The rise and rise of Linnets star Sonny Carey
- Credit: Ian Burt
Sonny Carey is a wanted man, with six-figure bids in from Luton and Blackpool, and interest elsewhere for the King’s Lynn Town midfielder. Chris Lakey looks at the rise and rise of the young non league star they’re all talking about
When Sonny Carey walked through the doors at The Walks two years ago, he was marked down as ‘one for the future'.
The Hellesdon youngster had learned his trade amongst the rising stars of the Norwich City academy but, like so many, didn’t get the final break.
He had a couple of trials, played for the English Colleges team and scored twice in Norwich United's 2018 Norfolk Senior Cup final success before he ended up at Wroxham in the Eastern Counties League. It’s no surprise he flourished there given the management team of Jordan Southgate and Adam Drury both have involvement with Norwich's Community Sports Foundation (CSF), where Carey was coached by former Lynn midfielder Ryan Jarvis.
Carey was still a teenager but standing out in the sometimes rough and tumble world of local football. A boy up against men, and winning.
Lynn were keen and he joined in their training sessions for a couple of months before signing on June 1, 2019.
"Sonny is a player who we have been keeping tabs on for the last year. He is an exciting talent and has a great future ahead of him. We are delighted to bring him to the football club,” said Lynn’s director of football Robbie Back.
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Carey scored the winner on his National League North debut against Kettering.
“For a little kid like he is, he's cute and cool as anything,” said Culverhouse. “For an 18-year-old boy just to come on and strike it in the bottom corner ... brilliant.
"He is a hell of a prospect, he is a really confident boy, and he has loads and loads of ability. We will nurture him and bring him forward and he will improve in this group because they are all good players. We asked him to come on as a right wing back, and he said 'no problem, I'll do that'. He came on, nice little cut back and strolled on to it, bottom corner."
That footballing growth spurt had begun. He started five league games, with 16 more appearances off the bench in that first promotion-winning season.
As Lynn prepared for their historic National League bow last summer, Culverhouse had lost strikers Michael Gash and Adam Marriott to illness and injury respectively, while Chris Henderson had left. His top three scorers out at a stroke.
“I think Sonny is going to be a very good player for us and has got a big future here and this probably puts him more closer into the team,” said Culverhouse. “We have a few ideas what to do to cover the gaps.
“But Sonny will definitely get a chance and I do like him, I rate him highly. He plays with no fear, he just goes out there and plays a game of football but he is another weapon that we have got.”
The door was open for Carey. He didn’t jump through it, he glided through the gap, ball at his feet, not much able to stop him. It’s his strength – he has good pace, good energy, good vision, can play with both feet – and at his best he can drift past players as if they aren’t there.
His first goal of the troubled 2020-21 season was in the shock FA Cup win at Port Vale in November when his young head showed no sign of nerves as he stroked the ball home. Carey was in the spotlight.
The first of his five league goals came in March during a thrilling 2-2 draw at promotion favourites Notts County where he and Michael Clunan were magnificent.
Others came in defeats against FC Halifax, Chesterfield (twice) and Wrexham - the big-name opponents didn’t faze him.
With Lynn having to furlough players because of the pandemic, Carey assumed extra responsibility. And he flourished.
Way before the last of his 30 starts, Carey’s name was being linked with a number of clubs – hardly surprising given the scouts who came in increasing numbers to watch him stood out like sore thumbs in a virtually empty stadium.
Bolton, Bournemouth and Swansea were the first to emerge. All fair game - Culverhouse himself saw the ‘fit’.
"He deserves everything he gets because he has been phenomenal, for such a young age," said Culverhouse. "He has taken his time with it. Obviously we have dipped him in and out all the way through so we have looked after him in that sense, we haven't thrown him out to the wolves.”
Others have joined in the interest and, let’s face it, if there’s competition for his signature that can only be beneficial, financially at least, to King’s Lynn Town FC.
What it will mean for the team is very different. Players like Carey are hard to replace, but it is a fact of footballing life. Ask Emi Buendia’s army of fans at Norwich City.
Football moves on, faces change. And another Sonny Carey is out there somewhere.