciated it and my family, it was amazing. It took a bit of time to sink in to be honest, after it was weird I just sat there and was thinking wow. I never expected to be in that position and I am very appreciative for it.”
Kane: “After that triumph we were relegated, what went wrong?”
Stephen: “I don’t actually know. That is the god’s honest truth, I can’t answer what went wrong, you could say the few injuries here and there. But, even then it’s not a good enough excuse for what happened. The lads didn’t think we were fine, we didn’t for a minute think that and we just couldn’t get to that magic number. It’s very strange I don’t know whether it zapped us, it shouldn’t because it was just one game and the lads didn’t think it’s fine, we done it. Nothing changed, it was very hard to explain it, there was no arrogance or anything from the group. It was sad, devastating to go back to Tottenham to get relegated where it all started off for me, it was horrible. The sad thing is what comes with that; the club goes backwards for a few years because of financial implications and the team being broken up.”
Kane: “The following season you featured in the Europa league, how did you find that season?”
Stephen: “Yes, it got to the stage where I wouldn’t really play in Europe because it protected me a bit. You get older and you have to be a bit smarter, I felt fit but you do know at the end of the day your body can only take so much, I couldn’t play all the games. The Europa league is a drain, it’s a drain on a club unless you win it. It’s a lot of games, it messes everything up I mean playing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and training. It’s great for the fans and to get in Europe but it’s difficult on the club unless you have a massive squad which you don’t. Chrisy (Hughton) is a great manager as he has showed everywhere he has gone, he has never not done well and he’s a good bloke. But, then you lose him obviously because people notice everything and they want him.”
Kane: “Blues have got Harry Redknapp now, what do you think next season has in store for the club?”
Stephen: “Well, Harry is not just going to stay on to consolidate being in the championship, and that’s the bottom line of it. He has been around a long time, he was linked with the England job, done brilliantly at Tottenham and Portsmouth, he isn’t just going to sit there and be happy. He wants to get out of that league and once he gets the money, but it’s hard due to clubs coming down having more funds and re-investing, there is no reason why he can’t. You can see nowadays money doesn’t buy a lot anymore. He knows how to get a player, he’s a very experienced man and has great knowledge. There’s no reason why he can’t get into the play-offs. Here, Harry wouldn’t stay if he didn’t think he had a chance. He’s staying because he wants to do something and be remembered for doing something with Birmingham and hopefully fingers crossed he can.”
Kane: “Have you got any desire to become a coach or go into management?”
Stephen: “No. The only thing I will start going into is football agency. I am part of a company and I am going to start going back into that, I will be back in England more. Regards to coaching and all; I’ve never had a desire, I don’t want to underestimate because people do but it’s very difficult to be a manager. It’s a hard job and there’s people going for jobs when there is not many about. I’ve never had a hunger to do it, I wouldn’t go down that route, it takes years to do the badges. You have to really want it, never mind what you get for it, you have to want to do it and I don’t. I have a hunger to go into football agency and do well in that for my kids and my family because I was always looked after as a kid. Managing and coaching takes a lot of time so you must have a real desire and I don’t have it. I love the game but I don’t have it for management.”
Kane: “Will Birmingham City always be in your heart?”
Stephen: “Oh one million percent and my family’s heart because it was the club who gave me that second opportunity that I thought I’d never get. I will always appreciate it, I had a great time. Me and my family loved living there, Marbella is a little bit different to Birmingham I won’t lie, but it is great there I loved it. The people are great; good, honest people. It will always have a special place. I’ll always appreciate the chance that McLeish gave me, and the fans who were brilliant with me.”
Stephen is a legend at Birmingham City. I’m sure that if he pops into Birmingham for whatever reason, he will never have to buy himself a pint. Keep Right On.