In the first of a new series, the Villa Underground delves into bizarre Aston Villa transfers and begins with a look at the phantom footballer that was Franz Carr.
Carr was a tricky winger, armed with pace and the ability to beat a man – he seemed like a tidy acquisition for Villa in 1995 from Leicester City. The fee was reputed to have been in the region of £250,000 / £150,000.
By no means pricey you would have to agree. In his early career, at the then still powerful Nottingham Forest, one could probably have drawn comparisons to Carr’s style to former Villa attacking midfielder Ashley Young.
However, the comparisons with Ashley Young should probably end there.
Villa had bought a player who was “blessed with pace and blinding skill” but is recalled at Nottingham Forest as being “cursed with the inability to do anything with the ball once he had beaten three defenders and opened up a glorious opportunity”.
And for all of the praise Carr received for his efforts at Forest, there was also an unsavoury incident in which then manager Brian Clough locked him in a boiler room cupboard after a particularly poor performance.
Funnily enough, nobody seemed to mention any of these things at the time Villa opted to sign him.
But anyway, Brian Little saw fit to part with a quarter of a million pounds for his services. And what of his performances?
Well, Carr stayed for little over a year with Villa, in which time he made three appearances. So infrequent and unexpected were these appearances that The Villa Underground attended all of them and can recall each vividly. Such was the rarity; collectors items indeed.
On the 14th of March 1996 Franz Carr “emerged from obscurity” having only played 14 minutes in the previous 13 months – Carr played a blinder.
His first start came with Villa having major injury problems and finding ourselves at the quarter final stage of the FA Cup against the club where Carr had won all his plaudits: Nottingham Forest.
This was a good Villa team that on the night featured Bosnich, McGrath, Taylor and Yorke. But it was Carr who stole the show. Carr and Yorke combined well and caused Forest all sorts of problems; Villa fans were wondering quite where this creative signing from the Foxes had been hidden?
Carr topped off a fine overall individual performance by scoring the winning goal; a screamer from all of 25 yards into the top corner of the Forest net – a fitting goal to reach the semi’s of the FA Cup.
And then he disappeared – quite literally a one hit wonder. Carr went on loan to Reggiana in Italy later that year before securing a permanent deal.
This deal didn’t do much for Carr’s appearance ratio with just 6 more appearances in two years before even briefer stints with Bolton, W.B.A and Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Franz Carr retired in 1998 and probably wished he had become an athlete, as he had originally desired, being able to run the 100 metres in under eleven seconds.
Carr can be seen for a fraction of that time (1 second) in this video at the 1m 22 second mark standing in the doorway.
Proof, indeed, for some that he did in fact exist!
Do you have any memories (…ok a memory) of Franz Carr? If so, stick them in the comments below, or share them on Twitter!