Michael Carrick left Wallsend as a teenager, but the North East never left him.
And Carrick – who joined Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff at Manchester United after retiring as a player last month – was back on Tyneside this week.
The 36-year-old had a kickabout with some schoolchildren in North Shields to launch Carrick’s Kicks, a Michael Carrick Foundation project set up in partnership with the Newcastle United Foundation.
Carrick, once on the books of his beloved Newcastle United, left home to join West Ham United as a teenager to pursue a professional career which would eventually see him win five Premier League titles and just about every other club trophy during his time as a player at Old Trafford.
The midfielder, relaxed and approachable, was back in black and white at The Parks. Wearing a Foundation hoodie, Carrick said: “I’ve got the black and white on now!
“I was at Newcastle as a kid. I was a Newcastle fan growing up. It’s just how the career path went. Being at Man United, and being lucky enough to be there ... all my focus was on that and trying to be the best I could and be successful.
“It’s just a shame it (playing for Newcastle) never happened at some stage.
“My mum and dad, my brother, my wife and all her family are still here. I get up here as much as I can. My kids love coming here. It’s just part of my life, a big part of my life. Even though I left when I was 15 or 16, it’s never left me.”
Carrick, like Alan Shearer, was one that got away at a young age.
The former England international – whose Foundation has committed to funding sessions for young people in North Shields and Byker – is determined to give something back to the region, having been shaped as a player, and a person, by his time at Wallsend Boys Club.
“For me, it was a massive part of my childhood,” said Carrick. “I was fortunate enough to have that on my doorstep. It was a place to grow and develop. It was safe and enjoyable. I learnt so many different things, responsibilities and discipline.
“It wasn’t just about the football, it was about growing as a person. I’ve always been conscious of how lucky I was, and I wanted to give something back in some way. This is why we’re here.
“Coming from Wallsend, I was always going to do something in Newcastle. It was just about putting things in place and doing it right.”
Carrick’s testimonial at Old Trafford a year ago raised £1.5million for the Foundation.
“It’s a good feeling to be able to give something back,” he said. “It’s about the kids, it’s not about me. It’s about them having fun and developing as human beings.”
Carrick, one of the most gifted English midfielders of the Premier League era, will now develop as a coach alongside Mourinho, having felt the time was right to hang up his boots.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m looking forward as much as looking back. It feels the right time. I made my mind up a few months ago, and I’ve never questioned the decision.
“I’ve got a great opportunity to coach. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead in that side of things, but also staying busy with the Foundation.
“I’m quite comfortable (with the decision to retire). It was a natural end. Both physically and mentally, it had run its course.
“Physically, you get to a point where it gets frustrating, because, even though you can get by, you can’t quite do what maybe you used to be able to do.
“It’s just life, isn’t it? Everyone comes across that in every walk of life. I’ve got no problem with that. I gave everything I could to have a good career and be as successful as I could, and that part of it came to an end.
“Hopefully, there’s a career in football (ahead of me) and many years left.”
Carrick is also determined to make a success of the Foundation and its work in Newcastle and Manchester.
“It’s something we want to create for a number of years and be fair to the kids,” he said. “We don’t want to start something and walk away. It’s something I’m quite hands-on with. It’s in my nature. If I want to do something, I want to do it properly.”
Carrick still follows Newcastle.
“As a kid, I was a massive fan,” he said. “Being in football, you change a little bit. It’s a profession at the end of the day.
“I still look for Newcastle, but when we were playing against them it didn’t influence how I approached the game. At the same time, I’ve always got a soft spot for them.”
Did he ever come close to joining his boyhood club?
“Not really,” said Carrick. “There was a time when I was leaving West Ham (in 2004) where it was kind of half and half, but it was never really on the cards, which is the way it goes. I wouldn’t change it.”