FC United of Manchester
FC United of Manchester
FC United of Manchester
15 Years of FC: The Carlos Roca Interview
Blessed with the skills we all wish we had, Carlos Roca joined FC United as a slightly jaded footballer, looking to regain his love of the sometimes not-so-beautiful game.
At FC he found a home and stayed for five seasons and over 200 hundred games, scoring 42 goals and assisting many more. You put the questions together and Tim Browning asked them, about the club he experienced so many peaks with while the club also hit the heights.
What’s the best paella you’ve ever had?
Without doubt it would have to be my grandmas in Palma De Majorca. Unfortunately she’s not with us anymore but as a kid growing up and going over to Spain a lot to see my family I’d have to give her the award. She gave it the best flavours, and I’ve had loads of paellas over the years but none were as good as her secret recipe.
I loved going over there in the summer seeing all the family and then she’d make us all this fantastic paella. My dad is from Palma and still lives in Palma De Mallorca and I’ve got family over there, cousins and uncles so I go over to see them as much as I can.
What did you think of your song?
When I first heard it I was chuckling, obviously the players get songs related to their attributes. For example Adam Jones got ‘Gonna break your bones’ as he gets stuck in so that suited him. With me it was because of my style of play and quick feet and it was nice.
When I came to FC quite a few players had a song of their own and I was new so I didn’t have one, so you feel like you’ve got to play and see if you get your own. When I heard it I was laughing then the ‘he drinks white lightning’ got thrown in and I thought it was funny, it was great and I took it as a compliment as it was always how I wanted to play.
I always wanted to try things, attacking minded with a bit of flair so to be recognised to have ‘feet like lightning’ was great and I used to hear it when I’d done something good.
Did you ever realise that the ’Feet Like Lightening’ song was supposed to be to the tune of ‘Rock The Kasbah’, but no one could sing it properly?
No, I think we were away for a friendly in Germany against St Pauli and I was in a bar with the players and fans after the game and this live band started playing it. The FC fans all started singing the clash version then a few of them grabbed me and said ‘we chose this tune for your song!’ and I laughed my head off.
As the song started getting going the FC fans all sang my version of the song while the band played theirs which was hilarious, there were around 250 FC fans taking the bar over singing my name, really good times.
Do you really have feet like lightning?
I was at City’s academy as a kid and growing up the coaches used to say to me ‘you’ve got really fast feet, good footwork and you’re good at dribbling & using your skills to beat a player’. So when I came to FC with my style of play running with the ball and using skills to take opponents on someone started the rhymm you’ve got ‘feet like lightning’ and it was a bit of fun and I thought it was great as a bit of a joke but at the same time it felt like a compliment and it ended it up sticking.
Do you ever drink “White Lightning”?
No I’ve never even tried it, it’s not something I think I would like to try as it’s a bit too strong for me! My favourite drink would be a nice Red Rioja wine, my favourite being El Coto.
What was your favourite foreign trip?
It would have to be South Korea as there were things we did on that trip that really were once in a lifetime things, it was surreal in many respects, the way we were treated was unbelievable. From the moment we got off the plane there were camera crews there, interviews in a huge press conference and the hotel was the South Korean Football team’s hotel.
Jerome and I were room-mates and I remember us coming out of our hotel room to go to the pool wearing our complimentary white dressing gown robes and white soft sliders thinking we were royalty! You look back now and think ‘What an experience’ and you’ll probably never get the chance to go again, it was such a unique thing to do, playing football in a world class stadium, staying in a world class hotel and experiencing the beautiful city of Seoul, having a great laugh with a great bunch of lads and I have to cherish that opportunity.
We had some great trips to Germany as well, I particularly remember playing against St Pauli and we played there veterans team who were unbelievable!
If you could experience ’Groundhog Day’ what day would you like to repeat over and over again and why?
Has the be a foreign trip to Germany with FC, they were always really good and I can’t remember laughing so much as on one of those, they were always really good, great memories.
Most memorable game?
It’s a really tough question as we’ve had some great moments during my time from playing in South Korea, playing St Pauli in Germany, playing in the FA Cup run against Barrow, then Rochdale, and then against Brighton away and there’s so many others so it’s really difficult to nail down one but I think I would have to probably say the FA Cup tie with Rochdale is the one, to do what we did as a team was unbelievable.
When Platty scored early on I got injured in the celebrations as I think it was Jerome that landed on my toe with his studs, I got into the dressing room at half time and I remember saying to Sam the physio that he needed to strap my toe up and sort it out, it was killing me and I thought I had broken it but I didn’t want to come off so I said he needs to sort it, I think I lasted around another 25 mins of the second half then I had to come off, it was too painful.
That was just an unbelievable night though, to come from where we came from, the performance we all put in and then the last minute winner and then us all being carried around the pitch after the final whistle. I’d say that was my most memorable game from a team point of view, collectively it was a special night for us all. When Norts scored that last minute goal I think we were all thinking “Oh my God what’s going on!? We’ve nicked it in injury time?!” We were playing really well against a good league side and winning the game then they got back in to it, then we won it at the end with the last kick of the game. The feeling and the achievement for us all and the fans literally taking over the stadium, and the way that they sang their heart out all night, it was like an FC home game. Our fans took the place over that night and pushed us through, and we managed to raise our level and beat a league side way above us in the league rankings - it was an unbelievable achievement for us.
We did have a great team and some fantastic players and we maybe didn’t get the credit we deserved at times because we should have won the Northern Premier League as there was plenty of quality in that team and we showed we could play at a much higher level. It was such a fantastic night for the fans too as they could be proud of what they’d built.
Do you remember much from the Brighton game?
Yes we gave them a fantastic game, I remember us being in the lead for a long part of the game and they were an unbelievable team, they were the highest ranked club in the draw for second round, as they were at the top of the 1st Division by quite a few point. Gus Poyet was the manager and the way they played football was pretty much how we tried to play but they were a lot better.
In one sense it was a great game because we both played football, but it was so difficult for us because when they got the ball and played they were very good.
I suppose they did to us what we used to do to people in our league, we were always the footballing team and people came up against us with a plan to stop us playing our football, so we came up against a team in Brighton who pretty much gave us a footballing lesson.
That said, we were so close, we were well in the game and started really well, but for me as an attacking player I didn’t manage to attack them that many times, when we did score I was part of the build-up going down the wing then cutting the ball back to Norts who set it, then Platty hit it in and that put us into the lead 1-0,
For the majority of the game I remember tucking in, tracking the left back and doing a lot of out of possession work to keep control of Brighton, and when we did get the ball it was a case of ‘can we keep the ball for a bit now’ because we’d not had it for large parts of the game, but we dug in and we got the goal that gave us the lead and held on and we started to think ‘we can do this!’.
Then unfortunately the ref gave Scott McManus a red card and when he went off it became even more difficult for us, we were 1-0 up working hard and holding on as Brighton started to really put the pressure on.
We just couldn’t hold on to the lead with 10 men and then they equalised with about five minutes to go, I remember being really tired, I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired in a game in my life, and towards the end of the game I was thinking “I’m struggling, we’re all struggling, we’re flat out on our feet and we’ve given everything we can”.
They continued to put the pressure on and got the penalty in injury time and I remember us all looking at each other and you can’t help but think ‘That’s it, we’ve done our best but they were just too good for us”.
Sam then went and made a superb great save from the penalty and I remember Karl Munroe clearing it. They were a top top team and it’s no surprise that they went on to get into the Premier League. It was one of those moments that you’ll always remember as a player, a great experience playing away at Brighton and matching them for most of the game and having the lead for most of it.
They had Glen Murray who went onto play in the premier league, Bridcutt, Tarrico on the right-hand side, some top players. I was speaking to Glen after the game as I knew him from when we were both played together at Carlisle United and he said to me ‘Well done, you’re a good team and we found it really difficult as a team to play you’.
We’ll all look back at when we played against some great players, and matched them and that’s testament to who we were, as a team, our management and the club and what we were about.
Most FC fans fondly remember 2010 for the FA Cup win against Rochdale in the 1st Round but can you sum up your emotions when you bagged the winner against Barrow in the 4th Qualifying Round?
It was an amazing feeling, not just for me but for the whole club. In my time at FC we’d never had that long of a cup run as we’d fallen short every time and we’d always think ‘We’re better than this!’, but this time we’d got on a roll and we came up against Barrow who were in the Conference at the time and they were a strong team. Coming up against them I think we played well and we deserved the win as it was by far one of the best FC games I’ve been a part of; when that ball came across the box I opened my body up and slotted it in with my left foot and the crowd and the emotion around the whole stadium just exploded.
Before the game Margy’s team talk was ‘Play the game lads, don’t play the occasion, you deserve to be this far, there’s no reason why we can’t go further again, we’re at home, it’s a nice day, we’ve got all those fans behind us so can we make history today?’.
That had me thinking ‘Why can’t we do this?’ so when that ball went in I couldn’t control my emotions and we just ran to the fans all screaming, it was an amazing feeling, an amazing feeling and to help the club to go and make history that day by getting into the first round of the FA Cup proper is a memory I will always cherish.
Is it true you had it written into your contract that you had to be subtitled on 70 minutes every week regardless of how you were playing?
Ha ha, no its not true but the joke came about because we’d always get to about 70 minutes and if we were winning and I’d had a good game, I’d say to Margy that I was a bit stiff & tired and could do with the rest.
The type of player I was I would pick up niggles that took there toll towards the end of games so coming off gave me a little rest to get ready for the next game as the games come thick and fast in those leagues. It happened so frequently that I said to Margy ‘You know I don’t do more that 70 minutes Margy, it’s in my contract!’ and it stuck.
Did you know that Swampy from FCUM radio was your #1 fan?
He’s a great lad and I can’t thank him enough for the support he gave me during my time there, it did take me some time to settle in and Swampy always stuck by me, he used to always come over to tell me how well I’d done and it might have taken me a month or two to settle in to playing in front of such boisterous fans who are so loud and energetic.
Any player going into FC needs to realise that they might have to find their feet, and it’s rare that a player will hit the ground running on day one, it will probably take a few games for them to settle in and find out what the clubs about. I still speak to Swampy from time to time and can only thank him for his support and encouragement on FCUM Radio and been part of the journey, I didn’t know he was my #1 fan but I can only thank him for that.
I know you had a good career at FC Utd but would you agree when Adam Jones came in and reached your bad crosses with his giant head, that took you from and OK player to a legend in the
I think I’ve still got a bad back from carrying Jonesy through those years at FC that’s probably why I had to come off most weeks after 70 minutes, haha! When Jonesy came in to FC it was a great addition as we were looking for that centre-half who could dominate either penalty area in the air. We used to discuss how we’d work free-kicks and corners and where he should run and where I’d be putting it, we had a lot of success with it and he scored a lot of goals with that big head of his as you couldn’t really miss it could you?
What are you doing now?
I’ve set my own business up which is a football academy, as when I finished playing I wanted to stay involved in the game, from a young age I’ve only ever known football so I own a company called ‘Pro-Football Academy’ and have football academies across the country in numerous locations offering young players coaching and development opportunities, giving them the best coaches and facilities and creating our own syllabus and development platform for young players to come to one of our centres and develop as a footballer.
I’ve always been passionate about football, I came through the system myself, I was at Manchester city academy as a kid and have experienced academy football and played at a decent level all my career, but there’s a lot of kids out there who won’t get that opportunity who weren’t scouted by a club or weren’t in the right place at the right time.
I was fortunate to get scouted as a kid and go to a good club and receive top level coaching, so the thinking behind me starting this company and going off to do my coaching badges and developing myself as a coach & to pass on the knowledge I had to give young players the opportunity that I had, if they don’t get scouted they can get the extra training with us just as they would at a professional club that will help improve them and we can also open up doors for them if they’re at the right level. We work with many professional clubs and regularly feed players into those clubs if that’s where those players want to go. Some players come to receive good coaching and just be the best that they can be.
Jonesy works with me and manages our HQ academy for me in Manchester and he’s come on board and doing a great job; he is also the first team manager of the semi pro football club we own called Stockport Town FC, who play in the North West Counties league. The idea behind us acquiring the club is to provide a pathway for our young academy players coming through the experience & opportunity of open age semi-professional football.
Can your son still kick a ball in a straighter line than you, like he used to do in the office at Hope Mill?!
Ha ha, great memories as my son Enrique was down at FC a lot when I was there and everyone I see from FC always asks ‘how is your little boy Enrique getting on?’ as he used to go on the pitch and boot the ball around with me. Chappy the goalkeeping coach used to take him out on the pitch at Gigg Lane while I was getting ready and do shooting with him, Enrique is doing really well he’s 12 years old now and at Man City’s academy, along with my next son Rafa who’s also at Man City Academy in the U11’s group. Who knows where they’ll go but they’re passionate about their football and they may follow in my footsteps, who knows? I’ve got two other kids a little girl Lucia who’s 7, and boy called Cruz who’s 3 and they’re all football mad because of seeing me play, obviously being around my academy and Stockport Town it’s just in the blood and it’s what we all do.
My missus Clare is fantastic, she’s not too into football herself but she does the football runs, though she’s not a fan of the kids constantly kicking balls around in the house, the constant football talk and watching football but she supports us all and has no choice,
You arrived as Rory Patterson departed for Bradford Park Avenue, how did it feel replacing him and were you aware of him and his impact on FCUM?
Rory was a fantastic player and I’m sure he goes down as an FC United legend and the fans absolutely loved him. I actually knew Rory as we used to play against each other when we were younger, I was at Oldham as a scholar and he was at Rochdale so we’d come up against each other as kids in the youth system, but when he went to Bradford I was actually also made an offer to go there that summer, so at one point it looked like we’d link up and be playing for the same team, but I made a decision to stay closer to home.
I’d had a few chats with Margy as I was leaving Altrincham and I’d fallen out of love with it for a year or two and wasn’t sure where I was, I’d come out of league football and then into the Conference and I just wanted to enjoy my football again; Margy said ‘This is one thing I can give you – I 100% guarantee that you’ll enjoy your football again at this club’. At that time it wasn’t about the money or contract length for me, it was about me being happy and supporting my family and at the same time trying to be part of something special, so that’s why I joined FC and not BPA where Rory went.
I wasn’t quite aware of how popular he was looking in from the outside, but I detected when I arrived that there was a real sense of loss around the club that he’d gone, but I don’t think I was brought in as his direct replacement because we played different positions. I’ve always been more of a creator than a scorer of goals either on the wing or as the #10, so that year Margy brought in Kyle Wilson who scored a lot of goals that season which replaced the goals Rory scored and I chipped in with a few too.
Between us we aware there was a big gap there left by him going and we had to make sure we filled it. Kyle scored 28 in 39 games and ended up getting a move to Macclesfield so he did really well that season, so I don’t think anyone replaced Rory in a sense but we made up for his departure with a good number of goals and assists.
How would you rate your experience playing for FC in relation to your time at other clubs?
It was an amazing experience and I’m really glad I made that decision years ago to come to FC. As I mentioned that summer there were various offers on the table for me to go to other clubs, I could have stayed in the conference or gone to BPA for good money but I wanted to enjoy my football and get the love back for it and FC certainly gave me that. The reason I stayed so long and I think this goes for a lot of the players is that we loved playing there, we loved being part of something that was special and we loved being with the fans and that sense of family we got, and that made it one of the best clubs I’ve played for because of the whole ethos behind it all.
It’s different to other clubs because at other places managers come and go, chairman and directors come and go; with FC it was like a family and everyone pulled together. I remember when I first arrived it did take me a little while to settle in because it was so different, I needed that little bit of bedding in time, but once I’d had that I had some of the best footballing days of my life, so I’m very thankful and appreciative to be given that opportunity and I thank Margy for bringing me to the club and can’t thank the the fans enough for supporting me and letting me be part of it.
Did you get asked to sign for any other clubs when you were at FC?
We were always having a good go at the league and it was really disappointing where wed get into the play-offs and we just couldn’t do it, but I never thought ‘We’ve not got promoted so I’m going’, I just thought we’ll do it next year. During the summer I’d get calls from other clubs as I’m sure many of our players did but I was never looking to move, sometimes there would be good offers but at that point in my life I didn’t want to go back to full-time football, and by then I had decided to pursue my coaching badges, set up my business and spend more time with my family and I wanted to enjoy my football and staying at FC gave me that though my hope was that we could get FC up the divisions and get them where they wanted to be.
What was your best achievement as a footballer?
I’ve been fortunate enough to win Player of the year and Goal of the year awards but I think it has to be when I was at Northwich Victoria we had a really good FA Cup run and got to the FA Cup 3rd roundaway at Sunderland, we got beat but I got the ’Man of the Match’ so playing against a Premier League club in the third round of the FA Cup away at the Stadium Of Light, and being chosen as the Man of the Match in that game was a big achievement for me.
What was your most memorable game for FC?
There were a couple, one was when we played Stocksbridge Park Steels and Jamie Vardy was on their side, everything I tried just came off and I scored two and we won 4-3, every pass, every touch, every cross and every finish was right, what made it even more special was that my family were there watching.
There was also a game against Ashton United where I got a hat-trick, one I scored was a volley, one was where I ran down the wing, cut in going past a few players and then a penalty, I remember Margy telling me to go and get the hat-trick by taking the penalty, and I remember thinking ‘I’ve got to score this one as I want that Match ball’
You retired quite young, was it an injury or were you unsatisfied with playing or something else?
I was starting to get a few injury niggles and in my last season at FC, I’d get injured and struggled to come back from them as quickly as I would have liked, I remember getting ready to come back and then breaking down and then going for scans, which showed that I had bone bruising, possibly because there had been a slight fracture that was there and every time you step up your return it’s not fixed yet, and that was really frustrating.
I stopped playing because of the niggles were exacerbated by the way I play and also because I had to divide my time between my growing family and setting my business up, and doing my coaching badges all of which took up a lot of time, so I decided to channel my energy to those and call it a day on the playing side.
Did you expect the FC united atmosphere to be as electric as it is before you joined?
Definitely, 100%, I’d played League & Conference football in some really good games and atmospheres, but the atmosphere wasn’t the same as at FC. When you come to FC you sense the passion and it’s very supportive, I have to give credit to the fans because they’ll stick with you all the way, some teams I’ve played for have very high expectations and if you’re not performing the fans are quick to let you know and you’ve got to take that as part of being a footballer.
With FC as long as you’re working hard they’ll back you all the way, you can be 5-0 down but as long as they see that you’re trying your hardest and fighting for the badge they’ll support you to the end, cheering and chanting and clapping you of the pitch as one of theirs ‘it didn’t work for us today but you just didn’t give up’.
The atmosphere at FC is unbelievable and I’d love to be playing for FC United today in that new stadium, it’s a fantastic club to play for and the players that play there now are very lucky and I’m sure they love every minute of it. We used to get beat from time to time and it was hard as a player particularly if you’d personally not had a good game, and it was difficult to take when the fans were still cheering you and clapping you off, we’d be thinking ‘We’ve let you down and we don’t deserve to be clapped off, you’ve got every right to be angry with us because we weren’t at it today’.
We’d come off that pitch, and I’m sure the FC players do now, and we’d feel guilty because we’d let the fans down; it wasn’t often but for whatever reason the result had gone against us and we’d still get clapped off, unbelievable fans and I’ve never experienced fans like them, so the best part is when you are doing well and you’re making them happy, hopefully it made up for the occasional bad result, and you’ve got to remember that you’ve got to stick together. It’s stuck with me and I want to take that ethos with me to what I do with my academies and Stockport Town that we’re all one and I want what FC have at a smaller level.
I love the fact that people still get in touch with me from FC, it’s nice to be remembered as I loved being part of FC, I’m always looking out for FC’s scores and to see how they’re doing and who knows, I’d love to be part of FC again and come back In some capacity, how that looks or works I don’t know but I’m hoping that one day there’s something I can come back to and get involved with, no idea what that would be but I think the club is amazing.
I was so privileged to play for FC for five years, when you come to FC they want to see exciting football and the fans want to see good players expressing themselves, we had some great times with so many great players from Jerome, Jake Cottrell, Jonesy, Kyle Jacobs, Norts, etc etc, so I was lucky to be given the platform to play, I stayed so long because I loved it.