In 1973, West Ham employed a new youth coach. His name was Tony Carr and, little did he nor the club know, his appointment would see him develop into one of the most influential figures in English football.
Today, West Ham is known as The Academy of Football. Under Carr’s unrivaled eye for spotting world class potential in young players, the club has provided the national team with some of the best players to have worn a Three Lions Shirt.
There are very few people in the game who can boast a record of developing future international regulars like Carr’s. In the 39 years since he joined the coaching staff at Upton Park, Carr has seen no less than 21 of his youth players collect an approximate total of 834 international caps throughout their careers, with the most notable names being Paul Ince, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Glen Johnson, Sol Campbell and John Terry.
Although Ince and Johnson never won a cap while playing for West Ham, and Campbell and Terry left the club before being offered their first professional contracts, it is argued that if it wasn’t for Carr’s influence, they may not have made such a formidable impact on the English game.
Carr’s academy players have made West Ham approximately £80 million in transfer fees throughout the years with Ferdinand going on to become the world’s most expensive defender in 2000 when Leeds United paid £18 million for him and then again in 2002 when Manchester United forked out a whopping £34 million to bring him to Old Trafford.
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So this all begs the question: Have England missed a trick with Tony Carr?
Of course, he has made a huge impact on the national side over the years, but has his expertise been overlooked by the FA?
In an era when we are struggling to compete with the world’s best teams and only have a handful of talent coming through the ranks in the likes of Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha, could Carr have been used as someone to help England managers past and present pinpoint the country’s best young players and develop them into world class international talent?
I have always believed that Carr would have been best suited as England’s Director of Youth Development, just as he is now with West Ham, working along side the managers of all the sides below the first team.
In that role he would have been able to let the first team manager know what players should be looked at and what players perhaps needed a little more development. His fantastic eye for talent could have helped England nurture more top players, especially now they have St. George’s Park at their disposal.
With the opportunity to overlook the best talent from all the clubs in the country, we might be looking at a completely different England set up to the one we see today and we may have progressed further than the quarter-finals of a major tournament a few times. Or maybe not.
After all, in Fabio Capello’s 23-man England squad that went to the 2010 World Cup, there were no less than seven players trained by Carr. So he has been of some service to England already, but we will always wonder whether he could have made a bigger impact had he been working on the inside rather than at West Ham.
Despite that, on current evidence, England’s loss seems to have been West Ham’s gain. And this is something that England may need to look to in the future in order to progress and become a dominant force in international football once again.
What do you think? Could England have benefited more from Tony Carr? Were his expertise overlooked? Leave your comments below.