Ed White catches up with former Champions League and Northern Counties midfielder Seb Carole

27th October 2007.  Seb Carole beats Millwall's Danny Senda.
27th October 2007. Seb Carole beats Millwall's Danny Senda.

From the Champions League, to the Northern Counties East League, enjoying football has always been central to Seb Carole’s life.

During the Frenchman’s career he experienced cup final elation at the Stade de France, play-off agony at Wembley, and league defeat to Bottesford United at Knaresborough Town’s Manse Lane.

Over the last two years, he has spent a fragmented spell starring for Knaresborough.

His eight goals in competition played a part in the club settling well into life in NCEL Division One and his cheerful character was an asset.

But at 31-years-old, the winger has chosen to hang up his boots, for now at least, with a new bid to bring a texture of French education to the coaching of Yorkshire’s youth.

“It hurts too much to say retiring, but I would say I am focusing on something else now. It’s time to bring my experience to the children,” the ex-Leeds United man says.

15th April 2008. Seb Carole against Huddersfield Town.

15th April 2008. Seb Carole against Huddersfield Town.

Two weeks ago, Carole set up his own football academy, training twice a week at the Grammar School at Leeds.

The intention is to replicate Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and educate youngsters the art of short, sharp movement in conjunction with junior clubs and academies.

It was the Wenger legacy at Carole’s first club, AS Monaco, which carved out his footballing ethos.

As a bright youngster blessed with raw pace and ambitious vision, Carole swapped home-town Paris for the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo to join one of Ligue 1’s best academies.

NAKP 1210274AM4 Knaresborough Town V Hemsworth. Seb (1210274AM4)

NAKP 1210274AM4 Knaresborough Town V Hemsworth. Seb (1210274AM4)

Wenger had just left for the Gunners, but the impeccable coaching set-up, primed to develop technique and team fluidity, remained.

Carole spent ten years learning the beautiful game at Monaco. He passed through their competitive academy, starred for their reserve side and battled into a first-team squad alongside Patrice Evra, Fernando Morientes and Ludovic Giuly.

But at 23, a January decision to hunt game time in a six-month loan deal at West Ham United will always haunt him.

He spent more time blowing bubbles than tantalising defenders. In the meantime, his Monaco teammates reached the Champions League final only to lose against Jose Mourinho’s Porto.

“It was a bad decision, a really bad decision,” he says with a smile on his face.

“As a youngster you always want to play. I don’t think I realised how lucky I was to be in such a great team. I wanted more time on the pitch.

“There were so many great players playing above you, I don’t think I was aware of how lucky I was.

“No one advised me well. I just wanted to leave and get my own experience.”

Despite missing out on the club’s greatest ever exploit, just playing in the world’s premium club competition was enough to fill him with “chills”.

He reflects: “With Monaco, I lived so many great experiences. The Champions League was best competition to play other than the World Cup. It was just amazing.

“When you go on to the pitch you hear the Champions League songs, you get chills. And then once you are on the pitch, you enjoy it so much. There’s no pressure.”

Despite a sour first taste of English soil, he returned again with Brighton & Hove Albion in 2005 before joining Leeds United during their financial battles of 2006.

“I always wanted to come to England because the football set-up is fantastic here,” Carole adds.

“I set my level a little bit lower.

“It was a big step down but I was willing to do that just to play 90 minutes week in week out because I was quite confident at that time that I would go back to the Prem.

“It never happened but I never regret it.”

In his two-year spell at Leeds United, Carole played under five different managers. He endured relegation from the Championship, a 15-point deduction, a nine-match winning run, another managerial casualty and a play-off final defeat.

But most of all, he felt the passion of the crowd, the warmth of Yorkshire folk, and a place of residence he was happy for his children to gain their education.

He says: “I had one of the best times at Leeds because it’s such a great club. Down in League One, we still had 32,000 people coming to watch. I remember coming onto the pitch we would say ‘look at that boys, this is how lucky we are’.

“We never complained about anything. It’s not easy every day but we do what we love. How can you complain?

“Monaco was a great club but it didn’t have the fanbase that English clubs have. At Monaco, you were lucky to have 5,000 people. The people are so rich, they don’t care about football they are more concerned about playing golf with Tiger Woods.

“At Leeds, the last game of the 2006-07 season when we went down, the fans were still cheering us at the end of the game and saying we’re going back up.”

It was his time at Leeds that brought him to live in Wetherby with his wife.

He has stayed there since he left the Whites in 2008, and commuted to play bit parts at Tranmere Rovers, Bury, Darlington and a third spell at Brighton before heading along the non-league route with Knaresborough Town and Guiseley.

His Wikipedia page even includes one Claro League appearance and one goal for Burton Leonard Squirrel.

“I was just trying to enjoy football as it is. I love being on the pitch. It doesn’t matter what league the team is in,” he says.

“But now I just don’t have time anymore.”

His last match was that 2-0 defeat against Bottesford, playing 60 minutes before exiting the field fatigued and injured having had little time to train.

His next venture, the Seb Carole Foootball Academy, is a commitment to young players, aged eight to 12. He intends to pass on his experience, laughter, and mistakes without providing competition to local clubs.

There has been much talk about improving the English game at youth level. The FA Commission has many questions in its hunt for improvement, but Carole already believes he has the answers.

He spends his time at home designing new coaching drills on the computer, taking the existing patterns to new levels through an electronic paintbrush.

“England is just the greatest place to be for a football player,” he says.

“I was just happy to be on the pitch, always smiling. That’s what I am teaching my son, that is what I want to teach others. Be a joker and enjoy the game.”

“You sometimes see kids frustrated because they fail at something or because they miss something.

“It’s normal, but you have to cheer up and enjoy what you are doing.”