What have you been up to since you left Lowestoft?
“At the time, I left Lowestoft I had been struggling with niggly injuries and decided it was best to get some game time at Norwich United. Although things didn’t necessarily work out there, so I ended up at Gorleston, which is where I had to retire at the age of 28 due to a back injury. Subsequently, I had a back operation last year. So that’s me done and dusted in terms of playing. Away from the pitch, I finished my Social work degree specialising in mental health at UEA back in 2009 and since then I have been working as a mental health specialist in Norwich for the past five years. This season I had the chance to return to football, as I took up the assistant coach’s role at Kirkley and Pakefield. Which has been a way for me to get back into football having had a few years on the sidelines, so it’s nice for me to stay involved in a reasonably high level at a local club. In a nutshell that’s what I’ve been up to.”
How would you describe your emotions when you were forced into retiring at such a young age?
“Gutted, to be honest. Football has always been in my family, with both of my parents playing for Lowestoft at a very high standard. So, having to give it up at age 28 where most footballers are approaching their prime, sucked. There were some down days where I found myself almost in denial at the fact that I would not be able to play again at a high level, but then you get through the denial period and you reach a stage of acceptance. This for me was a case of accepting that my time was up as a player. I’m someone who has always had quite high expectations, so recreationally playing with friends wasn’t really my thing. The fact I had to bow out at a decent level isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a shame that it couldn’t have continued and the hope would have been to still be playing now at the age of 32. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and now coaching for me is the next best thing which I can do alongside my full-time job. It even allows me to give a little bit back to the community and local football, as that’s where I learnt my trade. It has certainly been nice to get back involved as I lost interest in football for a year or two after finishing my playing career because I had a family of my own and priorities had changed. It probably didn’t affect me as much as it might well have done if I didn’t have these other things to keep me occupied.”
What’s it like working with Mark Willis at Kirkley and Pakefield?
“He is very knowledgeable, working currently for the FA Skills programme. Tactically he is spot on and like I say the opportunity arose in the summer, so for me to join up and work with him, has been a nice opportunity as I hadn’t done much in terms of football for the last few years. To be contacted by him personally felt quite nice and I guess we work together in a way where tactically he is very aware, whereas I feel I offer a bit of realism to the standard of football that we are coaching and managing. Obviously playing at the level we find ourselves at for a good number of years with Lowestoft allows me to share my experiences with the players, setting realistic expectations of what we want and how we want our teams to play. It has been a very enjoyable start to the season. Mark has been spot on, as well as really supportive and it helps that he is a nice lad too.”
Is your realistic approach and past playing experience what you bring to the team?
“Some of the players who are playing there now used to be some of the younger lads that were breaking through as I came towards the end of my career at Lowestoft. They were the ones who were coming through the youth system, so it’s nice to see how they have matured and developed into decent footballers. Not being arrogant but I know what it takes to win and I am all about winning, we are trying to install that belief into the team to make them hard to beat and a team that wants to win week in week out.”
Do you have any standout memories from your time at Lowestoft?
“My debut was a standout memory as I was aged 16 at the time and I was probably one of the youngest players to make a debut. Although I believe that has since been broken by the likes of Ross King and Bradley Hough, who have gone on to great things. But that was a highlight. Also, the 2007/08 FA Vase run was arguably the most memorable moment during my time at Lowestoft. Going up to places like Newcastle and playing teams that were made of steel, who on bitterly cold days would just have their sleeves rolled up and battled whereas we were classed as southern softies in undergarments. Either way, we had to turn up and do a job. There were a few times where we got battered and there were a few times that we came out on top. That particular Vase run saw us come up against Whitley Bay in the semi-finals. The Vase Final for me was the best and worst experience as a footballer, it was the absolute pinnacle of where I wanted to be as a footballer, playing inside Wembley stadium for my home team. But as for the feeling of losing on the pitch just after the game, I’d rather forget that. I was very fortunate to be able to play with some great players along the way who had been pros or retired pros that had come back to help some of the younger lads out, which I was at the time and I felt it contributed to a very enjoyable experience.”
What was your favourite goal from your time at Lowestoft?
“My favourite goal that I scored was away to Wisbech as I think I was about 17 at the time. I came on as a sub and we were 2-1 down. We somehow managed to sneak an equaliser and then I managed to get on the end of a half clearance from a corner and managed to smash into the top corner on the volley to win the game 3-2.
I also scored a couple of nice goals against AFC Sudbury away from home. It was always nice to score there as they were a team that we seemed to struggle against but to score a couple of goals against them away from home was quite sweet.
In terms of goals scored by my teammates, the list is endless, but some of the crucial ones came in the Vase run. One of the standout goals came against Concord in the quarter-finals of the 2007/08 FA Vase. We were being absolutely battered by them for near on 90 minutes, but halfway through the first half we had a breakaway, Bradley Hough managed to slot one in from a tight angle and we ended up winning the game 1-0. That was an absolute smash and grab. We didn’t deserve anything from that game, but we managed to get through and that set us up nicely with a semi-final clash against Whitley Bay.”
If you could play with just a few former Lowestoft players, who would they be and why?
“When I first came to the club you had the likes of Jamie Godbold who was a standout player. We had a reputation, that he would be playing right midfield and I would be playing right back by default. But we teamed up down the right-hand side and it was phenomenal at times, especially as it was just a pleasure to play with someone who had been pro and knew how to play the game properly. His commitment and his attitude were just some of the things that I looked up to him for as a player. Also playing with the likes of Russell Stock and Garry McGee who stood out as centre-forwards. Richard Woodrow and Greg Crane were others who had both came in from Kings Lynn having previously been at Norwich. Then you had Andy Reynolds in goal and the list really does go on and on. These are people who I held in quite a high regard at the level we were playing at. We had a very good squad for that period of about three or four years we were winning leagues, winning cups, going on great runs in the FA Vase. Off the pitch as well, we gelled together as a group of players and as a club. We did things outside of football together and I think that helped us on the pitch, because it just made us a more established team, as well as motivating people to go the extra mile for each other, which for me was the key to our success.”
Was the famous FA Vase runs the prime example of your togetherness as a team?
“Absolutely, that’s a competition where you need a team that can stick together and fight for each other and that’s exactly what we had and that’s exactly why we were quite successful in the competition. I guess the interesting thing is that people often forget the 2008/09 Vase run, which was the year after we reached Wembley and we lost in the semi-finals Whitley Bay. Personally, I felt that could have been our best opportunity to have won that trophy as it felt as though we had a complete squad. This competition highlighted why togetherness and team spirit are so important.”
If you had to pick a favourite game at Lowestoft what would it be?
“For me, it has to be both legs of the 2007/08 semi-finals of the FA Vase. In the first leg, we managed to win 4-0 in front of our own supporters. I think the opposition, Whitley Bay had a man sent off and we absolutely dominated the game. However, on the return leg at Whitley Bay, we lost 3-0 and were absolutely getting battered and we were camped just outside of our penalty area. Although, we managed to find a way to weather the storm and then what followed at the full-time whistle was a wrath of celebrations, with our travelling fans coming onto the pitch to celebrate with us. Being able to be victorious on someone else’s turf and managing to get yourself into a final that was going to be played at Wembley was an unforgettable experience and created some unbelievable scenes and memories. It was something that the club just hadn’t experienced before and we managed to capture the heights of the club’s successes which had somewhat been left behind for a number of years. They are definitely the standout games for me.”
What attracted you to Lowestoft?
“Lowestoft was my hometown club but it’s also a club where both my mother and father played for the women’s and men’s teams respectfully. My father, Stewart Reynolds played for the club during the 70’s and 80’s, so the pedigree was there. My mother, Angela Poppy scored the winning goal in WFA Cup Final back in the late 70’s early 80’s and went on to play for England. So, Football has been with me for a number of years and for me it was a no brainer that Lowestoft was the club for me, especially after falling out of the youth system with Norwich academy at 16, with the hopes of being a professional dashed. I had trials at other clubs but I eventually came back to my roots and fell back in love with football again. There was no better feeling than to play for my home team and go on to make over 350 appearances. We had a core group of players at that time which made it all special, the fans too were special and it meant a lot for me to have represented the club and the community. I guess if I am truly honest when I went to other club’s my heart was never really in the same place as it was during my time at Lowestoft. That’s no disrespect to those other clubs but Lowestoft meant an awful lot to me.”
What are you plans for the season ahead?
“I’m enjoying coaching at the minute. As previously mentioned I have a wife and a young son at home so my focus at some point will turn to both of them in the sense that maybe introducing him into the football set up, at the minute this hasn’t happened as he loves his cars and games. I think it is all about priorities, football for me was a luxury, I was fortunate enough to get paid for something I really loved, but the priorities change as you get older and now it’s about me focusing on my family and my career, making sure that I make a difference in the line of work I am doing, as well as making sure that my family are okay.”
"Playing for my hometown club was for me a massive honour and one that I can lack back on with great fondness and pride. There are many people at the club I could thank and too many to name but just a quick mention of these people; Chappo for giving me my chance and debut when aged 16 for the first team and believing in my ability. Jamie Godbold and Ady for helping my development through the youth set-up, Gary Bennetts sponsorship and Gary Keyzor who came in at a time and helped move the club forwards... and of course all of the people behind the scenes that worked tirelessly to help make the club successful. One thing that was always guaranteed was a core network of fans that travelled all over the country in all weathers to support which was fully appreciated by all the players. For me, they really were the heartbeat of the club and their endless support will never be forgotten. I wish everyone involved with the club past and present all the very best.”
On behalf of everyone at Lowestoft Town FC, we would like to wish Carl all the best for the season with his role at Kirkley and Pakefield and for the future
Updated 19:35 - 4 Jan 2018 by Sean Galea-Pace