We’ve all been there, sat in a pub quiz, when a football question comes up and everyone looks to you for the answer. There are simple questions about stadia or club nicknames, but then there are those that are more difficult – those asking about players that satisfy criteria, playing in five derbies, scoring for five different Premier League clubs etc. There are some questions that became a favourite amongst triviaphiles, none more so than this gem:
Name five English players who have been transferred for over £7m but have never played International football?
New graduates Anton Ferdinand and Curtis Davies aside, the answers given at the time were Kevin Davies, Dean Richards, Nigel Reo-Coker, Dean Ashton and Carl Cort. Of course, given recent Capello trends to bow to nationalistic media pressure, Dean Ashton and Kevin Davies won their solitary England Caps in 2008 and 2010 respectively. That Dean Richards’ career came to a premature and tragic end is unjust, whereas Nigel Reo-Coker’s superfluously valued transfer to Aston Villa was absurd. Yet, what of the other player in the list, the forgotten man of trivia, Carl Cort?
Born in Southwark in 1977, Carl Cort began his professional footballing career under the stewardship of Joe Kinnear at Wimbledon. Standing an impressive 6’4” tall, but weighing far less than you’d imagine a man of that size, the rangy striker was always more adept with the ball on the ground:
“Players of my height are usually good with their head, but I’m better with the ball at my feet. This surprises a lot of people.” – Carl Cort
Having come through the YTS scheme at Selhurst Park, Cort signed professional terms with Wimbledon in 1996 and was subsequently loaned out to Lincoln City (then of Division 3), where he scored once in six appearances. Returning to his parent club, Cort made his debut against Newcastle on 13th September 1997, scoring in a 3-1 away victory.
With an England U-21 call up that season, things were looking rosy for the 20-year old as he continued his development in the Premier League. It was in August 1999 however, where Cort started to make his mark in a Wimbledon shirt, scoring in each of the first three matches of the season. A further six goals in five games in the FA Cup, along with another five in the league, saw Cort regarded as one of the best young home-grown players in the division.
His last goal however, came on 22nd February in a 2-2 home draw with, champions elect, Manchester United – a statistic correlating with a run of poor results for Wimbledon as they managed to pick up only four further points to finish in 18th place in the league – condemning them to the 2nd tier of English football for the first time since 1985/86.
Cort’s fifteen goals during a fairly lacklustre Dons’ season, along with his status as one of the most highly-rated youngsters in English football made him one of the prime transfer pickings of the summer transfer window. Newcastle United manager Bobby Robson fought off competition from George Graham’s Tottenham Hotspur and Peter Taylor’s Leicester City to make Cort his third signing for a fee of £7m, joining Argentinians Christian Bassedas and Daniel Cordone at St. James Park.
Life started well for Cort in the North East when, much like during his time at Wimbledon, he scored on his full debut against Derby County, but injuries that were to ruffle the feathers of the lofty magpie throughout his career began to show. After just a handful of appearances for Newcastle, Cort went on to miss the majority of the season with the first of a number of problems that would plague his time in the Premier League. His five-year contract, dotted with trips to see specialists in the United States, returned just twenty-two appearances in the black and white stripes.
A move to Wolverhampton Wanderers seemed to be the career catalyst Cort was hoping for. With Wolves in relegation trouble, he had been in this position before and could be the man to fire the goals to save them. Yet, despite scoring five times during the end of season run-in, it wasn’t enough to preserve Wolves’ Premier League status. Now down a division, Cort managed to complete a full season at Molineux, scoring 16 goals in 40 games in The Championship.
A blistering start to the 2005-06 season saw Cort score 9 goals in his first 11 games before injury once again reared its ugly head. What looked to be the revival he had hoped for turned out to be an unfortunate case of déjà vu – Cort was released from the final year of his contract. With moves to Leicester City, Unión Deportiva Marbella and Norwich City failing to get his career back on track, Cort was released from his final club Brentford on January 24th, 2011.
It is no surprise that Carl Cort has become somewhat synonymous with a £7m price tag and injuries. However, given Newcastle had raised the money through the sales of fringe players, £7m was fair. At the time of his transfer, Cort was just 22 and he had just scored 15 goals in a relegated side. Under the guidance of Sir Bobby Robson, despite battling with Shola Ameobi, Lomana LuaLua and Kevin Gallagher for a starting birth alongside Alan Shearer, he went on to score seven goals in fifteen games in his debut season – the same as Shearer himself.
Who knows what player injury robbed us of? Despite such a promising start to his career with Wimbledon, Cort was never able to regain fitness and form consistently enough to translate Under-21 international promise (8 goals in 14 games) to a full international cap. That is of course, until now…
On November 11, 2011, in the Princetown Stadium in Georgetown, Guyana, Cort finally excused himself from the curse of the quiz question by winning a full international cap, not for England, but for Guyana – the home of his forefathers.
The game versus Trinidad and Tobago was the biggest in Guyana’s history and their 2-1 victory saw them progress through to the next round of CONCACAF qualifies for the World Cup 2014 at The Soca Warriors’ expense. Cort was even emblazoned on the scoreboard, although it was Carl’s younger brother Leon, along with Ebbsfleet United’s Ricky Shakes that scored Guyana’s historic goals. His presence in the squad comes at a time of renaissance for the small country in South America – never before have they progressed beyond this point in World Cup qualifying:
“This is history for Guyana and we created it by showing what belief, determination and a will to accomplish something can do for our lives and our country… It was a moment we dreamed about and we worked together and made it happen.” – Guyana coach, Jamal Shabazz
The draw for the next round however, has been unkind to Shabazz, as a difficult group of fixtures against Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador await Cort and fellow Golden Jaguars in June, which may be one step too far.
What seemed to be a closed book, gathering dust amongst the annuls of football trivia, an exciting final chapter isn’t yet written for Carl Cort, whom at the age of 34, thirteen years after appearing for England U-21, could very well see the swansong of his career unfold on the shores of Brazil – in an international shirt no less.
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