Northern Ireland: Trevor Carson closing in on ‘ultimate’ first senior cap

Life as a professional between the posts has provided Trevor Carson with plenty of reminders how small decisions can result in big rewards.

The high stakes associated with those minor margins between a save or setback prove part of every matchday routine.

Trevor Carson. Pic by Pacemaker.

Trevor Carson. Pic by Pacemaker.

One off-the-field call by Carson last summer has handed the 30-year-old a club career he considers beyond any previous expectations - and opportunity to secure his first international cap with Northern Ireland.

A life around England’s lower-league levels left Carson frustrated at unfulfilled ambitions but everything changed with his summer shift in focus and a switch from Hartlepool to Motherwell.

Form in the Scottish Premiership has resulted in an international recall for Carson by Michael O’Neill ahead of this weekend’s friendly with South Korea. And it can be traced back to a judgement call when Carson put career prospects above personal gain.

“It’s incredible how close I came to signing for Hartlepool,” he said. “It would have been an unambitious move for me to stay at Hartlepool, I’ve got a young daughter and it was in my comfort zone to stay.

“They were offering me a lot more than Motherwell, I took a wage cut.

“But I was driving into Hartlepool’s training ground to sign a new contract with the new manager, I liked what he was saying but something just came over me.

“I just decided I need to push this Motherwell thing through and thankfully I did, things have worked out brilliantly.

“It’s probably the main reason I went up to Scotland, to get back in Michael’s mind.

“He said when I was playing in League Two that I needed to be playing at a higher standard.

“It’s probably even exceeded my own expectations how have things have gone at Motherwell, getting to cup finals.

“We’ve done brilliantly, the whole team, especially in the big games against the Old Firm and the semi-finals of the cups.

“People have said to me before I went the platform is massive if you do do well and I didn’t even understand how big it has been.

“The limelight you get up there has been brilliant, it’s really boosted my profile and brought me into Michael’s plans.

“I get embarrassed when people praise me but it’s great for your confidence.

“It’s probably the first time I’ve come away with Northern Ireland and I’ve felt I’ve earned the call-up.

“I feel like I’m here on merit and deserve to be here, that does give you a bit of confidence.”

He stands days away from achieving a career dream around a decade in development.

Carson joined the squad off the back of sparkling club form that includes six clean sheets for Motherwell across 12 games.

Having stepped between the posts for his country at every age level, Carson is close to taking that final long-awaited step.

“Getting a cap for your country is the ultimate and I still haven’t got that,” said Carson, who first attracted attention as a promising prospect with Sunderland. “For me it’s just been a matter of staying patient, keep doing what I’ve been doing.

“I’ve always believed that it will come, I feel now I’m as close as I’ve been to my first cap and maybe it will come.

“Obviously it’s great to be back after being out of the picture for a while.

“Goalkeepers live by clean sheets but over the last few years I’ve been saying to people I’ve done quite well wherever I’ve been.

“At Cheltenham we got relegated and I got Player of the Year, with Hartlepool we finished maybe 18th or 19th in League Two but got Player of the Year again.

“I haven’t been playing any better than I have last four or five years but doing it at a higher standard has boosted my profile.”

Getting to grips with that first cap would prove an unforgettable memory - but senior success could also ultimately offer Carson a permanent tribute.

A mural on a wall in his home town of Killyleagh highlights former internationals David Healy, Terry Cochrane and Hugh Henry Davey.

“If I have to go up and paint myself on to it, I will,” joked Carson. “We’ve been lucky for such a small town to have three internationals.

“I’ve got more important reasons to want my first cap, the sacrifices I’ve made over the years as a boy, the ups and downs I’ve had in football.

“A painting on the wall is not the ultimate for me, there are bigger reasons than that.

“Just as long as I get a cap it would be an honour, I feel like I’m as close as I’ve been to it now as I’ve ever been so fingers crossed.”