Darren Carter plots FA Cup raid for red-hot Forest Green

Friday 04 Dec 2015
Darren Carter on the ball for Forest Green. Courtesy of Gloucester Citizen
This Sunday two of England’s in-form clubs meet in the FA Cup second round as second in the National League Forest Green travel to League Two-topping Oxford.

And for one player in the non-league outfit’s ranks it is a chance to propel himself and his club back into the spotlight.

Darren Carter shot to prominence as an 18-year old when he scored the winning penalty in the play-off final for Birmingham City in 2002 before going on to play over 200 games in the top two divisions for Blues, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Preston North End.

Oxford United v Forest Green

Emirates FA Cup
Second round
Kassam Stadium
2pm Sunday 6 December 2015
Winning sides receive £27,000 from The FA prize fund


However, following Preston’s relegation from the Championship in 2011 the midfielder endured a difficult period in his career, sitting out much of the 2011-12 season injured before spells at Cheltenham and Northampton.

He chose to drop down to the National League in the summer to play for Forest Green Rovers, despite a number of league clubs waiting in the wings, and the Solihull-born midfielder says that decision has paid dividends.

“When you’re playing week in, and week out in a team that’s playing well and getting results you feel great and it’s nice to be a part of,” said 31-year-old Carter.

“When you’re at the wrong of the table it can feel like a grind so I appreciate being a part of a good squad that’s gunning for promotion.

“With my experience and maturity I know you’ve got to appreciate the highs because it is a real rollercoaster ride. I’ve had a great career so far and I want to continue that as long as I can.”

Darren Carter spent four years at Preston North End

Darren Carter spent four years at Preston North End

Forest Green are certainly high fliers at the moment. Second in the National League and with one League scalp already under their belt, Carter believes they can go into this weekend’s FA Cup clash against Oxford with every chance of reaching the third round.

“We are a confident group and our league form has been very good,” he said.

“We find ourselves second in the table a point off top and we went into the last round at Wimbledon with no real fear.

“Oxford are top of League Two and are going great guns so we know it will take a big, big performance for us to come away with anything but this is the FA Cup and anything can happen.”

Carter is more aware than most of the challenge he and his team-mates will face on Sunday.

The former West Bromwich Albion man worked with current O’s boss Michael Appleton throughout his time at the Baggies and says that his ex-colleague will be meticulous in his preparation.

“He will know everything there is to know about us and he will try and nullify our threats,” Carter told TheFA.com.

“He’s a great guy and I know him well from West Brom and I’ve kept in touch with him throughout my career.

“But, knowing Appy, we will probably shake hands before the game but the banter will have to be left until after.

“That’s the character he is, he will have a laugh and a joke with you when the time is right but before the game he will be fully focused on the match and his team.”

Darren Carter clashes with Eirik Bakke during a West Brom v Aston Villa clash

Darren Carter clashes with Eirik Bakke during a West Brom v Aston Villa clash

However, it is not only the Oxford boss who will be all business on Sunday.

Forest Green were denied their first ever date with Premier League opposition back in 2010 when Notts County defeated them in an FA Cup third round replay and Carter says it would be huge for the club to get the glamour fixture it has always dreamed of.

“For any team outside the league an FA Cup run is huge in terms of the financial benefits but also being in the public eye especially if you can get to the third round and pull out a big team.

“As players you focus on the game in front of you but you can’t help thinking that if we got to the third round that we could get a Man United, Arsenal or Liverpool.”

And Carter, who took on the best the English leagues had to offer throughout the last decade, is hungry for another taste of the big time.

“Circumstances now find me playing in the National League but I have aspirations of getting back in the league and playing as high as I can,” he said.

“If you have the right attitude and work ethic there’s no reason that those big games can’t come back one day.”

By Chris Hall Digital Content Officer