JAMIE GARWOOD remembers an improbable goal from maurading Irish fullback Stephen Carr.
For a three-year period, Stephen Carr was possibly the most consistent right-back in the Premier League. A robust, stout individual who, despite the perception of being unathletic, did not stop running for the full 90 minutes. A reliable defender who would hassle left-wingers, not allowing them opportunities to deliver killer balls. However, it was in the final third that he became somewhat of a hidden gem.
On 23 October 1999, he famously scored a rocket against Manchester United in a rain-soaked encounter, the ball soaring past Fabien Barthez from a 45-degree angle from 30 yards out, the shot as true as an arrow. That goal won Carr great acclaim, and anytime he ventured forward he was encouraged to repeat the trick. Although lightning rarely strikes twice, there is another goal he scored that deserves further appraisal.
On the last day of the 1999/2000 season, Tottenham were at home against a Sunderland side that had exceeded expectations, finishing seventh with Kevin Phillips scoring over 30 goals in a season.
The typically drab end-of-season affair was a fairly forgettable 3-1 victory. That was until the 82nd minute. With Sunderland throwing bodies forward for an equaliser, Carr intercepted a cross from the right-hand side and picked up the ball 30 yards from his own penalty area. He headed the ball clear away and gave chase when others would have deemed it a lost cause, keeping the ball in play by the touchline and finding himself with open space ahead of him due to the over-commitment of Sunderland going forward. Then Carr found himself alone 25 yards from goal devoid of support from teammates. As he entered the penalty area he tried something out of character.
With Sunderland ‘keeper Thomas Sorenson off his line and not sensing danger, Carr attempted to pull off an audacious chip from 18 yards to the far corner and has the ball rose into the air, a hush descended around the stadium as they waited for it to land.
When it landed in the far side of the net, a beautiful roar of disbelief, admiration and joy swept around White Hart Lane. Stephen Carr had just put the icing on a convincing win with a goal that was more unbelievable due to it being achieved by a right back. It was a goal of speed, determination and reminiscent of Glenn Hoddle’s chip against Watford in 1984.
Being Tottenham fan, it seems without the promise of glory in competitions, we still have great goals to savour and remember from Hoddle to Waddle, from Gascoigne to Ginola. Stephen Carr provided it not once but twice in a season. The United goal is more fondly remembered – the opposition, the weather, the surprise of the strike – and it lives on in the annals of Sky Sports’ coverage. Yet the Sunderland chip only exists in a grainy YouTube clip that seems to be running at a different speed, although it is still evident how audacious the goal is. A goal scored by a player at the height of his confidence capable of taking on a whole team on his own as if you were in the playground.
Playing right-back yourself growing up there is an affinity towards players like Carr and those who came before and after him. At Tottenham, there have been some good versions of the right-back from Dean Austin and Alan Hutton to the modern day Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier. Carr was at the forefront of an altering landscape for fullbacks. Gone were the days were you were meant to just defend like Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn, a fullback could venture forward if your end product of crossing or shot was worthwhile and you can see it now in the development of players such as Gareth Bale, Seamus Coleman and even Ryan Sessegnon – these players dazzle and entertain but all bomb forward seeking to score goals but they can do so due to the initial ventures of players like Stephen Carr.