At the West Ham training ground back in 1998, manager Harry Redknapp was arranging a practice match for the first team.
He was short of numbers and called across to youth coach Tony Carr. “Tony – I need a midfield player. Can you send one over.”
A rangy, lanky 17-year-old was dispatched to join the game. When it was over, the vastly experienced Israel international Eyal Berkovic made a point of finding Carr.
“Who was that kid you sent over?” he asked Carr. “That would be young Michael Carrick,” came the reply. “Well,” said Berkovic. “He is going to take my place in the team. I am sure of it.”
Carrick had arrived on the scene – and it was the start of a career that would take him to Tottenham and Manchester United and earn him 34 caps for England.
And it is a career that came as no surprise to Carr. In his time developing promising young players at West Ham, he brought through the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole – and Carrick.
“There was never a doubt for me that Michael would make it as a player,” said Carr who was awarded an MBE for his services to football.
Carrick was recommended to West Ham by the club’s North East scout.
He was spotted playing for the famous Wallsend Boys club – the club that can include Alan Shearer, Steve Bruce and Peter Beardsley among its graduates from its production line.
“He came down as a 14-year-old during school holidays and while you can never be certain a young player will progress, Michael showed he could adapt. From the North East of England to East London is quite an adjustment for a kid to make but Michael did not have a problem. He settled well.
“He loved what the club was about and the way they looked after him. And the way we wanted him to play, that was important. He just kept developing.
“Ron Greenwood and John Lyall had, over the years, set out how we wanted the teams at West Ham to play – one touch and two touch. That suited Michael down to the ground.
“He had great touch and great vision as a player. He knew the next pass he was going to make before he even received the ball. As a kid he was long and skinny and not particularly robust.
“But he filled out as he grew older and just kept getting better. And he was always willing to learn, always wanting to improve.”
Carrick was sold to Tottenham for £3.5 million in 2004 after West Ham lost a Championship play-off final to Crystal Palace.
“My only thought about that was we sold him too cheap !” said Carr. “But I think the club needed money badly.
“But what you will find is that wherever Michael has played, he has never been a problem to the manager. He is trusted. He is a great professional. He has looked after himself. You cannot have the career he has enjoyed without that professional approach.”
Loyalty is an important to Carrick. And his life-style and commitment have earned the trust of his various managers.
That was perfectly illustrated last November. Carrick is close to Joe Cole and wanted to be with his mate at the funeral his father. It was a Thursday in London and that meant he would miss a days training just 48 hours before Manchester United at Old Trafford is a key Premier League match against Arsenal.
Manager Jose Mourinho did not hesitate. “Yes, you go,” said Mourinho without hesitation – confident that Carrick’s natural fitness and sheer common sense would mean he would return in match-ready condition.
He did – and he played the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw on the Saturday.
Loyalty ? Carrick has never forgotten the people who helped him at the start of his illustrious career that has brought him winners medals in the FA Youth Cup, five in Premier League titles, one in the FA Cup and one in the Champions League.
That is why Tony Carr received one of the first invitations from Carrick to his testimonial at Old Trafford today.