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Offline Flex

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Earl Carter Thread.
« on: March 04, 2018, 02:53:02 AM »
How ESPN got it wrong on Carter’s contribution to goalkeeping.
By Roneil Walcott (Wired868).

The legacy of “Spider-Man”:

“The way [David] De Gea reacted to Luis Muriel’s header was almost like Spider-Man,” the BT Sport presenter said at the halftime interval of Sevilla’s Champions League clash with Manchester United last Wednesday. The Spaniard was in fine form, making several impressive saves to deny a dangerous-looking host team and the commentary team was effusive in their praise.

The mention of “Spider-Man” is clearly appropriate in De Gea’s case but the alias is already taken.

Three goalkeepers from the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL regions come immediately to mind but it is ex-Trinidad and Tobago shot-stopper Earl Carter rather than Columbia’s René Higuita or Paraguay’s José Luis Chilavert who has earned the superhero moniker.

The eccentric Columbian, nicknamed “El Loco,” dazzled spectators for years with his acrobatics between the sticks while the colourful and charismatic Paraguayan, whose nickname was “El Buldog,” distinguished himself with his dead ball accuracy. But in their heyday neither was a more confident or a more attractive custodian than “El Hombre Arana,” Spider-Man, the Trinbagonian who brought great joy to football fans at home and in the region with his back flips and his sideways flips and with the genuine courage and flair he displayed between the uprights.

Today, the now 62-year-old man who was still playing in the local leagues when he was given his “Spider-Man” moniker by a gentleman he remembers only as “Hound,” spends most of his time coaching in New Jersey. However, the former perpetual-motion goalkeeper is also these days devoting some of his time to trying to get FIFA recognition as being the originator of a few techniques he used back in the 1970s and 80s. His concern stems from a recent ESPNFC article, which suggested that Manchester City’s Brazilian custodian, Ederson, was re-inventing the role of the goalkeeper.

Liaising with FIFA on Carter’s behalf is overseas-based coach Trevor Simon, also known as “Trainer.” However, both the former high-flyer and his agent have come up against the same problem, the fact that “the archiving system in Trinidad and Tobago is very poor.”

“FIFA said they can acknowledge it as the Earl Carter technique,” Carter told Wired868, referring to the practice of deliberately patting down the ball before taking it on the second attempt. But not without proof. And it has so far proven impossible to find video footage of him using the “pat down” technique in the 1970s. At the moment, Carter is seeking to strengthen his case by trying to get hold of footage of the 1974 CONCACAF Youth Tournament.

He recalls that it was during a keenly contested match against Costa Rica in that tournament that he first unveiled the technique on the international stage.

Alvin Corneal was the coach of the T&T team at that 1974 tournament, where a colourful Carter first announced himself to the host country Canada and the rest of the world. Corneal and Carter’s teammates were used to the move by then but the referee was not. In T&T’s opening game of the tournament, when Carter patted down a goal-bound effort, the ref blew his whistle and awarded the Costa Ricans an indirect free kick.

“I stopped that as well,” Carter told Wired868, “even though it was from point-blank range.”

“I am the greatest, I am the best,” he later used to affirm loudly during his pre-game warm-up routine, following the lead of boxing’s Muhammad Ali, his idol. “Wherever the ball goes, my hands come next.”

On the basis of that 1974 tournament, it was no idle boast since, on the final day, the brash young shot-stopper who had made something of himself despite his very humble beginnings walked away with the top goalkeeper award.

According to him, he discovered the technique by accident one day when he was training on his own at Mt St Benedict in St Augustine. He kicked the ball against a wall and, when it came back to him at high speed, he instinctively patted it down instead of trying to hold on to it.

And so the “pat down” technique was born.

“Who threw that ball?” Carter would ask sarcastically, after gathering a shot on the second attempt. “Who threw that ball?”

Corneal, who was also coaching him at Maple at that time, is in no doubt that Carter is the most athletic keeper he has ever seen in a T&T shirt. But he is not prepared to say that Carter invented the “pat down”—that honour, he suggested, should go to former national custodian Gerald Figeroux, a standout between the sticks in the 1960s. However, he adds that Carter’s mastery of the technique was unparalleled.

“Figeroux used to pat the ball down,” Corneal told Wired868, “but it wasn’t as confident as Earl Carter […] [Earl] would just put his hands on it and let it fall as though there was nothing in the shot. He did that very well. All his techniques were in place. His body was behind it, the palms of his hands were always behind the ball so he didn’t make mistakes that way.”

According to Corneal, he did make other kinds of “mistakes,” largely because of the risks he took.

“He was not a great user of the ball on the ground with his feet,” Corneal explained, “and there was never the possibility of me wanting him to play the ball out to the right wing-back or left wing-back. Out of three times, he would have done it wrong once and that would have brought the possibility of a goal.”

“Not that he was bad at doing it,” the former national standout continued, “but I didn’t like the risk. He could kick the ball, he could throw the ball. Why are you not wanting to pick it up and get it out of your hand?”

Eddie Hart, founder of the minor league that grew into the country’s largest and longest-lasting, was Carter’s early coach at Tacarigua United. Hart confirms that Carter was always something of a showman when between the uprights.

More significantly, he has no doubt that Carter was the first goalkeeper he saw using the “pat down” move.

“There will be a lot of arguments, like about who was the first man to play a tune on the pan. You will hear Spree Simon was the first, then you will hear it wasn’t him…

“But he was the first person I saw doing those things,” Hart told Wired868, rating Spider-Man as “the best T&T goalie hands down.”

Corneal ranked his distribution with his hands as second-to-none. Hart agreed.

“I did not see anyone display that sort of skill to collect the ball and get it out to the flanks quickly and with [such] pinpoint accuracy,” he said.

Carter insisted to Wired868 that goalkeepers did not habitually pat down shots from opposing attackers while he was playing. Nor did they, he added, generally toss the ball out to the flanks to initiate counter-attacks. His javelin-like throws, he noted, were used to reach his attack-minded players near the halfway line or beyond.

“I looked at Gerald Figeroux,” Carter said. “He used the half-volley as his form of distribution. He would more or less use the half-volley to find players. I looked at Peter Shilton in the late 70s. I always wanted to be different so I looked at them to compare myself to them.”

“Wherever you wanted the ball, you would get it,” he added with a chuckle, referring to his own raking throws. “You want it on your thighs, chest or feet?”

He also pointed out that keepers started using their feet more after FIFA changed the rules to sanction custodians for picking up the ball after having placed it on the ground in 1982. According to him, that was what led to the expansion of what he called “sweeper” keeping.

Former national senior team coach Edgar Vidale, who oversaw Carter at senior level for some time in the 1980s, ranked “Spider-Man” among the best goalkeepers of his time. However, although he was silent on both the “pat down” and the “sweeper keeping” issues, he rates Carter among the best as far as distributing the ball with his hands was concerned.

The long goalkeeper throw was in use before Carter, Vidale offered, but Carter’s throws were impactful bombs.

“I could recall one or two fellahs (who used the long throws before him),” Vidale told Wired868. “They weren’t at the national or international level […] but Carter did bring a new aspect of attacking. He was very powerful. […] We call it a javelin throw because it’s quick, it’s low, it’s fast. It was like a cricketer’s throw or a bowling throw.

“Carter was strong in his shoulders so he mastered the javelin throw.”

Bringing a somewhat different perspective on Spider-Man as a custodian was Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Refereeing Department head Wayne Caesar. Caesar saw Carter as opponent, having played against him a few times.

“He was very confident,” Caesar recalled. “Few people had the confidence he displayed. It did not matter who he was coming up against, he was confident that you could not score; in his mind, he was the best.”

Not quite, the footballing official demurred. He explained that, in the healthy 1980s battle for the status of number one between the sticks, Spider-Man had often had to give way to Michael “Brow” Maurice but, in his book, only Figeroux and Phillips would rate above Carter.

“I wouldn’t put him in the same bracket as Lincoln [Phillips],” Caesar said. “As far as I’m concerned, Lincoln is the best goalkeeper to pass through Trinidad and Tobago. Lincoln was an exceptional keeper.”

All in all, so, it seems, was Carter. What is beyond dispute is not just his quality between the uprights but his extreme courage, confidence, agility and athleticism, his absolute command of his penalty area and his flair for the theatrical.

“It was as though the goalkeeping position was tailor-made for him,” Hart said. “Whenever Earl was in the posts, we were extremely confident as a team.”

Corneal called him “one of the outstanding ones,” “a comedian [who] made the game easy to look at” and “definitely […] an asset to TT football.”

There is little doubt that football in Trinidad and Tobago today would be the big winner if we could produce another goalkeeper with the combination of skills with which Earl “Spider-Man” Carter was blessed.

And maybe then both Manchesters, Ederson’s City and De Gea’s United, might turn their—and other people’s!—eyes towards T&T.

« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 05:52:39 AM by Flex »
The real measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.

Offline Flex

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Re: Earl Carter Thread.
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2018, 05:55:02 AM »
How Carter came to share Cosmos dressing room with Pelé.
By Roneil Walcott (Wired868).

No Spider-Man on the Web?

The year is 1999, one year after former Strike Squad baby Dwight Yorke makes a £12.6 million move from Aston Villa to Manchester United. The “Red Devils” complete a memorable treble.

The year is now 1989, ten years before Yorke’s Manchester odyssey. The Trinidad and Tobago Senior team is preparing for the Shell Caribbean Cup in Barbados. Current TT Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene is the one who breaks the news to Carter, Leroy Spann and Maurice Alibey that Yorke is hesitating to take up a trial offer with Villa.

Carter has a fit, he tells Wired868, and begins to swear like a sailor.

“When Dwight comes into the room,” he tells Skeene and company, “I’m gonna go mad and then you guys will take over.”

True to his word, he accosts Yorke when he shows up a few minutes later.

“What it is I hearing here?” he asks. “Talk to me. I hear you not going?”

Yorke responds that the manager had told him not to go.

“I started to cuss Dwight Yorke like if obscene was the only language I knew. And then I slammed the door and went outside…”

Not for long. Returning moments later, he takes up where he had left off.

“I don’t care what you or the manager says,” he tells the soon-to-be English Premier League player, “You’re going to leave this national team right now and go on trial in England. You could always play for Trinidad and Tobago, you can’t always play for Aston Villa.

“You feel Aston Villa waiting on you? Anywhere in the world those teams go, they see young players with talent and they give them an invitation. You think they are going to sit around waiting on Dwight Yorke?”

“Boy, you’re calling your agent tonight,” Carter threatens, “and you will report to me.”

Mere days later, arrangements for the Villa trial were in place and Dwight “The Smiling Assassin” Yorke celebrated with a brace of goals which took Trinidad and Tobago to victory in the final.

“He wrote three books,” Carter told Wired868, “three books and he didn’t mention that! If Dexter Skeene did not bring up that, I would not have known anything. And because of the way I was treated by the Federation in the past, I knew this was a young man I had to take an interest in.

“So Earl Carter and Dexter Skeene played an instrumental part in him accepting that trial.”

Like most of Trinidad and Tobago, Wired868 is well aware that the then not-quite-18-year-old Tobagonian went on to what turned out to be a lengthy and fruitful career in England and in international football, culminating with the captaincy of the 2006 Senior National Team, the first and only one ever to reach the World Cup finals.

However, Wired868 offers no independent verification of the custodian’s story; Wired868 sees it as, even if not accurate in all the details, illustrative of an important characteristic of the brave but brash, 19-year-old goalkeeper from Tacarigua—his determination to be there for his friends and colleagues.

He said it is the reason why, after collecting some 40 caps for his country, he decided to share his knowledge with younger keepers. According to him, he had a hand in the development of former national goalkeepers Leno Fermin, Wayne Lawson and Errol Lovell as well as US goalkeeper and former Fort Lauderdale Strikers player Sam Rosamilia. He says he helped them become the best goalkeepers they could be.

In 1980, it had also led to Carter’s running into trouble with the local federation for taking a stand against the heavy workload the Defence Force players had to endure.

And, he claims, during the ill-fated qualifying campaign for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, he was relegated to the number three keeping spot as a result of a heart-to-heart talk he had with team manager Oliver Camps. Carter had not pulled his punches and had pointed out to the team manager all the areas where he felt coach Everald “Gally” Cummings was going wrong.

He said someone subsequently warned him to be very careful because “Camps and Gally want to fire you.”

And he also claims that, some time after the heart-wrenching loss to the US in November, former national coach Roderick Warner told him that he would not have made the cut for Italy anyway.

“All because I talked,” he told Wired868. “I have always gotten into trouble and I have always talked about the right things for the betterment of the game and the players. People who do that don’t fare well in this society. You’re supposed to take everything and just absorb it and go with the flow.”

So did Carter achieve his mission to be not just the best he could be but the best in the world? It’s accurate to say that for a while he was among the best in the world—if only because he did find himself in the New York Cosmos dressing room, rubbing shoulders with famed players like Brazil’s Pelé and Carlos Alberto and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.

If only for that reason, the Spider-Man story would have to be considered a success story. It began in the early 1970’s but not, as was the case with Peter Parker, with a radioactive spider. In 1972, Sir Frank Worrell United coach Vernon Bain convinced the then quarter-miler’s father that his son belonged between the uprights and not on an athletic track. Or in midfield where he had actually turned out on the football field during his schooldays.

Bain told him and his father that he had everything to become the next Lincoln Phillips.

He soon showed that he certainly had the passion and the dedication. “Spider-Man” recalled training relentlessly for six hours per day six days per week, with Sunday being his only rest day. It was a regime that prompted Eddie Hart, one of Carter’s early coaches, to tell Wired868 that the young goalkeeper sometimes struck him as not having all his marbles.

“I have never seen any athlete train as hard or work as hard as Earl ‘Spider-Man’ Carter,” Hart said. “At times I would say, ‘Like this man going off!’”

Alvin Corneal agrees that Carter trained like a beast and notes that his attention to detail was “something else.” He says that the young keeper’s obsession with his craft was such that he would sometimes call him in the early hours of the morning seeking feedback on his performance or advice on how he could improve his weak areas.

Carter himself credits a handful of players in his inner circle with making it easy for him to do what was necessary to improve and maintain his level. He identified Marlon Guerra, Michael Hamlet, Kerry Jamerson, Leroy Spann and Oscar Waldron as being instrumental in ensuring that he consistently raised his level of play and activity and he reserved a special word of praise for Ken Holder.

“I had a network of people from Arima to Port-of-Spain to Couva,” Carter said. “So that is how I was able to maintain my standard. Out of all these players, Ken Holder is the one who was always there for me.

“They were able to lift my standard for me to get on the national team, I need people to know that. It didn’t happen by mistake or it didn’t happen by me training alone. These people helped me maintain my professional lifestyle in an amateur environment.”

The hard work paid off early as Carter had a brief stint as a professional in what was then Surinam with SV Leo Victor in 1976. But after that, things did not always turn out the way the hard-working custodian would have liked. Corneal recalled that, in 1977, he tried to arrange for Carter to go to Stoke to work with the legendary England goalkeeper Gordon Banks. That did not go very well.

“I had worked with Gordon at the English FA, conducting coaching courses,” Corneal said. “But I didn’t get hold of Gordon; he was with the club but he wasn’t on a regular coaching basis with them. [Carter] was with Shrewsbury and it was bad to send him to two clubs. Most times they give you an ultimatum and you have to choose this one or that one.”

The reference to Shrewsbury needs fleshing out.

“We had arranged the trip [to Shrewsbury] for him,” Corneal said, “but I don’t know any of the things that happened there.”

Carter has all the essential details. He—and all of T&T—was under the impression that he was going to Shrewsbury on trial. After all, an Express headline at the time had blared ‘Earl Carter for trial with Shrewsbury.’ But there had been a mix-up.

“When I got there,” Carter explained, “they told me I wasn’t on trial but instead I came there to train. They said Alvin Corneal told them I was the best goalkeeper to pass through Trinidad and Tobago and he wanted to see what help they could offer me.”

There were other ‘misunderstandings.’ In 1980, Carter claimed that a move to Greek club Panathinaikos went awry owing to a contractual arrangement with the national team while a potential transfer to Argentine club Estudiantes came crashing down in 1987 allegedly as a result of “the misplacing of a letter” by a club representative.

Carter’s stay with the Cosmos in 1978-79 was also brief. According to him, he was forced out of the club despite the best efforts of the coach, Eddie Firmani.

“They fired me,” Carter told Wired868, “and coach Firmani told me to keep training. Which coach you know in modern-day football will do something like that? A man is fired and a coach is going out of his way to get a contract for him? No, when you are fired, you are fired.

“One week when [Firmani] wasn’t there, the assistant coach saw me coming into Giants stadium and he asked me what I was doing there. When I told him coach Firmani said I could continue training with the team until something worked out, he said, ‘No, get out of here!’”

And that essentially was that!

Still, Carter was left with fond memories of training alongside Brazilian legend Pelé at Santos. Pelé did not take the playing field during Carter’s stint with the club, but his presence on the training pitch and around the team camp was mesmerising enough to tingle Spidey’s senses.

“The things I saw [Pelé] doing, I said he had to be a magician, words can’t even describe it,” said Carter. “Anybody could dribble but his vision and ability to command the football was really amazing […] He made the game look so simple. It was as though he had eyes behind his head.”

The vision and brilliance of the three-time World Cup winner was unmistakable at Cosmos’ training sessions where he demonstrated a telepathic ability to find his mates wherever they were on the training field.

Carter was often distracted by Pelé’s brilliance when performing his own goalkeeping duties and he reckons that opponents must have felt the same way as well.

“Noel ‘Sammy’ Llewellyn said when he played with Johan Cruyff he would spend more time watching Cruyff’s movement off the ball than paying attention to his own game,” Carter said. “And it was the same with Pelé. He was out of this world!

“The things this man did in training, I said he couldn’t be natural, he couldn’t be human. And he was so humble. He never gave off the impression that he was bigger than anybody.

“I remember when I met him for the first time, he had just come from the Warner Brothers’ office. We bounced up in the elevator and he spoke to me like he had known me his whole life.”

All in all, though, Spider-Man has few regrets. He says he has a lot to be thankful for. He recalls how, in 1982, he was involved in a serious vehicular accident.

“I sustained a serious injury,” Carter explained. “At the end of the surgery, I asked the nurse how bad the injury was and she said ‘I cannot tell you how bad the injury is but from where you came from, you are supposed to give a thanksgiving for being here still.’”

And almost four decades later, he is still here, thankful to be still here and trying to get what is due to him. He does not expect a blockbuster superhero film à la Black Panther or even a more modest one like the other Spider-Man.

But he does wish he could find some film showing him using his “pat down” or his javelin throw; after all, if there is just one creature you’d expect to find somewhere on the World Wide Web, it would be Spider-Man, wouldn’t it?

The real measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.


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