Scorer of five goals in Norway's last four games, John Carew is relishing his role as a leading figure in the national set-up. Having celebrated his 28 th birthday on 5 September, he is both the team's deadliest attacking threat and a big brother to a young group of players finding their feet at international level.
The Aston Villa ace has blossomed since moving to the Premiership after an injury-plagued spell in France with Lyon, and he was on target yet again for Norway during a crucial UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier with Greece on 12 September. After scoring his country's first goal in a disappointing 2-2 draw, the giant target man (6ft 4") spoke exclusively to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: John, you lost two points at home to Greece in a
match you seemed to be dominating. How frustrating was that?
John Carew: Nothing's decided yet! There are three games left to play and Greece have to take on Turkey, so lots of things can happen. We can be happy with how we played, even if we weren't very solid defensively. The two goals we conceded came from loose balls in the box. It's a shame because we were very good up front. We had a real cohesion and a big desire to get forward.
Before the match against Moldova, a national newspaper
dedicated a two-page spread to celebrating your ten years as a
professional. Do you feel there's added pressure on you these
People definitely expect more of me, but the pressure's always been there so I know how to deal with it. I'm more experienced and I have new responsibilities, especially towards the youngsters. I owe it to myself to be more of a leader in the changing-room. That's my role now.
Would another failure to qualify be a major setback for
Norway after all the recent promise?
It's difficult for me to say no. We haven't qualified for an international competition since 2000, but I get the feeling the tables are turning. We were quite good in the 90s, before things got difficult for us after Euro 2000. Right now we have a good squad, our coach has created a good atmosphere and the essentials have been in place for three years. Qualification would be a great reward for Norwegian football.
Are you still as motivated on national team duty as you
Yes, because it's still an honour to play for my country. That said, it hasn't always been easy for me to start out on a new campaign. It's a real blow to lose three times in the play-offs, and after we lost at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina we were afraid of falling into the same trap. The winter didn't go well for us, but we turned the situation around quickly and I think that's a sign.
What is keeping Norway from reaching the same level as
Sweden and Denmark, two countries that have traditionally been more
Sweden has a population of nearly ten million people, which is pretty much twice as many people as we have. It's as simple as that.
True, but Denmark won a UEFA European Championship with a
population of six million...
A European Championship that they nearly missed out on, don't forget. And this time they're struggling to qualify. Fortunes always hang by a thread in football. Norway has a real football culture, with good infrastructure, stadiums that are always full and a professional league that's very popular. With only four million people, we can be proud of what's been achieved.
You scored two goals against Argentina and another against
Greece. You're in excellent form at the moment.
And I'm still not at my best! I feel really good right now, despite not having much of a pre-season. I hope to be at my peak around the end of September or October.
Would it be true to say that the Premiership is the league
that suits you the most?
I've only been here six months but I've already found my feet. I came here at the right time because it's an extremely competitive league, and if I was younger I would have struggled. My physical qualities undoubtedly help me express myself better on the pitch. And I believe in Aston Villa, even if we're not one of the top clubs at the moment. All the ingredients are there for us to become one.
What started to go wrong for you in Ligue 1?
In France, the gap between Lyon and the rest is too big. The league isn't competitive and Lyon only play about three or four games a year that are at the same level as European competition. In England, you play against Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle, Manchester United... It motivates you much more to play in huge games every week, which is perhaps why Lyon haven't been able to get past the quarter-finals in the Champions League.
Which period of your career or team do you have
particularly fond memories of?
Valencia have a special place in my heart. La Liga was the best championship in the world at the time and we were dominating the league by playing attractive football. But losing in the Champions League Final remains a huge frustration.
Is that the biggest disappointment of your career so
Yes, without a doubt. All my other experiences have been wonderful, both in human and professional terms. I have potential and I'm able to express it, which is the most important thing. I think I arrived in England at the right time and I intend to achieve great things there.