Roy Carroll is definitely not a Greek scholar.
The former Olympiacos and West Ham United goalie is well aware of what David Moyes’ team may anticipate at Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Thursday night.
The 46-year-old, who made 35 appearances between the posts for West Ham before going on to become something of a modern-day Greek god after some brilliant shot-stopping for the Piraeus-based team, warns that “it’s going to be one of the Hammers’ more difficult group games out there.” “I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Hammers fans because they’re so committed to their team, but Olympiacos president Evangelos Marinakis is also a huge fan who gives his team his all.”
“That support then spreads to the bleachers, and I can assure you that the home crowd will incite a fierce environment within the stadium. David Moyes, the manager of Manchester United, visited Olympiacos in 2014, and I recall that he was aware that West Ham would require earplugs.
“Those Olympiacos supporters have remained steadfast and created a stronghold, even though things may not have gone well for their team over the last few years. They may not always have the best travel record, but they are a fantastic squad at home, and their supporters never stop cheering, regardless of the outcome.
Irish eyes are definitely grinning at Roy these days, considering that he began with a blank sheet of paper and went on to become the first-ever head of his nation’s new goalkeeping department.
Unfortunately, fifteen years ago or so, things were very different for the 45-time capped Northern Ireland international “keeper,” who properly feels a great deal of pleasure in how he has turned his life around after overcoming some very difficult and depressing times.
When he was at West Ham, Carroll acknowledges, “I got myself into a really bad place.” “Before suddenly becoming entangled in a goal net during a training session with Ludek Mikloško, I was already dealing with the aftermath of back injuries received in an automobile accident. The pain in my back was increasing daily, and it reached a breaking point when I sustained an injury during a match versus Fulham.
My mind began to play a lot of ridiculous games with me when I had to have major surgery for the first time in my career. Despite my young age of 28, I was consumed by negativity rather than appreciating all the good things in my life.
“I began to believe that I would never be able to play again, and as time went on, I lost contact with my teammates who were practicing and playing at Chadwell Heath while I was in the emergency room. I used to love the banter, but now that I was going to treatment every morning, I hardly ever got to say “Hello.” I was injured in 2006 and missed the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Despite my desire to play and practice, I was lonely and started to fade from the manager’s mind. In those days, people were not as aware of mental health issues as they are now, so I would have fallen further down the social scale.
“All they would think is, ‘What’s wrong with Roy?'” Since he plays football professionally, there can’t be a problem. But keep in mind that we are also human. Even though I haven’t touched alcohol in 12 years, I used to be extremely suffering and would often overindulge in it. Although I was lucky to be able to play again after suffering a serious injury or dealing with off-field issues, not everyone does.
After leaving the Hammers in 2007, Roy, who was born in Enniskillen, played for Rangers, Derby County, and Danish team Odense BK. However, he was given the incredible opportunity to make a legendary Greek comeback by way of an unexpected call.
“I had been without a club for nine months when, out of the blue, an agent called offering me a short-term contract with OFI Crete. Things happen in life for a reason, and I ended up on the mainland at Olympiacos,” Carroll says with a smile, reflecting on his Greek adventure that culminated in his incredible debut in February 2012 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
“I came off the bench to save the resulting penalty with my first-ever touch for the club when our regular ‘keeper got sent-off with a quarter of an hour remaining. I was the substitute goalie for our Europa League round of 32 match at Rubin Kazan.” That is the kind of stuff you can only dream about when you are ten years old and having a great time flying through the mud in the park with your friends!
Then, with twenty-five minutes left in the return leg in Athens, a player landed on me and I pulled a hamstring. I was winning 1-0 by this point and keeping a clean sheet, so there was no way I could keep going off.
After a three-year stint in the Greek capital, where Carroll’s influence will always be felt, the revitalized Roy assisted Olympiacos in winning the Greek Super League in addition to two Greek Cups.
“Even now, when I’m playing for one of the Northern Ireland teams abroad, the fans still come to the team hotel to say hello and express gratitude for everything I did while I was a member of their football team.
As I mentioned before, though, the Hammers’ supporters are just as devoted; the UEFA Europa Conference League final in June was proof of that. People traveled in enormous numbers to Prague, despite the fact that everyone knows how difficult it is to make money these days, to see their team’s thrilling victory over
In addition to achieving some absolutely incredible feats to win the Conference championship, that David Moyes team also made it to the UEFA Europa League semifinals, and they are currently leading their qualifying group once more.
“Playing in the Premier League on a Sunday afternoon after traveling throughout Europe for a Thursday night show is not an easy feat.” It does have a cost, and instead of competing against football players now days, you’re up against elite athletes.
“To compete at those levels, you really need a 25-man squad, and David’s done a brilliant job to keep West Ham competitive at home while having great success in Europe,” he says in closing. “In fact, he’s laid some really strong groundwork for the Football Club, and it’s been fantastic to watch West Ham emerge victorious from European competition over the last few years or so.”