Carson keen to paint himself into Northern Ireland history

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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 Carson, a Northern Ireland youth international 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 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 as a boy, 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 near to where his young daughter is.

Carson instead joined Motherwell in the hope Scotland’s top flight would give him a bigger platform to showcase his ability, having only previously been seen on television conceding goals in England’s lower leagues round-ups.

“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 goalkeeper in the winter window following an injury to Craig Gordon.

Motherwell rejected the offer, though, and Carson, a goalkeeper that has spent his career largely bouncing around League Two clubs, and his fiancee Rachel had to face up to missing out on the big move.

Northern Ireland colleague Jonny Evans went through 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’ve been at lower-league clubs. I’m turning 30, it would have been life-changing money. Football’s such a short career as well, you’ve got to look out for yourself and your family.

“It was disappointing but it didn’t happen. I was trying to explain to (Rachel), the window’s actually shut now. She was like, ‘It might still happen’. I said, ‘No, that’s it, done, so put all them catalogues back’!

“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.”

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