Ex-Sunderland and Pools man Trevor Carson on missing life-changing Celtic move, sacrifices and painting his own mural

Motherwell's former Sunderland and Hartlepool United  keeper, Trevor Carson, gathers a high ball against Celtic.
Motherwell's former Sunderland and Hartlepool United keeper, Trevor Carson, gathers a high ball against Celtic.
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Trevor Carson cast aside holiday plans and shopping catalogues when a Celtic move failed to materialise.

But, after Saturday, the journeyman Northern Irish goalkeeper may finally get to bring out his paint brush.

In Carson’s hometown of Killyleagh, at the top of his mother’s estate, is a mural depicting the village’s international footballers – David Healy, Terry Cochrane and Hugh Henry Davey – along with a question mark and space for the next to represent their country.

When the mural went up in 2006, the theory was that Carson, a Northern Ireland youth cap who had already been on Sunderland’s bench at 17, would soon be on there.

Twelve years on, the space remains unoccupied. Carson has made a handful of squads but has never won a cap.

That will change on Saturday when Northern Ireland host South Korea – if boss Michael O’Neill gives the 30-year-old his debut as a reflection of his brilliant form at Motherwell.

“If I have to go up and paint myself on to it, I will, honestly,” joked Carson.

“Hopefully I’m better looking than what I am in real life! (But) I’ve got more important reasons to want my first cap – the sacrifices I’ve made over the years, the ups and downs I’ve had in football… a painting on the wall is not the ultimate for me.”

It was the pursuit of international recognition that led Carson to make financial and personal sacrifices this summer when, at the 11th hour, he rejected a more-lucrative offer to stay at Hartlepool United, near to where his young daughter is.

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

“He said to me when I was playing in League Two that I needed to be playing at a higher standard. I haven’t been playing any better than I have last four, five years.

“But the fact I’ve been doing it at a higher standard, in the Scottish Premiership ,has boosted my profile.”

It also put him on Celtic’s radar when they wanted a new keeper in January following Craig Gordon’s injury.

Well rejected the offer, though, and Carson and fiancee Rachel had to face up to missing out on the big move.

Northern Ireland colleague Jonny Evans had similar experiences when Manchester City and Arsenal wanted the West Brom defender, yet Carson admits that was a rather different scenario. “Jonny’s already on £100,000 a week – it’s different for me,” he said.

“Me and my missus played a game of let’s see what we could have bought, let’s see where we could have gone on holiday! I haven’t earned big money. I’m turning 30, it would have been life-changing money. It was disappointing, but it didn’t happen.

“Once it was done, I just got my head around it straight away and that was me moving on.

“I took the positives and I found myself working a bit harder because I thought it might happen again so be ready and give yourself the best chance.”