Ex-Pat Jake Carroll earning his stripes in England
Jake Carroll has settled in well in English football
Jake Carroll has some advice for League of Ireland players considering a move to the UK during the current transfer window: hold off until the summer window if you can.
He is basing it on his own experience, moving from St Patrick's Athletic to Championship side Huddersfield Town last summer.
"I was supposed to go last January," he recalls, "but it fell through because I was humming and hawing about it. I was disappointed at the time, but it worked out well.
"I finished my degree in entrepreneurship in Maynooth and I did my pre-season with St Pat's and played half the season. With my physical attributes and the condition I was in when I came to Huddersfield, I was ahead of everyone else in pre-season, and I caught the manager's eye straight away.
"Having played half a season, I thought I might be fatigued, but it benefited me more than anything, and I have trained well since then. I was more ready than most players who come across."
Carroll, who is 22, has also settled well in the Yorkshire town. "When I was 19 I was on trials and was homesick, but this time everything's perfect. I'm living with another player, who is from London, so we're helping each other, and there's another Spanish player in the same block."
Manager Mark Robins was so impressed with Carroll's pre-season form that he pitched him into first-team action on August 6 in a League Cup win over Bradford City, and he retained his place four days later for the 1-1 draw with promotion favourites QPR.
So far, he has made seven appearances for the first team. "I fell out of the team because we lost at Barnsley, in a game we should have won," he says.
"At the time, the manager was playing 3-5-2, and I was playing wing-back, which is more winger than full-back, and it didn't suit me as I'm more full-back than winger. He has reverted to 4-4-2 and I feel it would suit me better."
However, injury kept Carroll out of the reckoning for six weeks, and he only resumed training last Monday week. "I've been training with the physios, and that was my first week back with the team, but I have always been a fit guy, and the physios have me ready to jump straight back in."
The transfer window may work in his favour. "The left-back, who is in at the moment, has been linked with moves away," says Carroll, "and he's the only one ahead of me. I feel I just need one chance and I'll be back in.
"The gaffer was pleased with me and, when I spoke to him about going on loan, he said he wanted me here, so I know he has me in his plans."
Liam Buckley showed great confidence in Carroll and even handed him the number three jersey when he took over at St Pat's, but Carroll couldn't shift the excellent Ian Bermingham from that position.
"Liam was a fan of mine," says Carroll, "and wanted me to play, even putting me in at midfield, a position I had never played before, and especially in the (2012) FAI Cup final against Derry.
"That turned out to be the lowest point of my career, having to come off injured after 20 minutes. I went for a tackle and got caught under the knee. I tried to run it off but I couldn't and it eventually took four to five weeks before I was able to run."
Having enjoyed success with St Pat's, and having played in the Europa League, Carroll's CV looks good in Huddersfield's dressing room, as he explains: "The game away to Hannover was probably the best experience. The players here have play-offs on their CVs, but for me to have played in Europe I can hold my head up with any of them."
Huddersfield, who were battling relegation last season, have shown a big improvement this year and are in a safe mid-table position. "They are only in the Championship a year and they are doing very well," Carroll reasons. "Last year they suffered a couple of 6-1 defeats to Nottingham Forest and Leicester, but this year it's only been a goal between us.
"My target is to get back in the side before the end of the season. I'm confident that, if I get that one game, I'll keep the shirt.
"There are a lot of Irish players in the Championship, who have won caps, and if I was playing regularly I'd hope that Martin O'Neill would see me, but my first priority is Huddersfield."
Carroll sounds like a young man with his feet on the ground – and his priorities in the correct order.