Rio Ferdinand has expressed his gratitude to Tony Carr, West Ham’s esteemed youth coach, for helping develop a career that started on the training pitches at Chadwell Heath and led to the pinnacle of the sport in the colours of Manchester United.
Ferdinand joined West Ham’s youth ranks aged only 12 and earned his YTS contract two years later, before being afforded a debut for Harry Redknapp’s senior team before the defender had even reached his 18th birthday.
While it was Frank Lampard Snr, Redknapp’s trusted assistant, who had first spotted Ferdinand, it was Carr who was credited with overseeing his development, and the former Manchester United centre-back has paid thanks to this key influence on his professional life.
“When you’re a young kid at a football club you go through the schoolboy process and the youth team manager is like your king,” Ferdinand said at the launch of his autobiography #2sides.
“You’re trying to impress him. If you walk past him you stop bouncing, you walk straight and you fix yourself up because he’s the one handing out youth contracts. You wanted to make sure it was prime time for [Carr].
“When you went on the staff he used to drill you hard, he was really hard, he was good. A lot of the traits you see in any of the young players that come through at West Ham were drilled by him.”
A long line of success
Along with Ferdinand, Carr also presided over the early days in the careers of Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Glen Johnson, and spotted the talents of a 16-year-old Jermain Defoe who was then at Charlton. There are many others, of course.
Carr, who was awarded was made MBE for his services to football in 2010, remains at West Ham 48 years since first moving to Upton Park, and has been fundamental in club establishing what they declare to be the Academy of Football.
He was recognised with a testimonial five years ago, for which Ferdinand along with brother Anton returned, as did Lampard and Cole, along with John Terry who had been on the books at West Ham before moving to Chelsea.
It is quite a record of success for Carr, who is searching for the next diamonds after a relatively barren spell for an academy of such acclaim. Oscar Borg, Reece Burke and Reece Oxford are the latest teenagers to be coveting interest, with Arsenal, Manchester United and others linked with moves.
Borg had spent a trial period with Manchester United over the summer but is expected to sign professional terms, as Burke did last week. And, as Ferdinand may well concur, it could be best that they stay working under Carr for the time being at least.