By Damian Spellman, PA
Michael Carrick will have no regrets that his illustrious playing career is over as he attempts to guide Middlesbrough through the biggest game of his managerial reign to date.
The 41-year-old played in Champions League and FA Cup finals and won five Premier League titles during a trophy-laden spell at Manchester United, but on Sunday will stand on the touchline at Coventry as his Boro side looks to take a significant step towards the Sky Bet Championship play-off final.
Carrick chose to launch the latest phase of his football journey in earnest when he took up the role of head coach at the Teesside club in October last year and – while the highs of his playing career remain at the forefront of his memory – he is finding the task hugely rewarding.
Asked if he would rather be pulling on his boots on Sunday, he replied with a smile: “Those days are gone.
“There are pluses and minuses comparing both. It’s incredible when you’re playing and you’re achieving and you have that sense of directly influencing a game like that and sensing the occasion.
“But certainly being in the position I am and having that influence and being able to guide and steer things in a direction I’m comfortable with can be very rewarding.”
In less than seven months under Carrick, Boro dragged themselves from 21st place to fourth and could now be just three games away from the Premier League, something which was far beyond the former England midfielder’s thinking the day he arrived at the Riverside Stadium.
However, the excitement that rise has prompted is not lost on him.
Carrick said: “I didn’t really have a target or a goal when first came in, it was more a case of trying to improve, trying to develop the team and seeing where it took us.
“To see the children coming up to me in the street and chasing me on bikes down the street when I’m trying to go for a run and that energy and excitement that they’ve got is fantastic to see, and it’s how it should be.”
Carrick started his path to a career in professional football at Boro as a schoolboy and rose to prominence at West Ham and then Tottenham.
But it was under the tutelage of then United boss Sir Alex Ferguson that he honed his skills at the elite level and the Scot, who won 38 trophies during his time at the Old Trafford helm, remains a source of help and advice.
Asked if he would speak to Ferguson in the run-up to the game, Carrick said: “Probably at some point. I speak to him quite a bit – not all the time, but quite a bit on and off.
“He’s always there if I need to speak to him and giving me little bits of help along the way.
“But it’s more of a friendship thing. It’s nice to have that ability to have somebody like that to speak to, of course it is.”