Carr, a Northumbrian who was born in Corbridge like Steve Bruce, was brought into the club in February of 2010 by previous manager, Chris Hughton, renewing a working relationship they had at Tottenham, where Carr was brought in as a scout by Tottenham’s then Director of Football, David Pleat. Since then of course, his reputation has gone from strength to strength on Tyneside with the quality of players signed since he took control of Newcastle United’s scouting department. This interview for Talksport was conducted by Adrian Durham and ex Yorkshire and England cricket legend, Darren Gough, for the station’s “Drivetime” slot yesterday evening.
Below is a written transcription of the whole interview, well, minus a tiny “chatty” bit at the end about Alan Carr’s lack of football skills as a bairn.
Adrian Durham: “So describe exacly what your job is, Graham.”
Graham Carr: “I’m the Chief Scout at Newcastle. I went there with Chris Hughton in February, I’ve been there just over two years and basically, I’m just recruiting players.”
Adrian Durham: “So you, I’ve got a list of players here who have come in and done really well: Cabaye has come in, Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote, Ben Arfa, Demba Ba, a whole list of players, and everybody knows how well they’ve done at Newcastle this season. You went to see all of these before Newcastle signed them, is that right?”
Graham Carr: “Aye, I’ve been doing the job for fourteen years you know. I was at Tottenham for five years, chief scout at Manchester City for seven, and I’ve been mostly in Europe as well, so I’ve been been “on the job” for quite a long time, Adrian. So it’s just those players that came along, Cheick Tiote was available at the right price, at the right time. Hatem Ben Arfa had played in the national side for France, we got him on loan, that was during Christmas time. Then we’ve had Cabaye and Cisse come in, and Sylvain Marveaux who hasn’t played yet. Those are the players I was involved with.”
Darren Gough: “Graham, can I ask you a question on the players? As a Chief Scout, do you get said to by the manager, or whoever, ‘Listen, we’ve got a budget of ten million for a striker, but we’d prefer to get him for cheaper. Do you get a budget to go out and get someone for that price? Or do you just have a look around, you see someone, you invest in what price he’s going for and decide whether the club would benefit from having him?”
Graham Carr: “I think at Newcastle that we haven’t been able to pay the big fees, so, Darren, we’ve gone for what you might call realistic targets, you know. But I just go and watch matches. I go and pick up three matches in Holland, three in France over the weekend, or midweek, or in Germany and I get a list of names together, sit down with the manager, Derek Llambias and Lee Charnley and our staff and we discuss them. Then, if we think we want to sign one then Lee Charnley goes and gets a price for him.”
Adrian Durham: “That’s alot of games you’re watching, what a great job! But there is pressure on you as well, I mean you’ve got to come up with the right players. If you recommend somebody who doesn’t do it in the first team, then one presumes that may reflect on you?”
Graham Carr: “Well it does and to be fair, I’m from Newcassel y’knaa, so I think it’s more pressure on me because, without the football, quite alot of people know me up there, and you know what it’s like. I’d probably get some stick if a bad player came in you know!”
Adrian Durham: “There are some really talented players that have been brought in on your recommendation. Are you surprised at how well those players have done in the first team, and generally how well Newcastle are doing, bearing in mind some of the players who had to leave as well?”
Graham Carr: “I think Alan Pardew’s done a great job because he’s actually organised the side into a winning side. Cheick Tiote has improved. Hatem Ben Arfa, he was a little bit temperamental in France. He’s a talented player who played for the French national side two years ago. He had a problem, he fell asleep on the bench when he was at Lyon. But I think Alan Pardew’s putting an arm around him now and has got him playing to his true capabilities. Yohan Cabaye had a get out clause in his contract which was a major signing for us. He was valued at £10 million, but we found out he had a clause for £4.5 million, so that really gave us the green light to go out and sign him and the club worked hard, actually, to get him. Papiss Cisse scored twenty odd goals two years ago in the Bundesliga. He was liked by Bayern Munich, They wanted £15 million when we first enquired (he actually had a buyout clause in his contract of roughly that amount – wt), and then it was twelve, and we actually got him for eight in the last window which we thought was value for money.”
Darren Gough: “Graham, how many times do you watch these players? Do you know as soon as you see a player around the world, do you think ‘Yeah, were havin’ him, he’ll fit into Newcastle’s game?’ Or do you think ‘I’m going to come back here next week. Nobody’s really spotted this guy, I’m going to come back and watch him next week, and the week after. When do you make that decision?”
Graham Carr: “I saw Papiss Cisse play for Metz when he first came over from Senegal. Metz have sort of a school, and they take quite alot of Sengalese players, but he didn’t have a passport at the time. I was working for Manchester City at the time, he didn’t have a passport to come into the UK. So that ruled him out. Cheick Tiote was in Holland, Roda (Kerkrade and Enschede are in the Netherlands, Graham, not Holland ye daft Geordie! – wt), before he went to play with Steve McClaren at FC.Twente. So I’ve seen him over a period of time.
“I think, Darren, if you go and watch any team in Yorkshire, a team that you support, and you watch a player every week, you know who the best players are.”
Darren Gough: “Oh yeah, there’s no do doubt. I was just wondering with football, because there’s so much money, no disrespect to Cricket but there’s not many going to go for ten million quid. Cricketers, I mean we see Pieterson, $2 million in the IPL (Indian Premier League), but we’re talking footballers here which you’ve gone out.. I mean it’s a bargain at the moment, Cisse at £9 million. Absolute bargain!”
Graham Carr: “The club have got to take alot of credit y’knaa, Derek Llambias who works hard, Mike Ashley, they’ve put the money there, they’ve took the necessary stick from the supporters y’knaa. On the outside looking in, I was a bit, y’knaa, what’s happened at Newcastle in the past. But, y’knaa, since I’ve been in there working for them, I can’t speak too highly of them.”
Darren Gough: “Can I just ask you a question as well on your manager, Pardew? You mentioned earlier with Andy Carroll, he talked about how the grass isn’t any greener. Listen, we all know that, we all make mistakes in our careers but saying that, without the sale of Andy Carroll for £35 million, you probably wouldn’t have had the budget to go out and get some of these players, would you?”
Graham Carr: “No, I don’t think so. At the time I was in Newcastle, the last hours when the Andy Carroll deal went through, and there was plenty clubs ringing us up to try and spend. But we stuck by our guns, we didn’t waste the money. We waited for another day which I thought was very important.”
The final of the interview then briefly turned to the shocking revelation that Graham’s son, Alan “Chatty Man” Carr was awful at football, “had no co-ordination whatsoever” and “couldn’t trap a bag of wet cement” etc and that was it. So, I’ll leave it at that! If you’re desparate, you can hear the last bit here.
Carr’s career has certainly come a long way since this interview video (below) from his less than glorious career as a manager. His Kettering Town side had just been hammered 4-1 by the mighty Bromsgrove Rovers in the “Bob Lord Trophy” Final!