Josh Carson admits he is finally enjoying his football after a couple of frustrating seasons at York City and Linfield.
The tricky winger left the Blues in the summer to join Oran Kearney’s table-toppers on a two-year contract and has excelled in his new surroundings.
Carson – who turned down a new contract to stay at Windsor Park – was impressed by how Kearney sold the club.
“Oran was brilliant from the word go and I loved talking to him,” Carson said.
“Everything he told me I had players telling me the exact same thing.
“I had the likes of Lyndon Kane and Jamie McGonigle texting me asking how I was getting on and it helped with the move.
“My father said I had a massive decision to make and we both knew the right way to go was to join Coleraine.”
The 24-year-old earned a move over the water to Ipswich Town in 2009 after catching the eye playing for Greenisland Boys.
“There was a lot of pride when I made the move over to Ipswich from Greenisland Boys,” Carson added.
“In the club house there was pictures of boys like Jonny Evans, Corry Evans and Andy Mitchell who all came through the same group.
“The first six weeks were extremely difficult as I missed my family, friends and was training full-time.”
Carson made his first-team debut at the age of 17 under the management of Paul Jewell against Scunthorpe in 2011, before netting goals against Crystal Palace and Bristol City.
“The first game we had so many injuries and Paul Jewell pulled me to the side and said I would be playing at the weekend,” Carson revealed.
“I played about 65 minutes and I came off to a standing ovation, so that was surreal.
“The third appearance was against Crystal Palace and my family flew over for the match.
“They all made a good day of it and lucky enough I managed to score two goals on the day.
“I won the man of the match award, but never realised I had training for 9am on the Sunday!
“After I arrived late for training, Paul Jewell made me sweat for a few hours, but it was a slap on the wrist that I needed and on the Tuesday I scored against David James.”
These performances earned Carson a call-up to Northern Ireland squad under Nigel Worthington and Michael O’Neill.
“Playing for Northern Ireland is definitely the highlight of my career,” said the four-time capped international.
“It was the proudest moment a footballer can ask for and to play alongside my heroes was great for me personally. I played with the likes of Steven Davis, Chris Brunt and Gareth McAuley who all treated me well.”
After Paul Jewell was sacked in October 2012, the Portman Road outfit appointed Mick McCarthy, and Carson admits the two didn’t have a strong relationship.
“It was horrible when Paul Jewell left because he instilled me with a lot of confidence,” the winger said.
“That personally for me was hard to take, but you have to impress the next boss. I didn’t really have a great relationship with Mick McCarthy as he didn’t like my direct style of play.”
Carson would spend three years at York City under several different managers, but once the Yorkshire club were relegated out of the football league in 2015, he wanted a move back home.
“I loved York as a football club and a place,” Carson acknowledged.
“I had a great three years there. However, I wanted to come back home and have a fresh start.”
Despite having interest from the likes of Crusaders and Glentoran, a switch to his boyhood club Linfield was a ‘no brainer’ as he joined David Healy’s side.
“It was a no brainer to join Linfield,” he added.
“I was asked to train with Crusaders, but I’m not keen on trials. I grew up supporting the club and that was my number one team.”
The Ballymena-born winger would have a frustrating year at the Blues with the majority of his appearances coming from the bench as the Blues snatched the Irish League title, as well as the Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield.
“My time at Linfield was frustrating and I was unlucky the team went on a great run,” Carson stated.
“To be fair, I couldn’t argue not playing, but as a player you think you should be in the team.
“I went to Healy’s door a few times and he told me my time would come. He gave me time off the bench and I scored an important equaliser against Portadown.
“I won the league, but I didn’t feel like I contributed enough and that was the same as the Irish Cup.
“I scored two or three goals the whole year and that wasn’t enough for me to warrant a medal.”