RAICH CARTER, 'The Great Horatio', was by common consent the finest English inside-forward of his generation. But for the Second World War which sliced his footballing career in two, he would have won many more than his 13 full international caps, though that relatively meagre total - relative, that is, to his immense talent - might have had a bit to do with an impatient, abrasive side to his character.
Carter was that rare being, a magnificent maker and taker of goals, and were he playing today his transfer valuation would surely be astronomical. During his peak years and beyond, when his black hair had turned prematurely to a distinguished silver, he cut an imperious figure, radiating self-confidence as he strutted around the pitch, invariably dictating the course of a game. Some would (and did) call him arrogant, but there was no denying the Carter class. He shot thunderously with either foot, especially his left; his ball control was impeccable and his body-swerve little short of sublime; and, crucially, he possessed the intelligence to put these natural gifts to maximum use.
He could roll immaculate passes through the tiniest of gaps, sometimes seeming to shred defences at will, and much of his work alongside Stanley Matthews, when the two formed a right-wing pair for England, was breathtaking. Indeed, few men appreciated the footballing needs of 'The Wizard of Dribble' as Carter did, and, certainly from this distance, the reluctance of the selection committee (this was well before the days of the all-powerful team boss) to use them in tandem more regularly appears incomprehensible.
The Wearsider Raich, the son of a professional footballer, exuded all-round sporting ability from an early age, his magnificent athleticism making light of a lack of physical stature. By 1927 he was playing for England Schoolboys and in 1930 he joined Leicester City on trial, only to be released because he was 'too small'.
His home town club, Sunderland, had no such qualms, and earlier thoughts of an engineering career were jettisoned as he progressed rapidly to first-team status. Thereafter Carter's rise became positively meteoric. In 1934 he made his full England debut, against Scotland at Wembley; two years on he inspired an essentially ordinary Sunderland team to the League championship, becoming the youngest title-winning skipper in the process; in 1937 he was the star turn as the Rokerites beat Preston North End to lift the FA Cup. Thus, at 23, Raich Carter had won every honour then available to a footballer.
Nevertheless, his international appearances were spasmodic and it was not until 1943, when that other splendid inside-forward Wilf Mannion was drafted into the army, that Carter was recalled to the England side on anything like a regular basis.
Having joined the RAF and been stationed at a pilot rehabilitation centre at Loughborough, it was convenient for Carter to guest for nearby Derby County while the conflict continued, and when peace resumed the Rams had seen enough of him to make the arrangement permanent. Accordingly they paid some pounds 8,000 for his services, a transaction of which Carter, not a man renowned for false modesty, remarked later: 'Sunderland were silly to sell me and Derby were lucky to get me.'
At the Baseball Ground, he linked up with the brilliant Irishman Peter Doherty, and together they helped Derby win the first post-war FA Cup Final. That same year, 1946, Carter furnished further proof of his all-round prowess by appearing in three first-class cricket matches for Derbyshire and might have flourished in the summer game but for his football commitments.
As it was, having won his last cap in 1947 at the age of 33, he moved to comparatively humble Hull City for a pounds 6,000 fee in 1948, initially as player/assistant boss but within a month as fully fledged player/manager. A year later, while still taking an active part on the pitch - 'I am determined to play on as long as I can raise a gallop,' he said - he led his charges to the Third Division (North) championship, and what seemed likely to be a successful management career was underway.
Carter upset some followers when he declared: 'My aim is to play high-class football and let the result take care of itself.' But his acquisition of high-quality performers such as Neil Franklin and Don Revie signalled that he would not be content to linger idealistically in the Second Division. However, having not achieved the promotion he had expected, Carter ever the perfectionist, resigned in September 1951. He returned for the second half of the season as a player only, showing much of his old flair, and when he made his final Football League appearance that spring he had scored 216 goals in 451 outings. Those creative feet were still itchy, however, and in 1953, his 40th year, he spent half a season with Cork Athletic, helping them to win the Irish equivalent of the FA Cup.
Clearly Carter had more to contribute and later that year he took over the reins of Leeds United, guiding them to promotion to the top flight in 1956. Nevertheless, his intolerance of lesser talents rustled plenty of feathers at Elland Road and after his best player, John Charles, had departed for Italy, results declined and he was dismissed.
Come 1960 Carter was back in circulation as manager of Mansfield Town, whom he led out of the Fourth Division in 1963, after he which he moved up to Middlesbrough. Sadly, at Ayrsome Park he experienced the leanest time of his life in soccer and with the club on the brink of relegation to the Third Division, he was sacked in 1966.
Thereafter Carter worked in the sports department of a Hull store and then ran a business in the town before retiring to nearby Willerby, suffering a severe stroke last year. During his latter years he was disdainful of modern trends in the game, but once, looking back, he admitted there could be no finer life than a footballer's. He could have added, with truth, that there had been few finer footballers than he.
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