As the 18-year-old in 2002 who scored the winning penalty to secure Birmingham City’s promotion to the Premier League, Darren Carter has taken music with him throughout a career which had such a soundtrack-worthy beginning.
Since that fairytale moment in the Division One play-off final against Norwich City at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Darren has spent a further nine seasons in English football’s top two divisions and has kept music close by along the way.
“Music has always been a big part of my life, the way it can pick you up if you’re low, fire you up or just chill you out. My iPod is always on from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed.
“I’m a lover of all music, there’s not one genre that stands out. I’ve got a lot of favourite artists, from Drake to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Jason Mraz, depending on what mood I’m in I’ll choose the appropriate genre / music.
“The first record I bought was actually an album, ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson on cassette, I think I was about seven. I’m very into Drake at the moment though, a couple of his recent songs like ‘Marvin’s Room’ and ‘I’m On One’ are the most played songs on my iPod at the minute.
“I’ve actually been to a lot of concerts including Jay-Z, Kanye West and Coldplay but I haven’t been able to get to a major gig. Glastonbury looked awesome this year and it’s definitely on my list of things to do!”
Darren, 27, spent four seasons in the top flight with Birmingham and West Bromwich Albion (plus a campaign in the Championship with the Baggies) in his native Midlands before a 2007 move to Preston North End.
In a career also encompassing loan spells with Sunderland and Millwall, Darren picks out a former Australian international as a past teammate with questionable musical taste.
“Wow tough one and maybe a bit harsh but Stan Lazaridis when I was at Birmingham. He was a little too much of a hardcore rocker and into AC/DC etc. so too loud and punk for me!”
Conversely, a teammate from their days at West Brom and a current Blues defender was more on Darren’s wavelength when it came to music.
“Curtis Davies, he appreciates music as much as I do and has very similar tastes.”
At Darren’s current employers Preston, Republic Of Ireland defender yet Birmingham-born, Sean St. Ledger got to choose the dressing room music before his recent departure to Leicester City.
“Sean St. Ledger was in charge of the iPod in the dressing room so it was strictly hip-hop and r&b. Jay-Z, Drake, Lil Wayne etc.”
Casting an eye over his debut season as a professional which culminated in that unforgettable promotion-winning spot-kick, Darren, a Birmingham fan as a kid, still feels proud looking back.
“By far the best moment of my career and it will take something very major to top it! It all happened so quickly that season for me from making my debut to getting to the play-off final, so to top it off and get promoted was unreal.
“I can’t explain the feelings that I went through and it took some weeks for it all to sink in and to realise what we had achieved. Great first season in first team football for me.”
The 2005-06 campaign was ultimately an unsuccessful one for Bryan Robson’s West Brom who were relegated from the Premier League, but Darren’s outstanding strike in a 2-1 win over Arsenal (who would reach the Champions League final that season) will live long in the memory.
“That goal is the best I’ve scored so far in my career, the way the ball fell to me it was just instinct to tee it up and volley it. I caught it as well as I could have and it flew in the one place Jens Lehmann couldn’t get to it.
“For it to be the winning goal and against a fantastic Arsenal side was special.”
Away from football, Darren has been a keen follower of basketball for some time and a visit this summer to his team’s city also gave him an insight into the Stateside reputation of hip-hop star Rick Ross.
“My love for basketball goes back to my school days then slowly grew as I learnt more about the intricacies and rules of the game. Miami Heat were the team I identified first after watching a game in America and from there I’ve followed them intensely from season to season.
“It’s a great getaway from football and there’s so much that goes into the game from all angles, from preparation to team bonding to team spirit. Every summer after the season finishes the play-offs are all that I talk about!
“I went to Miami this summer and Rick Ross was the main man out there. (His track) ‘B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)’ is another personal favourite at the minute.”
Darren speaks of the growing impact UK artists are making in America with Kano a favourite of his and Jessie J’s album also one he has been impressed by.
Ahead of the new season, the midfield man faces a somewhat uncertain future with his Preston contract now expired, although he still remains with the Lilywhites, relegated last season to League One.
“For me personally, the first thing is to sign a contract, be it at Preston or elsewhere. I always set myself high standards but this year I feel strong and fitter than ever, but the immediate issue for me is to sign a deal at a club.
“There’s only one thing on everybody’s mind at Preston this year and that’s promotion. Relegation last year hurt everybody at the club and to win promotion on the first attempt is the only focus.”
Some of Darren’s favourite songs:
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Scar Tissue
Jay-Z – What More Can I Say?