It's a whole new kind of fan over in the MLS...
One of the many perks of writing for Roker Report, and being the in-house interviewer (to a certain extent) is the doors that it opens to speak to some truly nice people. Whether these people are from the world of journalism, sport, or more specifically football and Sunderland, it's an honour and a pleasure to get in touch with them, for your viewing pleasure of course.
This view was only strenghened recently when I had to good fortune to catch up with ex-SAFC midfielder and now team-mate of Thierry Henry and Teemu Tainio, Carl Robinson, and got to quiz him on his time at the club, what the future holds, and a few other things.
So without further procrastination, I'll get on with the fruits of my labour...
What is your favourite memory from your time at Sunderland?
Carl: My favourite time at Sunderland was winning away at Wigan Athletic 1-0, to seal promotion to the Premiership. It was a weekday game, and they are always special occasions. Then, to seal the title 1-0 at the Stadium of Light, in front of 42 thousand Mackems was always going to be special!
What was your impression of Sunderland before you joined? Did it change? And if so, how?
Carl: I always knew that Sunderland was a huge club, with great tradition, but it wasn't until I joined that I realised just how good the infrastructure was that was in place. It is a club that deservedly belongs in the English top tier.
Who was the best player that you played alongside in your time at the club?
Carl: The best player while there would have to be Julio Arca. Not only was he a fantastic footballer, but he is also a top guy too!
And the best that you played against?
Carl: The best that I played against was Milwall's Tim Cahill. A quality box-to-box midfielder who also has a nasty side that is also needed in order to succeed.
Do you still keep in contact with anyone from that time?
Carl: Well, the turnover has been huge in the last few years, and hardly anyone remains from my time there. I do still keep in touch with a few of my old team-mates, but more importantly, always keep an eyeout on the lads' results.
Do you know of any specific reason behind you seemingly falling out of favour when we were promoted?
Carl: Well, after a great year, Mick (McCarthy) deceided to go a different way, with box-to-box midfielders, and signed Tommy Miller to replace me. But... that is football, and I have no hard feelings whatsoever. I still keep in touch with Mick now, he is a great guy as well as a top manager.
What is your proudest moment in football?
Carl: My proudest moment was becoming a professional, and having my dad watching my career. Sadly, I lost him last year to a sudden illness, but everything I did was for him, and everything will be for him in the future as I begin a life in coaching.
Moving away from Sunderland, how did the move to America come about?
Carl: Well, I was close to joining New York after leaving Sunderland, but instead opted for two years at Norwich City, before I actually joined Toronto. After three great years there I have eventually joined New York, so I suppose it was always meant to be!
And how does the game differ, 'across the pond'?
Carl: It is definitely a different type of football over here, infact it's more like international football. Also the factors including weather, conditions, time difference come into play.
Speaking of Toronto, you were voted MVP (Most Valuable Player) twice. How did that feel?
Carl: Of course it is always nice to win individual trophies, but I have always been a team player and someone who gets on with their business without too much fuss. Thats the way i like it!
What are the plans when your playing days are over? How are the coaching badges coming along?
Carl: I am set to complete my UEFA A licence this summer, and start my pro-license. These plans have been working in stages for last 3 years while I have been playing, and it has taught me to look at the game differently.
You have played for a number of teams in your career, who do you rate as the best manager that you took to the field for?
Carl: I feel very lucky to have worked with some top managers, including Harry Redknapp, Neil Warnock and Nigel Worthington. In the UK though, I would have to say Super Mick McCarthy, because of his man management and his desire to win every match, which is a fantastic trait to have.
And, to put you on the spot for the final question, who would be included in an all-time XI of people that you have played alongside? It's 4-4-2 by the way.
Carl: "Robert Green, Kevin Muscat, John de Wolf, Dejan Stevanovic, Matt Taylor, Gary Speed, Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Paul Merson, Teddy Sheringham and Robbie Keane. Special mention goes to Julio Arca, Mark Pembridge, Mark Hughes, John Hartson and Tim Sherwood!!
So there we have it. I'd like to personally thank Carl for taking time out of his schedule to kindly answeer these questions. He was pleasant to talk to, and had great enthusiasm for helping a Sunderland site when all we did was ask on the off-chance. I'm sure I speak for everyone here at Roker Report, and Sunderland fans in general, in wishing Carl good luck for the rest of him time in America, both on the field, and off it.
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