|Sponsor||Trafford Next Step - Left click to link to website|
|Date of birth||26-10-1978|
|Place of birth||Manchester|
|Previous clubs||Stockport County, Radcliffe Borough, Accrington Stanley|
As he sat in the Cornwall sun enjoying a summer break, 27-year-old Stretford lad Simon Carden couldn�€trade;t resist a little giggle. He was on the phone, listening to his ex-Radcliffe Borough teammate Jonathan Mitten wax lyrical about how a group of fans were going to create a football club for disillusioned Manchester United fans. Carden thought it was a wind up, yet seven months later, he stands at the very centre of operations as FC United of Manchester�€trade;s midfield magician.
So far this season, the father of three has captured the imagination of Reds all around Gigg Lane, with stunning runs, through balls and goals in memorable performances, the prospect of being re-united with boss Karl Marginson and close friend Mitten attracting Carden to join up with FC.
Carden �€“ now a warehouse worker engaged to Theresa - began playing football aged five, when he first got involved with prestigious boys�€trade; team Stretford Vics. He settled into a regular routine with the club, turning out for his primary school and later, his secondary school teams while enjoying a laugh with his club friends.
�€�There were a group of five of us from our street who started for the Vics under-7s team and we played there right until we left school at 16. A few new faces joined at 11. [Ex-Manchester United players] Danny Higginbotham and Jamie Wood played there and so did [Notts County striker] Gavin Gordon. It was a good time. Things seemed to get better for me as I got older. I had a chance at Manchester United when I was nine up until when I was 12 or 13. Brian Kidd used to do the training and it was a good set up.�€�
Carden says playing for United was exciting, but the challenge wasn�€trade;t in getting a trial - it was what you did with it on the big day.
�€�When I was a teenager I was called down for trials at Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Stockport, but I always found it really hard. They bring you in to play for one game with boys you�€trade;ve never seen before so it�€trade;s difficult to learn about them. And anyway, they all want to impress as individuals so they don�€trade;t play a team game. I was just lucky that with my Stockport trial game I played a blinder. I think I scored a hat-trick and impressed them enough. Sometimes it goes in your favour like that.�€�
The performance earned Carden a two-year Youth Training Scheme placement at Edgeley Park, which began in 1994.
�€�I was relieved because I had no idea what I would have done after school. I think I would�€trade;ve ended up signing on, so playing football was a great thing to be doing. I have always played in midfield although I did play up front for a time during the YTS. Playing up front I probably suffer from a lack of speed so I think that�€trade;s how I came to play central midfield. I pride myself on scoring goals though.�€�
�€�The YTS was a massive challenge. We would train from 9am to 6pm and then be there until about 10.30pm helping out when the first team played night games. That�€trade;s a bit of a change from getting in from school at 3.30pm and doing what you want.�€�
Despite Carden�€trade;s effort to up his work rate, he struggled to form a bond with the coach in his first year, so it was a relief when a new man came along the following season, opening up more doors for the 17 year old.
�€�It was much better. I was getting a lot more games and playing with the reserves. You know in that final YTS year that your performances are important. You have to play well or you won�€trade;t get a contract. Luckily for me Dave Jones became Stockport manager and he gave me a go. I got a 12-month professional contract [in 1997] with County and it was such a relief. It was almost like leaving school all over again, knowing that my immediate future was sorted.�€�
Morale was high at Stockport in those days, with Jones getting his team promoted to what is now the Championship, and taking them to a League Cup semi-final, which they lost to Middlesbrough with Wembley just one step away. But the club�€trade;s success was bad news for Carden as Jones was soon lured to the Dell by Southampton, paving the way for former City player Gary Megson to take over.
�€�I think Megson was there a month before he even spoke to me and four of the other lads but I was determined to keep on going. I got in the first team squad once, but Megson brought in a couple of his own young lads who were getting picked more than me. So it wasn�€trade;t much of a surprise when Megson told me my contract wasn�€trade;t going to be renewed. It was on the last day of the [1997/98] season when he let me know as everyone was going away for the summer. It was annoying because he could�€trade;ve told me earlier and given me a chance to train somewhere else.�€�
Carden picked himself up and earned a trial at Portsmouth, but eventually settled at Radcliffe Borough.
�€�It took me three months to earn a place in the team. I scored about 10 goals in my first season and did well in the second year too. At the start of my third season at Radcliffe, Accrington Stanley came in for me and I decided to move up there. They paid about �£5,000 for me.�€�
�€�That was a great opportunity, especially as Stanley had just been promoted from the Unibond Division One to the Premier League so morale was really high. The week before I signed, Radcliffe played Stanley in a friendly and I got into a bit of bother with their lads, so it was a little bit weird becoming their team mate so soon after. We all had a good laugh about it though and I managed to score on my debut. That went down well.�€�
And Carden�€trade;s success at Stanley didn�€trade;t stop there. He helped Stanley to three trophies in the 2001/2 season and the following year the club won promotion from the Unibond Premier Division. Halfway through that promotion year however, Carden picked up a thigh injury and after finding it hard to regain his place in the centre of the midfield Stanley boss John Coleman allowed him to return on loan to get some games at Radcliffe Borough.
�€�It was a very strange season because I spent the first half in good form helping Stanley to promotion and then went to Borough. They got promoted that year [to the Unibond Premier Division] but only after I had returned from my loan spell. By then, Stanley were something like 14 points clear, so I had missed both promotion parties.�€�
Carden�€trade;s future was up for discussion again soon after and though Coleman offered him a contract, Carden opted for a return to Radcliffe, where he would go on to link up with Marginson, Mitten, Phil Power and Rory Patterson.
�€�I was flattered by John [Coleman�€trade;s] offer, but having gained promotion I was aware Stanley were going to bring in some players and playing regularly was my priority. Radcliffe were happy to offer me that so I went down there. It was the season when the league was changing in structure, so Borough had to finish in the top 13 to stay up. We had a blazing start, but then we had an awful run and ended up getting relegated. It was an awful feeling and the lads were gutted, but you just had to pick yourselves up.�€�
Carden dug in and started the 2004/5 season with Radcliffe, until a difference of opinion with the manager lead to Carden�€trade;s departure around Christmas 2004.
�€�The boss sold a top striker called Jody Banim, which meant I didn�€trade;t have any big lads to pick out. His view was that his other strikers were scoring so there would be no difference. We didn�€trade;t see eye to eye so I left.�€�
Carden had some time out during which he had an operation to correct a minor knee problem before receiving a call from Mitten in the summer, which lead to him running out for FC United in August.
�€�When he first told me about FC I burst out laughing. It sounded like a wind-up but Joz persuaded me to get involved and I spoke to Marginson. He knew my knee would take time to heel, but once it did I started off with pre-season training and made my first start at Winsford.�€�
�€�Since then it has been incredible. Even though I got those five against Castleton Gabriels, my highlight is scoring the winner against Oldham Town because it was such a big game. The ambition for this year is to get promotion. The draw between Norton and Winsford was a top result for us and hopefully after [today�€trade;s game] we will be too far out in front for them to catch up with us in the league.�€�