Graham Carr – He’s not the messiah…
Posted on June 15th, 2012 | 45 Comments |
You may have noticed that Newcastle United’s chief scout, Graham Carr, was very much in the news recently, and much of this was centered around him being given an eight year contract by the club’s managing director, Derek Llambias.
Usually, when a club renews an agreement with it’s chief scout, it hardly gets a great mention. However at the new Newcastle United rounds of interviews were arranged by the club’s press department, it “trended” on Twitter and was even covered in the national press. It was as if the club had renewed the contract of it’s manager. So what was behind this?
Graham Carr is now 67, with a long career in both coaching and scouting behind him, including scouting at other large, high profile clubs such as Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. So why now, in the autumn of his career, is he attracting so much attention? what is it that has made him emerge like a Butterfly from a Chrysalis on Tyneside?
After an undistinguished career as a player with lower and non league teams, Carr had no success whatsoever as a manager. He still holds the dubious distinction of being the shortest serving manager in the whole of Blackpool’s history, lasting a mere sixteen league games before being sacked in November, 1990 as Blackpool languished at the bottom end of the the then fourth division. Eventually, after a later sacking by Dagenham and Redbridge as relegation from the Football Conference loomed for them in 1996, Carr finally threw in towel on his management career and started scouting, joining Coventry City in July 1997. In this field, he had far more success, eventually joining Tottenham under the then Director of Football, David Pleat, in 2000. It was here where he became a colleague of the man who would eventually bring him to Newcastle, Tottenham’s then reserve team coach, Chris Hughton. It is Hughton himself who may have a possible explanation for the Carr phenomenon at Newcastle. Speaking in an interview on how he brought Carr to the club in 2010, the Magpies’ ex manager said this:
“I had worked with Graham at Tottenham and knew all about how good he was. When the opportunity came to bring him to Newcastle he was always someone that I was interested in.
“I knew what he could do, I knew what his strengths were and when he was at Tottenham he already had a very good knowledge of the English and Irish market.
“In recent years he has developed that knowledge of the Continent and you would say there are not many out there who have a better knowledge on that.
“It was invaluable to have that sort of knowledge base alongside me when I was at the club and you have to say he has been a terrific appointment by Newcastle.”
Of course, he has also been an invaluable source of European knowledge to Hughton’s successor, Alan Pardew, too, but he is not unique. As an interesting aside, it seems that Hughton might once again be using the blueprint he instituted with Carr at Newcastle using his current chief scout at Birmingham and Norwich, Ewan Chester, another scout Hughton hired for his knowledge of European players. After his honeymoon talks with the Norwich board on his appointment as manager, Norwich City’s chairman, Alan Bowkett, announced that the Canaries will now be casting a much wider net for cheaper, better talent on the european mainland. Though Hughton himself stated that results “won’t be instant,” it will nonetheless be interesting to see how their project eventually compares with Hughton’s original blueprint on Tyneside, which has since led to Carr’s virtual canonisation at the cathedral of St James’ Park.
But enough digression. Getting back to the main point once again, rightly or wrongly, it is usually the manager who gets most of the credit if a club makes a series of astute signings and the scouting team stays in the background, as indeed was the case with Carr and his previous work at clubs such as Tottenham and Manchester City. However, it could be said that Carr became something of a political tool on Tyneside after Hughton was sacked by Managing Director, Derek Llambias. As was the case with Kevin Keegan, the eventual sacking of Hughton was generally an unpopular one on Tyneside. When Keegan was sacked, you might recall that when his relationship with Derek Llambias started to break down, and once again shortly after he left the club, stories were allegedly leaked to the media by “A source close to the Toon owner” and “Our top man at the Toon.” This source portrayed Keegan as a deluded madman who was demanding that players such as Ronaldinho, David Beckham, Frank Lampard and Thierry Henry be delivered to him on a silver platter.
With the similarly unpopular sacking of Hughton, there was also concerted attempt to belittle his role at the club, this time on two fronts. More malicious stories were circulated in the media, this time on how Hughton had lost control of the squad, with the dressing room being dominated by a cabal of senior players and so on. Another aspect of this attack was attempt to undermine Hughton’s role in the aquisition of players, and so Carr was thrust into the public spotlight as “The man who discovered Cheick Tiote” in local Mirror group titles such as the Chronicle, the Journal, the Sunday Sun and beyond. As I’ve mentioned before in these pages, it was actually Hughton who was the first person at Newcastle to see Tiote when he went to scout him for Kevin Keegan before Carr was working at the club.
Now please don’t get me wrong, this is not an article which seeks to undermine our excellent chief scout in a similar fashion. He is indeed one of the best scouts in the business, a great asset to Newcastle United who has been instrumental in the identification of some key signings for the club since his arrival. However, now hr is the focus of almost unprecendented attention for a scout at any club and the question must be asked, have we not got a little carried away with ourselves once again? After some significant early successes, have we now built up expectations which no scout can hope to fulfill? Current players at the club have now come to be regarded as infinitely disposable assets in some quarters. Even though we have had a very good season overall, some fans have become blase and jaded with some good players who were instrumental in that success such as Danny Simpson and one or two others have been targeted for abuse by fans and told they are not welcome at the club. After all, Graham Carr can always go out and get a better, cheaper replacement at the drop of a hat, can’t he?
In many markets, including the football market, values rise progressively as the quality increases. Then, when you get to the very top, to the the finest and rarest, things start to go a little crazy, prices (and salaries) rise exponetially. Whilst the knowledge of the continent Hughton was looking for in Carr has undoubtedly helped to subvert the market in Newcastle’s favour and payed dividends in a major way, you can bet that now it has been lauded as some kind of model for other profligate clubs, Carr’s job will get progressively harder from both sides. Other budget Premiership clubs will inevitably seek to emulate the method following Newcastle relative success in the marketplace, and the competition will be greater. From the other side, bigger clubs will inevitably attempt to lure away his most successful signings, and the club’s current policy on wages and bonuses will inevitably lead to the best players moving on to bigger and better deals elsewhere, just as it did with the previous generation of players such as Andy Carroll, Jose Enrique, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton. Resources are finite and you can’t just keep replacing players with cheaper, better ones forever.
To finish on a positive note though, the club have undoubtedly done some canny trading overall so far (with some exceptions). This was also true to a degree before Carr’s arrival, with even some pre Carr purchases such as Danny Simpson and Mike Williamson now being worth several times what the club paid for them. This means that we should now expect be a top seven or eight side once again for the first time since our relegation. However, the next leap, if there is one, will undoubtedly be the biggest and the hardest by a long, long way, both for Carr and everyone else at NUFC.