herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Carsley: my Irish career is finished

LEE CARSLEY admits that his international career is over, but the 36-year-old is keen to carry on playing at club level even though he is leaving Birmingham City at the end of this season.

The former Everton and Blackburn man played a key part in Birmingham's success in winning promotion to the Premier League last season, clocking up an impressive 44 appearances for the Blues last term.

But injury has restricted Carsley to just eight games this season, and he has played just once in the past five months.

The midfielder is on the road to recovery after an ankle injury in January and he hopes to be back in full training with the City squad next Monday, Carsley then targeting a comeback in the Birmingham reserves next week and then an appearance in at least one of the team's six remaining Premier League games.

Contract

Then he will finish up his two-year spell with Birmingham and move on as he's out of contract and unlikely to be offered a new deal, though he has no plans to quit playing completely.

But Carsley now accepts that his 39th cap, which he won against Brazil in 2008, will be his last.

"I have had some great times with the Ireland team, I was proud of every single cap I won, but I think international football is finished for me," Carsley told the Herald.

"It's a long time since I played or was even in the squad; I am 36 now so things aren't going to change, and it's probable that I won't be seen in an Irish shirt again," added Carsley, who stopped short of formally announcing his retirement from international football.

"I don't want to make a big deal out of it, if I come out and say that I am quitting the Irish team for definite, people might say 'what's he talking about, he hasn't played for Ireland for two years anyway, was he not retired already?' so I don't want to seem like some big-shot.

"I have said all along, even in the last two years when I wasn't making the squads, that if the call came from Ireland I would be there like a shot, but that call never came and it's not likely to come now. The manager is building a new team with younger players and it's such a pity the team didn't make it to the World Cup.

"I will be sad to leave the Ireland scene behind but I had great times there and maybe I will be back involved on the international stage at some stage, who knows what's around the corner," added Carsley, first capped by Mick McCarthy against Romania in 1997, who has been mentioned as a possible contender for the vacant Ireland U21 manager's job.

The midfielder had spells in the cold before, sitting out 31 consecutive internationals (2003-2006) before he answered a desperate call from Steve Staunton to come back and play against the Czech Republic in Dublin in the chaos after Ireland's 5-2 loss in Cyprus.

But he sat out on a Portugal-based training camp under new boss Trapattoni and, just like another player who skipped that camp (Andy Reid), he would not play a minute of international football under Trapattoni.

So the former Derby County man has put his international ambitions to one side to focus on his club career.

The 2009/10 season has turned out to be a good one for Birmingham but it was a big let-down for Carsley. He began well, featuring in four of the first six games, even scoring a rare goal in a League Cup win over Southampton.

But injury slowed his progress, Birmingham went on a running streak without Carlsey in the side and he's played only bit-part roles since then, with just one appearance (in the FA Cup) since he featured in a 2-2 draw away to Liverpool in November.

So it's time to move on when the season ends. "When I came to Birmingham I said I'd give it two years; I have done that and I am proud that I helped the team get promoted last season but it's time for a fresh challenge," he says.

"But I am not quitting the game; I've another couple of years left in me. I have ambitions on the coaching side. I've done my B coaching badge and will do the A badge in the summer, but I have it in me to play for another two years at least.

Chance

"It will mean dropping down a level as I might not get another Premier League club, but I could contribute to a Championship side.

"We should finish in the top ten and that's a great achievement for a side who were only promoted last season. At one stage it looked like we could even qualify for Europe but that's not likely to happen now, but we are staying up."

Carsley hopes to make the step up to management and would love the chance to work with Ireland again at some stage, but he says he will avoid the mistake made by his old Ireland team-mate Steve Staunton, who went straight into a high-profile job with Ireland as a rookie and saw his managerial career damaged indelibly.

"I need to go and learn my trade," he says. "I have confidence in my ability to go and manage and to coach players, but you will only become a good manager by learning along the way so I need to start off somewhere, work my way up the ranks and learn the coaching game, but who knows where I will be in five or 10 years' time."

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