Derry City treble winner Paul Carlyle recalls his time at Liverpool and Man United and his footballing family

PAUL ‘STORKY’ Carlyle had big boots to fill when he decided to embark on a career in football.

Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 10:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 10:50 am
Derry City striker, Noel Larkin and Paul Carlyle pictured with the FAI Cup as the Candy Stripes completed the 1988/89 treble.

Following in the footsteps of his Scottish born father, Hugh - who once marked the great Stanley Matthews in an international against England for N. Ireland - and his older brother Hilary who played alongside Eusebio and against Pele in Las Vegas, was never going to be an easy task.

However, the Broadway native, a former monumental sculptor and the youngest of six footballing brothers in a family of 10, didn’t do too badly at all!

As part of Derry City’s historic treble winning team, ‘Storky’ earned a trial at Liverpool and he recalls the moment when he was told by a specialist his ‘career was finished’ after just 35 seconds on a treatment room with a proposed three year deal with the English giants on the table.

A familiar sight as 'Storky' makes his way down the wing for Derry City during the early 90s.

Despite being diagnosed with arthritis in both hips, he managed to secure another trial, this time with Manchester United where Sir Alex Ferguson told him he was ‘f**king useless’.

Again it ended in disappointment after yet another failed medical but the pacey winger played out a hugely successful career in the domestic game, representing Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk in between winning the Gibson Cup with Portadown.

In a warts-and-all interview with the former Institute manager, Carlyle reveals how the abuse he received from his home support at Derry almost cost him his place in the Candy Stripes famous treble winning team in 1989.

Having played against the likes of Dwight Yorke, Peter Beardsley and Roy Keane, we find out who the best player he’s played against and he explains why the legendary Jim McLaughlin was to blame for him missing out on watching his beloved Liverpool win the FA Cup against Everton in 1989 despite being kitted out in the club’s official match day suits.

The Derry City team and management ahead of the 1989 FAI Cup Final.

Did you feel pressure to succeed coming from a talented footballing family?

“I never saw my dad play, I was too young. I know he captained a Northern Ireland team the time they beat England 3-2. He was a centre half and marked Stanley Mathews. He was a big name in those days.

“Motherwell tried to buy him back from Derry and he wouldn’t go. Apparently he was one of the best. He was 6ft 4’’ - a monster of a man. He worked as a docker and he used to walk up the quay with two 16 stone bags of grain one on each shoulder - he was a big man.

“Apparently the leather balls, he used to head them half the length of the pitch even when they were wet.

Derry City FCs Paul Carlyle wins this aerial battle with St Pats defender Pat Kelch during the sides game at Brandywell.

“Jock Stein told my brother Hilary he was the best shielder of the ball he had ever seen when he was at Celtic. He played over there with the best of the best like Kenny Dalglish, Jinky (Johnstone) and Danny McGrain.

“I think he agreed to a five year deal and couldn’t deal with the disappointment of that when it fell through so he went to America. It was devastating for him but he could play.

“My two brothers, the twins (Kevin and Trevor) played for Dundalk and Finn Harps as well. The two of them were working and they didn’t have the same drive.

“My other brother Raymond was a big player. He was an Irish underage international and retired because everyone was comparing him to me da. He said he couldn’t live up to my father. Apparently he was top class and just stopped playing. He was a centre half too.”

Pictured ahead of the 1989 Cup Final.

Biggest Achievement in Football?

“Definitely winning the treble. In all honesty we should’ve done it the following year too. When you look at the records, they had an emergency meeting in Dublin when we beat Galway 11 and beat somebody else and they were saying Derry City were too good for the League of Ireland. It was a curse once they said that because we were battering everybody.

After that we got a few injuries and lost a few points. We played Dundalk and lost on penalties in the League Cup Final and played Bray and Tim (Dalton) threw two into the net so we should’ve won the treble the second year again. That was a big disappointment.”

Was the European Cup goal against Benfica your career highlight?

“It would be up there but it’s more of a highlight for Derry City fans. But the disappointment for me was because we lost. We did ourselves real justice there because we gave them a game. Having said that it’s a proud moment to have scored in the European Cup.

I just remember Felix hitting the post and me following up like I always did. I think it might have taken a slight deflection to be honest but it was going in anyway. It’s nice memories. But winning the treble was the highlight of mine.”

Olympic Gold Medallist, Duncan Goodhew, pictured with Derry City F.C. players Stuart Gauld, Paul Carlyle and Peter Hutton.

Was it your best goal?

“It wasn’t the best goal I scored either. That would’ve been when me and (Roy) Coyle fell out and we were playing Ards around ‘93. I had just signed for Coleraine. I’ll always remember when Ken de Mange had come back from Liverpool and was playing for Limerick and he scored from the halfway line and chipped Dermott (O’Neill) and Coyle blamed me for it.

“But he (Coyle) signed Ian Bustard and Ken de Mange when he went to Ards and we were playing against them. “Marty McCann was playing and Kevin Brady and big David Jeffrey was centre half. I got a throw-in inside my own half at the halfway line, nut-megged two or three of them and big Jeffery came out and I put it through his legs and stuck it in the bottom corner.

“I went over and said ‘Davy are you glad to see me’ and he went mental. The police had to separate us. We beat them 5-0. I scored one and set up three and the next day he put the whole team on the transfer list.

“That was the best goal I’ve ever scored. That or the one against Shelbourne. But the Ards goal was special because I just went through the whole team and it was more motivation against Coyle than anything else.”

Favourite memory on the pitch?

“Probably winning the league in 1989. My best memory on the pitch was that but off the pitch was when we came back to Derry and saw the crowd at the Guildhall.

How did you deal with the abuse you got from the home support in the early days?

“In the early years I would’ve got abuse but it never bothered me. I was getting abuse one match - it was the day Liam (Coyle) made his debut (against Cobh) and Jim (McLaughlin) called me down to his office and told me; ‘look, if you were my son you wouldn’t be playing for Derry City.’ He said; ‘I can’t watch you getting abuse you don’t deserve and said he would take it out of my hands and would rather I leave for a period of time.’

He said to me; ‘after today’s game I think it’s better if you went as the abuse isn’t justified and I’m going to have to look at it’. I told him it didn’t bother me but he said he just doesn’t think it’s right.

“That day we played and Liam came on and scored a hat-trick and I scored one into the top corner and set Liam up for his third. I had a great game that day. After the match Jim came into the changing rooms and they were all congratulating Liam. Jim came straight over to me and said; ‘you’re going nowhere. You’re staying here!’

Why do you think you got that abuse from the stands?

“Well a lot of local players got abuse. There’s a lot of players who came in from abroad and did well but the First Division was a pub league in my opinion. You would’ve got a better game against some of the D&D teams who played on a Sunday.

"Raymond McGuinness got it (abuse) and a few others. To be honest when I was playing I didn’t really hear anything. I switched off. A few times out the town you would’ve got abuse but you just ended up telling them to ‘f**k off’.

"I get more respect now than I ever got. You know if you’re good enough or you’re not. People looking from the outside see differently.”

A lesser known fact about yourself?

“When I was younger I trained to be a monumental sculptor, engraving headstones.”

What was your trial with Liverpool like?

“When I went over to Liverpool and played there I remember at half-time Phil Thompson going mental, smashing cups. We were playing Blackburn and they were going for the Central League and it was 0-0. He wanted to know how a part-time player was fitter and doing a better job than senior professionals playing years at the club.

“The likes of Jim Magilton, Mike Marsh, Jim Beglin, Mike Hooper in nets and Barry Venison. I was there for three weeks. They agreed to a contract and then thought I had a hernia.

“They sent me to a specialist and were talking to me about a three year deal. They found what they thought was a hernia and I went to a specialist. I was on the table for about 35 seconds and he told me ‘your career is finished!’ He told me I had arthritis in both hips and that was the end of that.

“I had got fitted out for a suit to go to the FA Cup Final (1989) the year they beat Everton. The year of the Hillsborough disaster so the FA Cup Final was played before the league ended.

“But that weekend we were getting presented with the treble medals and McLaughlin made me come home.

“Dalglish didn’t want to talk about me. He wanted to talk about Hilary who he played with at Celtic. They were big friends. I have a letter somewhere that Jim Beglin wrote me, saying ‘get your hernia fixed and I’ll see you at the end of the season’ as it was more or less agreed.”

Did you come close to signing for Man United?

“The time Steve Bruce guested for Derry in a friendly against Newcastle he told Fergie to sign me when he got back. Jim called me and made me go. I didn’t want to go. I went on the drink for a week. What was the point in going and getting that disappointment again? I knew I wouldn’t pass the medical again.

“I remember me and Paul Ince had a right battle. Someone played a wonder ball and I hated heading the ball and tried a scissors kick and missed it.

“Fergie brought me in and said ‘look, Man United don’t believe in telling youngsters lies. We will tell you what we think of you.

"You can read the game and you’re super fit, you can pass the ball, you’re strong on the ball, you can do everything. Then he said; ‘but for the life of Jesus can you not head a ball - you’re f**king useless!’ McLaughlin had me warned not to say a word about Liverpool or anything else. So I said nothing.

“When he said I was useless he said afterwards; ‘basically son, you’re good enough to play for Man United but Jimmy’s instructed you to go home. Have you anything sorted?’ I told him my wife Janet was working in London so I was going to get the train down to London and book a flight to Cork and get sorted out.

"He lifted the phone to his secretary and booked a flight from Manchester to London and from London to Cork the following morning and a taxi from Cork airport to the hotel and he knew the hotel’s name and all. We were playing Cobh Ramblers the next day. “He said ‘Man United will pay for that’ and told me I had some expenses to get.”

Have you any regrets?

“I have no disappointment because when you’re thrown in there at the likes of United and Liverpool, if you’re not good enough you won’t see the ball because they’re that good.

“When I was over there you were just saying to yourself ‘gone please don’t give me the ball’, you were breathing out your arse. And at United I was on the beer and was shattered.

“I wouldn’t say I should’ve done this or that. I was happy enough with what I did. I never let my standards drop. I didn’t what I had to do and I know I was good enough but I didn’t know I had a calcium deficiency in my two hop joints from birth. It developed into bad arthritis and now I’ve got it in my knee. Who’s to know where you could be.

"That’s life but at least I know I was good enough to play at that level and play along with those players.”

Do you think you were underrated as a player?

Pat Byrne, an Irish international, was quoted in an article, I think it was in the Derry Journal where he said I was one of the best League of Ireland players in the history of the league and the most underrated. So it was always the better players who understood my game. You know your levels."

Were you a talker on the pitch?

"I would've taunted players. The big named boys, the likes of Curtis Fleming who played left back for St Pat's. I had his heart broken. I wouldn't talked to players in a way that would distract them."

Who was your best manager?

“Jim McLaughlin - easy! Nobody can compare to him. He was a brilliant man.”

Who’s the best player you’ve ever played with?

“I would have to say two. Felix (Healy) and Liam (Coyle). They were different class but you never even had to talk to them. It was like telepathy.

"You just moved and knew you would get the ball. It was like when you’re playing snooker, those boys were maybe four or five shots ahead. Your average Joe pots the red and sees what he can pot next.

"Those boys saw the bigger picture even before they got the ball and saw how things could develop. This is all split second stuff.”

Who was the best player you played against?

“Paul Scholes or Eric Cantona would probably have been the best I played against. That was when I was playing for Portadown against Man United in a friendly.

"And Cantona was scary, even to look at. He was as broad from back to chest as he was shoulder to shoulder. He had some physique and just glided along the pitch. Keane was top class too.”

Would you ever go back into management?

"It ground me down in the end. Coaching wise I really enjoyed my time at Maiden City and they are a brilliant organisation. I had the pleasure of having Eunan O'Kane and Darron Gibson for a while.

"I coached Shane Ferguson and Ronan Curtis from when he was six or seven. I changed him from a right back to a centre forward. So I enjoyed all that but no, I wouldn't go back into management, definitely not."

What’s your proudest moment?

“Probably knowing I was good enough to be recognised by the likes of Liverpool and United and being asked over and realising you weren’t out of your depth.

"The saddest part of it was because of the medicals it wasn’t to be. “So for me the proudest thing is probably the treble and the satisfaction to know I have no regrets.

"I’ve been at the highest level and only for certain circumstances it might have been better but I was happy enough with the career I had. I had a brilliant manager and a brilliant set of teammates.”

Paul Carlyle pictured during his stint as Institute manager.