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The 'Carsley Role'

By David Nicholls :  19/05/2008 :  Comments (26) :

I?m embarrased to admit that when Walter Smith ventured into the transfer market for the last time as Everton manager on February the 8th 2002, I was so excited at the thought of seeing galic wing wizardry at Goodison in the shape of David Ginola that the £1.95M signing of Lee Carsley from Coventry City almost escaped my notice. A decent workmanlike player, I thought. A typical Smith signing. But while David Ginola flattered to decieve in his short time with us, Carsley went on to establish himself as a focal point of Everton?s renaissance under Moyes.

?Cars? became a regular for Everton during Moyse?s first full season. He was primarily employed on the righthand side of a four man midfield and helped the side to a respectable seventh in the Premier League. He then moved inside to form the ?Right Said Fred? midfield pairing alongside Thomas Gravesen. It was however, during the 2004-2005 season when he became the anchor in a five man midfield thet Carsley really came into his own. He used his considerable experience and ability to read the game to break opposition attacks up and allow his more illustrious bald headed colleague to venture forward, get his foot on the ball and run the game. With Carsley showing great discipline protecting Evertons back four Thomas Gravesen was finally able to display the consistency that frustratingly eluded him previously in his Everton career. Carsley was able to seal the limelight from Gravesen on the odd occasion. Who could forget the Derby day winner or that fantastic free kick at St James?s Park as Everton were transformed from relegation candidates to Champions league contenders within a matter of months. Typically, it was Gravesen who grabbed the attention of footballs biggest club and so began a standing joke among the Everton fans and players alike.

Thomas Gravesen signed for Real Madrid?s Galactico?s in January of 2005 to add a bit of steel to their midfield which had been lacking since Claude Makelele left for Chelsea the previous summer. A move which had many an Evertonian scratching their head. It was the kind of move which made me question if some clubs can be arsed to even watch a player before they get their checkbook out. Despite his fierce looks and tendency to embark on headless runs, Gravesen was essentialy a gifted playmaker. The last thing Madrid needed considering they already had the likes of Guti, Zidane, Figo, Beckham and Raul among their ranks. ?They?ve signed the wrong one? the Evertonians joked. Something which Gravesen later admitted himself. At the time however, when I tried putting this theory forward to some of my work collegues I was looked at as though I?d just suggested that Steve Mclaren would make a great England manager. ?Lee Carsley play for Real Madrid?? ?Yeah right?! But to this day I?m absolutley convinced that had it been Carsley that made his way to the Bernabau he would have gone down a storm in Spain and would have received far more recognition from the public at large for his somewhat under-rated footballing ability.

Madrid?s loss was Evertons gain and although we missed Gravesen initially, Carsley?s steadying influence in the centre of the park ensured we defied all the odds to hang on to fourth spot and obtain a Champion?s league place. Carsleys season ended on a sour note with a leg break which ensured he missed almost the whole of the following season. It was no coincidence that without ?Cars? we endured a torrid start to the season during which we suffered exits from both European competitions and slipped to the bottom of the Premier League table. The following season (06/07) Lee Carsley was ever present at the heart of Evertons midfield as Moyes?s boys secured 6th place and qualification for the UEFA Cup. It seemed for a short while that he would not enjoy the fruits of his labour as Carsley, now well into his thirties and in accordance with the clubs contract policy on players the wrong side of thirty, would only be given a one year contract. Wigan were hovering, offering the temptation of a two year deal but thankfully the lure of European nights were too hard to resist and he signed for another year.

During the season just passed Carsley has been a vital cog in the blue machine. As Moyes has slowly but surely crafted a midfield which can no longer be described as simply workman-like and effective. With the ?Midget Gems? and Tiny Tim each weighing barely more than 10 Stone dripping wet, Carsley despite being 5ft 10 and weighing just over 12 stone (small compared to the 6ft 4, 13 ½ stone dreadnoughts that occupy many a Premiership midfield these days) is as hard as they come and adds some much needed physicality to our otherwise lightweight midfield. Off the pitch he was quite a character as well. I?ve read many an interview in which ?Cars? has been described as the funniest lad in the dressing room and you only had to see the way the players all ran to him after his late goal against Birmingham this season to see how much they all thought of him.

He has however, made no secret of his desire to move closer to his family in the West Midlands as his carrer winds to a close. When asked recently about his future his response was typically modest when he said that if he does leave ?it won?t really matter as Everton will just bring someone else in?. We all know he is selling himself well short and midfielders like him or, men like him for that matter are not exactly ten a penny but fair play to him. It?s his decision and he?s has been a great servant to Everton Football Club. I?m just glad he was given that ovation when he left the field against Newcastle. Todays news still does come as a shock as in my heart I had convinced myself he would sign for another year.

The news of Carsley?s decision to leave causes me quite alot of concern. Neville, Jagielka and Yobo have all played in his position in the past and none look anywhere near as comfortable as Carsley does in that role. Rodwell and Gosling will be years off Carsley?s level so I can only hope that the board will back Moyes to the hilt in the transfer market as holding midfielders of Carsley?s standard do not come cheap.

In the modern game it is almost unheard of to pick a team without employing someone in the holding role or the ?Makelele role? as it has become known after Chelsea?s superb Frenchman, arguably the finest exponent of the holding midfield position in recent times hence the postion being named after him. But I?ll tell you what.... I look around the league and there aren?t many better in that position than Lee Carsley so thanks Lee and good luck in the future. I know whenever I?m discussing the ?Makelele role? with friends the future the question will be simple: Who do you think should play in the ?Carsley role??

Reader Comments

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David Kely
1   Posted 19/05/2008 at 16:38:29

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A fitting tribute to a player who?s been worth their weight in gold to the club... and a good fella too, by all accounts.

Like you, I?m slightly concerned about who fills that berth now. But I suppose that?s up to the manager ? who has hopefullly been able to prize open the biscuit tin kept in Wyness?s office.
Joe Rourke
2   Posted 19/05/2008 at 16:38:21

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Well penned David - a fitting tribute!

It's probably true to say we most noticed him when he wasn?t there such was his quiet consisent work. Good luck and thanks to Mr Carsley!
Lue Glover
3   Posted 19/05/2008 at 17:16:58

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A lovely tribute to a player who will be missed. Good luck Lee.
Adam Cunliffe
4   Posted 19/05/2008 at 17:13:51

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It will be difficult to find anyone nearly as good as Carsley in this transfer window. He was griity and determined and had a decent shot on him. (Who can forget that goal against Liverpool?) He will be sorley missed.Good Luck Carsley, hope we get to see you one more time at Goodison. Top bloke, Top player.
Joe Ludden
5   Posted 19/05/2008 at 17:55:06

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Cars was a gem, but if I’m honest, was passed his best 2 years ago. Also he is indicative of a manger not 100% confident of his back 4 - requires additional midfield assistance. Cars was a great servant and total professional, he leaves with honour intact.

To name his replacement: Gattuso. 31 so the sky 4 wont touch him, wants to play in england... we finished 5th... come in Gennaro Ivan... we could get 3 or 4 seasons out of him.. and he is totally suited to the english game..... I know Im dreaming....
Adam Cunliffe
6   Posted 19/05/2008 at 18:12:37

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Tell you what, Joe ? that's not a bad shout. A longshot but it would be great if it happened. Doubt it will mind but we can still dream like you say.

Mike Bradley from Herenveen looks more realistic and would be a decent signing. I still think we could of got one more year out of him, if just as a squad player.
Mike Prendergast
7   Posted 19/05/2008 at 18:11:32

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Like all Everton fans, I hope we sign some big names.
But as Lee Carsley, Tim Cahill, Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta show a big price is not always needed for a good player.
Player’s agents won’t agree with me.
But don’t be blinded by the paper talk and agents sales pitch.



EJ Ruane
8   Posted 19/05/2008 at 18:14:22

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Absolutely terrific player and feller.

On paper, he wouldn’t have been on many Sky Fans lists.

But I remember having him as my man of the match on so many occasions (maybe surprisingly. including the 7-1 against Sunderland this year)

I see so many players these days who are incredibly inconsistent, yet are HUGE stars.

If you look at Beckham, Gerrard and many others, sure they have more ’skill’ than Cars, but he was/is in my opinion, a FAR more consistent performer.

For many of these players it’s 3 good games, 2 bad, 1 ok..ish, 2 good, 1 bad....etc.

With Cars, whatever he had, he went out and gave it all week after week after week.

He was also totally unselfish.

More and more theses days, I notice players (eg:Drogba, Ronaldo) who you KNOW are just playing for themselves and to improve their ’best goals DVD’.

Cars understood it is a team game.

He wasn’t the best player.

He wasn’t playing WITH the best players.

He wasn’t playing for the best club.

But nobody can point at him and accuse him of the worst crime ANY footballer can commit - not being arsed about the team.

I wish him all the best, wherever he goes and have no doubt he’ll be given a fantastic reception next time he’s back at Goodison.

Steve Mink
9   Posted 19/05/2008 at 20:33:42

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Like many who have commented here, I feel a great deal of affection for Carsley. He’s grown on me in the last few seasons.

As for who plays his role next season, it is worth pointing out that few teams have someone playing ’the Makalele role’. Far more common (and progressive) is ’the Carrick role’ - someone who has got good positional sense, sits deep, and can stick a foot in but can also pick the ball up from defence and spray it around.

Having someone as limited as Carsley playing in central midfield pretty much condemns us to paying 4-5-1 for ever more.

It’s a shame we missed out on Vogel as he would have filled the gap for a season or so. An AJ/Parker swap deal with West Ham perhaps?
Joe Ludden
10   Posted 19/05/2008 at 21:01:43

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Steve fella, my Blackburn season ticket mate will tell you Vogel is shyte, hence why Moyes didnt get the man. I agree with you that playing Cars always turned us into a 4-5-1, although I'd go further and say it actually had us playing a 5-4-1, Cars affectively being a floating centre half. The holding midfielder now needs to be able to rake passes all over the park and bomb on as well as do the hard work. One word: Gattuso!! And if we could could sign Ronaldo on the right side too, that wouldnt be bad either.
Matthew Lovekin
11   Posted 19/05/2008 at 21:15:14

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There are two types of defensive midfielder. A) The Carsley/Makelele type who are destructive win the ball and pass it to the nearest team-mate to do something with it. This is the basic role which teams with a 5 man midfield play or teams that can not afford a type B defensive midfielder: B) The Carrick/Huddlestone type that are more of a deep playmaker. They can make through passes and create chances themselves but generally are not as good at tackling and defensively at type A.

The ultimate is to get a combination of the two types. This is extremely rare in the world. It also allows the team to play 4 in midfield and not lose its strength in defense. It’s a shame we didn’t go for Lassana Diarra in January when he joined Portsmouth as he is a player that can do both, had a ’small’ transfer fee but probably the stumbling block were his wages. I doubt Diarra will leave Portsmouth for Everton now. I think Jack Rodwell could develop into a player like this and Moyes has always brought him on into this position despite coming through the academy as a centre half but next season is a bit too soon for him.

With Carsley gone now, it’s a chance to get a real quality player in to replace him. Someone who can tackle like Carsley but pass the ball like Carrick. Perhaps Fernandes can be taught the defensive side of the game as he certainly has the attributes for a playmaker.

If not Rodwell or Fernandes, I’m sure Moyes will find the right player to bring in.
Bilbo Baggins
12   Posted 19/05/2008 at 21:41:16

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Carsley was an avarage Premer League player, who managed to score a goal in a derby match and became popular amongst Evertonians. Hopefully, we can go out and buy 4 quality midfield players who can take us to the next level. Carsley will be remembered as a hard-working, disciplined player who wouldn't shoot unless he had to.
Jim Starling
13   Posted 19/05/2008 at 21:41:49

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Best of luck to Cars ? what a great player he?s been for us over the years ? a real 110% man.

As for his replacement, Gattuso is a great shout. It might not be quite a crazy as it sounds either. We are the best of the rest this year after all....

I personally like to see an old bloke in the holding role ? that experience helps them read the game a little better.

How bout Torsten Frings / Esteban Cambiasso ???

I do hope we get proven quality in to replace Cars and don't just shove Phil in there ? fingers crossed!
Chris Halliday
14   Posted 19/05/2008 at 21:52:05

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Wish him all the best, he will always be welcomed back at GP. However, can’t help but think that this is a good move, as it will force DM to delve into the market to finally replace him. We need the same type of players but 10 years younger who can go box to box. It may also help Cahill to play in a 442 if his partner is younger and can cover him more than Lee did.
Eric Holland
15   Posted 19/05/2008 at 21:53:00

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Bilbo
My thoughts exactly.
I am sure Moyes will replace Carsley with a championship player, hopefully with the ability to pass, score a few,an keep up for the full 90.
Good luck and thanks Lee Carsley.
Brian Keating
16   Posted 19/05/2008 at 22:28:51

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I never when he signed that I’d be this gutted to see Carsley leave.

I think anyone who doubts how important a player he was to the team just needs to look at what happened in 05/06 when he was out injured for most of the season.

He also made a huge impact for Ireland when he came back to play for us in a 1-1 draw againest the Czech Rep. after the absolute low point of my football following life when we were beaten 5-2 by Cyprus.

I’ll miss him as a Everton player and keep my fingers crossed he won’t retire from international player.

Good Luck Lee
Jason Broome
17   Posted 19/05/2008 at 23:48:39

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David Nicholls... Nice article and fitting tribute to a man who epitomised what it meant to play for Everton.
Jason Lam
18   Posted 20/05/2008 at 07:21:10

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My fondness for a great servant of Everton aside, we need to dispense with the ’Carsley role’. His role was very limited, yet got caught late coming to tackles and interceptions at times, and couldn’t pass a forward ball. Otherwise it would be the preferred the ’Makelele role’.

We should play 4-4-2 with a decent pairing in midfield, a decent support for the Yak in another forward player, and have the centerbacks come up and hack down any counterattacks coming our way.
Brian Wolf
19   Posted 20/05/2008 at 10:32:52

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Lee Carsley was my fave player, I’m absolutely gutted he’s gone but you can understand that the fella wants to see his career out nearer to home.

Excellent player, very under-rated but did an important job and came up with some cracking goals in his time here.

I only hope we can get someone of the same calibre to replace him, someone who will sit in and have the discipline not to be at the other end of the pitch when he’s needed in front of the defence.

God Bless Ya Carsley. You’ll be forerver remembered in Toffee Folk Lore
Chad Schofield
20   Posted 20/05/2008 at 10:00:22

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Great tribute.
The first time I saw him play for us I thought he’d just been chucked in to make up the numbers, but the rough diamond shone just in front of the back four. Good luck Lee and thank you.
Aodhan O'Faolain
21   Posted 20/05/2008 at 16:28:49

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Great article. Sorry to see Carsley go, like many one wonders who is going to fill his role.

My guess is that Phil Nev may perhaps do the job as really there are few enough players out there either good enough for a top five team or willing to do the honest toil that.
I pray Moyes does not have the phone number for Robbie Savage's agent.
Luke Jones
22   Posted 20/05/2008 at 17:56:14

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Although most Evertonians believe Carsley to be a great player, I certainly am glad Carsley has left the club. Yes, he can win a tackle but his ball distribution is absolutely dire. He can not pass to any of our players, as goes for Neville and Hibbert. Whereas we had Carsley, clubs below us seem to have far better players; Pompey, for example, have Diarra and Diop, two great defensive midfielders who can actually pass the ball. You will be missed, Carsley, but your passing certainly won?t.
David Jones
23   Posted 20/05/2008 at 17:55:22

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I would like to add my thanks to a total professional and a player that never gave less than his best when playing for us.
That is what Nil Satis Nisi Optimum should mean when you play for the blues.

I don’t blame him for moving to be closer to his family and ensuring a 2 years contract for himself over 1 year at Everton. His behaviour upon leaving has been impeccable and I wish him all the best.

I always thought Jagielka was bought in to eventually replace him. But I am frequently wrong... Cars will be a hard man to replace.
Ben Jones
24   Posted 20/05/2008 at 20:43:50

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A great player! A bit sad he is gone, because he was a great servant to the club and will always be missed. He is not an average player.. Bilbo and Eric... he’s definitely Premiership standard. However, I do agree with people, that in a way, I’m glad he’s gone ONLY if Moyes can find a replacement.

But bloody hell... that’s one of Moyes’ hardest tasks that is!
Tom owen
25   Posted 22/05/2008 at 13:24:37

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Brilliant piece on a player who was under-rated. Fabulous player and will be missed. I will never forget the goal in the derby. Lets hope Moyes will bring in a similar player and build on what we have achieved. Hope he as great times with Birmingham
Ron Leith
26   Posted 24/05/2008 at 09:47:04

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Irreplacable player and I concurr with all of the above. However, I think a change in style of play may happen. It would interesting to see a more expansive game with hopefully Fernandes playing deeper. He has the range of passes and could come into his own. If we do stick to a defensive midfielder in front of the back four and Carsley is to be replaced Davis from Portsmouth could come in or Gilberto from Arsenal. Maybe Neville could play their but I think he is a better right back. Jagielka is a great centre half and would be wasted in midfield.

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