JR “Hi Carlo, thanks for speaking to me at TSF today. Let’s get in to your current gig which is the head of goalkeeping at Salford City FC, that must have been a fairly coveted job given the names behind the club?”
CN ''Obviously everyone knows who is behind the club and the “Class of ’92 documentary has covered the clubs evolution from when the owners came in. I think this helps because they were all players and have been there and done it. They want things to be right, they want success. They have a winning mentality and a certain philosophy that we all adhere to, so from that point of view everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
We all want to succeed, the players, staff and coaches alike, so as far as that goes Salford City FC are a fantastic club to work for and we are all set up to be successful with a will to win, and do whatever we can to take the club as far as it can go.”
JR “You’ve been there and done it too of course, you played two seasons for Manchester City, what memories do you have from your time there?”
CN “Yes, most definitely. I have amazing memories from my time at Manchester City, it is a fantastic club with an unbelievable fan base, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I came in part way through a Premier League season where the team were struggling and I managed to get in and make my Premier League debut for the club at Maine Road against the “invincibles” of Arsenal FC in a 4-0 loss. That was a bit of baptism of fire! It felt like you were watching the Red Arrows in front of you playing against such a team, and from a vague recollection we were 4-0 down after 20 minutes and I had not even had a chance to touch the ball.
Each time I narrowed the angle in preparation to save a shot, Arsenal would pass the ball around me and into the net. It was a massively frustrating game for me but a great experience nonetheless. I thrived on that experience as I went on through my career. The following season we won the Championship under Kevin Keegan and we did exceptionally well, another fantastic experience, winning the Championship and coming back up into the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Peter Schmeichel then signed for the club and he was one of my heroes growing up as a kid. It was great for me to work with him as his understudy, and I still managed to get a number of games that season, including that I was unbeaten in the Manchester derby which was another of my highlights during my Man City career. I look back on my time at the club with a great deal of fondness with many highlights.
It’s funny because my own personal career was very unconventional. As a kid I was at Manchester United until the age of 14, and then I gave up football completely after a car accident. Five years later after finishing my schooling and starting work, I picked up football again when I started playing for a pub team. The following season I played Non League, first for Rossendale United and then a year later for Clitheroe F.C in the seventh tier of English football.
We did ever so well to reach the FA Vase Final in 1996 and that is where I got spotted by Crystal Palace FC. I’ll never forget working at my desk as an Area Sales Manager, getting the call from the Clitheroe Chairman explaining that Crystal Palace had offered £35,000 for me and asking if I was interested. I went down to London a couple of days later to sign for the club on a two year contract and a year later I was playing in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley to get into the Premier League.
It was a quick rise to the Premier League from where I was playing in the North West Counties in England. It was a very unconventional way to get into professional football but I feel like I appreciated it more because of the way I did it rather than coming through the academy system.”
JR “Speaking of the North West, one of the world’s most famous clubs resides in that particular hotspot, and you played two seasons with them….”
CN “I have mixed emotions about my time at Preston North End because there were highs and lows throughout my spell at the club. I was not particularly proud of the way that things finished at the club because I thought things finished a little awkwardly, certainly with the relationship I had with the fans because I had a great relationship with them and we did have a degree of success at the club. I still hold the clean sheet record of 24 in a season for Preston North End and at the time it was the second best defensive record in the country, second to Chelsea FC who won the Premier League that season.
We should have got promoted but we didn't, we fell short, and in my last season at the club things turned a little bit sour mainly because I was coming to the end of my contract and things happened that were wrongly reported. Sometimes when this happens, the club generally comes out on top and the media tend to side with the club, not the player, so the fans get on board with that and the actual truth never comes out.
I was upset with the way things finished at Preston North End because it is a fantastic club with a great history and the fans were magnificent towards me. I was sorry to leave at the end of the day. I loved my time at the club after manager Billy Davies brought me to the club, we had a fantastic relationship and we reached the Championship play-offs two years in a row, just missing out in the first year that I was at the club.”
JR “When you look back on your club career, could you say who the best players you played alongside are?”
CN “Wow, a great question. I have been fortunate enough to play with some fantastic players during my professional career and it would be difficult just to pick one. I’ve played in some great teams in the Premier League. During my time at Manchester City we had Nicolas Anelka, Shaun Goater and Robbie Fowler. At Stoke City towards the end of my career I played with Peter Crouch who had a fantastic career scoring some terrific goals.
When I was at Middlesbrough, I played with the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Bolo Zenden, Gaizka Medieta and the current England manager Gareth Southgate. And then at Everton, there was Tim Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Phil Neville and Mikel Arteta. They were all fantastic players.”
JR “I reckon I know the answer to this, but of all the wonderful strikers to grace the Premier League at the same time as you were keeping goal, which of them…”
CN “Thierry Henry! He was a phenomenal player and I made my debut against him for Manchester City. He had the ability to open defences up, but he had everything. He was a technical wizard, his physical ability was tremendous and he was a very clever player too. He would make forward runs, he was quick and strong, he had the lot and caused players a lot of problems. He is the one for me who stands out as the best opponent I played against.”
JR “Carlo, thanks for talking to me today, it’s been a real pleasure. When you look back on your professional playing career, who would you say helped you the most?”
CN “I think every manager has his own coaching style and way with the players. If you speak to any player the managers that make an impact on their careers or an impression on their careers are probably the ones they have had the most success with.
For me it would be Billy Davies at Preston North End and Joe Royle who brought me to Manchester City. You kind of favour those managers a little bit more because they brought you to the club and rated you. I have also had other great managers, for example David Moyes and Steve McClaren, but I also worked with good goalkeeping coaches and I have to say that during my time at Middlesbrough FC when I worked with Paul Barron, I came on leaps and bounds. I think I owe a lot to him for the way I developed as a goalkeeper because he was the first goalkeeping coach that really pinned down the principles of goalkeeping for me. I felt that I improved so much during my two and a half years at Middlesbrough FC with him, so he had a massive influence on the way I was as a goalkeeper and a person which was great.”
James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.