THREE decades ago Brian Carey accepted a telephone call. Alex Ferguson was on the line. Twenty six years later Carey’s sporting adventure continues.
When news filtered through last week about Carey’s appointment as assistant manager to Dean Saunders at Chesterfield Irish football followers of a certain vintage reflected with pride and satisfaction.
Carey’s career is a lesson in decency and longevity. Getting a job done in difficult circumstances has been a hallmark of Carey’s time in the United Kingdom. When asked whether he envisaged being still involved in the Football League at this stage of his life Carey laughs.
“The simple answer is no,” Carey replies. “Fergie rang me and asked me to come over for a chat. When I went over I got a three year contract.
“At the time I was playing for Cork City so I thought it was great, but if it didn’t work out I thought I might just go home at the end of it.
“I suppose I was unsure about what would happen, but I never thought I’d be here that long even though I’ve enjoyed most of it.”
Having made more than 400 first team appearances for Leicester City and Wrexham Carey enjoyed a two year stint working with the Blackburn Rovers academy.
“It is good to get back at this level. I’ve previously worked with Dean at Wrexham, Doncaster Rovers, and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“For the past couple of years I really had a good time with Blackburn. It was a fantastic experience for me. To see the game from a different perspective is important.
“I definitely feel that it will benefit me, but there is a lot of good work going on in football at youth level in England.
“In many ways it is a period of transition with the way things are going and what the authorities are trying to get clubs to do.
“Obviously Blackburn had a well-documented troubled spell, but they seem to be emerging from that so it was a pleasure for me to work with good people.”
Learning, developing, and improving is what Carey has always tried to do since arriving in Manchester back in 1989.
The stints in charge of Wrexham were as rewarding as they were exacting. “Managing was something I enjoyed doing, but I found it tough too. I will admit that.
“It is a learning process. I learned a lot about myself both as a sportsman and as a person. How you deal and react to situations.
“I’m very happy to be doing what I’m doing now. I’ve been in these types of roles for the past 10 years and I really like helping people find their way. Not just players, but staff members too.”
That stems from a Sports Science degree Carey completed while still playing between 2000 and 2003.
“I think doing that course really helped me in my career. I was still playing when I did the course, but since then I think it has allowed me see where other staff members are coming from.
“Since I started playing coaching has changed enormously. You have got to be so open and receptive to new ideas.
“Every day you have got to hope you will learn something new to take something on board. You have to be willing to improve on a daily basis. That is something I’ve always tried to do.”
Under former Sligo Rovers boss Paul Cook Chesterfield, who have been well served by a string of ex SSE Airtricity League of Ireland stars, made strides. Now Saunders and Carey want to keep the Spireites moving in the right direction.
“They’ve made good strides. The club has really done well with Chris Turner, who seems to have stabilised everything.
“John Sheridan was here before and Cookie did well. Looking at it they recruited well to get good results.
“We are under no illusions, they have the potential to be a good team. There is a challenge facing us and the next few weeks are crucial. We’ve got to hold on to the best players we have.
“It shouldn’t be underestimated how vital these weeks are for any club. There will be comings and goings. That is just the nature of the game, but it is a really important stage. The lads will be back in on July 1 and we must ensure that we have the best squad that we possibly can.”
Former Republic of Ireland under 21 international Jay O’Shea can continue to shine for Chesterfield according to Carey.
“I’ve seen Jay play lots of times and he can progress with us. We will always have room for bright people and footballers who want to get better.
“Hopefully down the road he can go on to earn international recognition and earn caps because he has the talent.”
As another season edges closer Chesterfield are busy planning and plotting for the marathon slog which awaits. Matches will arrive thick and fast in August. By the end of that month Chesterfield will have faced Barnsley, Sheffield United, Shrewsbury Town, Rochdale, and Millwall.
But in the summer every football supporter dreams. Saunders and Carey, though, remain realists completely aware that this time is vital.
Trust is the key to Carey’s relationship with Saunders. “We do work well together. It is just a matter of trust. That element is there and it is hugely relevant.
“This isn’t an industry known for it, but between Dean and I there is a trust and honesty there. That has been important so we share similar views on lots of things.”