IN THE SPOTLIGHT . . . Tom Carroll

14th February 2017
In The Spotlight

The fate of a mate serves as a reminder of how uncertain the life of a footballer can be.

The serious head injury suffered by Hull City's Ryan Mason at Chelsea last month stunned everyone in the game.
For Tom Carroll, the sense of shock was that much greater because the player on the stretcher was a long-time friend.
"I grew up with Mase," says Carroll who, like Mason, learned his trade in the Tottenham Hotspur Academy.
"He is a year older than me so was in a different team when we were really young, but when you get to under-16 and youth-team level you start mixing a bit more.
"I have played with him a lot. He is a great player and a really good lad, and it was awful to see what happened to him.
"You don't expect to see that sort of thing happen in football. It's a really serious thing. I can only wish him well and hope he makes a full recovery."
Carroll has been in touch with Mason, who admitted he felt lucky to be alive after a sickening clash of heads with Chelsea's Gary Cahill which left him with a fractured skull.
"I think he is improving," Carroll adds. "That's obviously great to see because when it happened it was terrifying.
"It's an awful thing for him and his family to go through, but he is out of hospital and fingers crossed he can get back to playing football again."
Thankfully, very few players experience injuries as significant as the one Mason is attempting to recover from.
But most are aware that a footballer's career is short, and it is important to play as many games as possible while you can.
Hence Carroll returned to Swansea City during the January transfer window.
At the age of 24, he decided the moment had come to bring his long association with Spurs to an end.
"I feel I need to be playing regular football," he says.
"It was not easy to say goodbye to Spurs. I came up through the academy there and have seen a lot of people come and go, but for me it was the right time to move on.
"Once I knew Swansea were interested, I knew this was where I wanted to be because I had played for the club before.
"I spoke to the boss here and what he said was good. I am pleased to be back."
It was a strange feeling for Carroll as he drove out of White Hart Lane for the final time.
After all, he has been wearing a cockerel on his chest since he was spotted by Tottenham at the age of eight years old.
"Me and my brother used to go with my dad when he as watching local football," explains Carroll, who hails from Watford.
"My dad would be with his mates and we would go and kick a ball about. I got scouted doing that."
There began the footballing education which would lead to a total of 56 first-team appearances in Tottenham colours.
Yet only three of those came this season - and two were in the EFL Cup - hence Carroll was keen when the Swans came calling.
Having spent the 2014-15 campaign on loan at the Liberty, he had appeared to make a breakthrough when he returned to North London.
Because last season, he racked up a very healthy 30 first-team appearances as Maurcio Pochettino's team finished third in the Premier League.
"Last year went well for me. We had a good season and I was involved quite a lot," Carroll says.
"But this season I didn't really get the chances that I did last year. It was frustrating for me because I thought I had done well."
Pochettino, one of the most highly regarded managers around, clearly saw something in Carroll, for he showed plenty of faith in him last term.
But following the signings of much more experienced midfielders like Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko, plus the emergence of another promising youngster in Harry Winks, Carroll found opportunities hard to come by.
Nevertheless, he has only positive things to say about Pochettino, the man who has turned Tottenham into title contenders.
"He is a good guy and a top manager," Carroll says.
"I think he has helped me improve as a player. The work they do both in the gym and on the training field at Tottenham has made me a better player.
"I can only thank him for that. The head coach here at Swansea has been great, too. I have really enjoyed his sessions."
The Swans had been tracking Carroll, who made 18 appearances under Garry Monk during his first stint in SA1, before Paul Clement arrived at the club early last month.
But the former Bayern Munich assistant boss quickly gave his blessing to the idea of a move for Carroll, thanks in part to two members of his backroom team, Nigel Gibbs and Karl Halabi.
Both were at Spurs before joining Clement at the other end of the M4, and both were well aware of Carroll's qualities.
Having signed on January 17, the new man was thrust straight into the starting XI at Liverpool four days later.
Carroll duly delivered a man-of-the-match performance as the Swans registered their first ever league win at Anfield.
Carroll produced some lovely touches on Merseyside, the sweetest of which was the cross-of-the-season contender which laid on Fernando Llorente's second goal of the game.
Not only that, but he also put in a mighty shift for his team.
Carroll ran 13.2 kilometres during the Liverpool game, which is the largest distance covered by any Swans player this season.
That statistic is all the more remarkable when you consider that before the game, he had tasted just one minute of Premier League action - in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace back in August - throughout 2016-17.
"It was nice because I hadn't played in a while, but I have been doing a lot of work at Spurs," Carroll says.
"I have done some extra stuff with the fitness coaches at Spurs, while I also trained with the under-23s on my days off.
"I wanted to make sure that if I moved on in January, I would be ready to play. Thankfully that paid off.
"I think I can be a box-to-box midfielder, and I think the ability to get around the pitch is a big part of the game these days.
"People talk about my size, but I don't think that matters at all. I can cover the ground and I feel like I am strong enough.
"I noticed when I was playing at youth-team level that my stamina was good, and I have always been high up when you do all the tests.
"But I don't really think about it to be honest. I just work as hard as I can, as everyone does. Some people are quicker than others, some people can run for longer."
Carroll's dynamism has given the Swans something extra in midfield.
So too has the kind of quality which saw him deliver that delightful ball to Llorente.
"I caught it perfectly," he says through a smile, "and that's always nice.
"When you have got the big man in the box, there is always half a chance he will get on the end of it."
The Liverpool victory was a landmark result during a run of form which has lifted the mood at the Swans' Fairwood training base.
After those two heavy home losses to West Ham and Bournemouth over Christmas, a squad who were without a manager at the turn of the year were struggling to find reasons to be cheerful.
But within hours of Clement's appointment, the Swans landed a morale-boosting win at Crystal Palace.
Their progress since then has suggested that despite the various struggles of the last few months, this season could end on a high note.
"We have got to take it game by game, but we have gained some confidence and that's a key thing," reckons Carroll.
"There's still a long way to go. We just have to concentrate on what we are doing, listen to the head coach's plans and try to deliver.
"I have been really impressed by him (Clement). He has a great reputation having worked at some top clubs and what he has done on the training pitch with the lads has been really good.
"I think all the players have enjoyed his sessions."
And the fans are enjoying watching his team.
So far, Carroll has been a big part of what Clement has tried to do.
After those frustrating days at Spurs, he intends to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy further in-depth interviews with your favourite Swans stars HERE.