Cult hero Matt Carragher: the late defender was much loved by Port Vale fans during a life which was tragically cut short.
John Rudge had a bit of a knack of picking up full-back bargains from Wigan Athletic. Left-back Allen Tankard was snapped up in 1993 for just under £90,000 and played for the club for eight years. In his latter years, Tankard was paired with Matt Carragher, a right-back that Rudge snapped up on a free.
Signed in 1997, Carragher proved to be a consistent and popular defender. While he will probably never be regarded as the club’s best-ever right-back (that one may be between Simon Mills, the Iron Curtain side’s Stan Turner or earlier in the club’s history Jimmy Oakes), Carragher can still be counted in the “very good” category as he proved during his six year stay with the club.
Undoubtedly the highlight (and that of his six year spell at Vale) came on the 22nd April 2001 when he became only the second Port Vale captain to lift a domestic Trophy…
He was a regular in his first season at Vale under the management of Rudge. However, when Brian Horton was appointed manager in January 1999, Carragher failed to make an appearance for the rest of the season. Nevertheless, the defender bounced back in the 1999-2000 season as he made 39 appearances and scored his first goal for the club.
In 2000-2001 Carragher was a near ever-present during a marathon season as he took part in 56 of the club’s 57 matches. Undoubtedly the highlight (and that of his six year spell at Vale) came on the 22nd April 2001 when he became only the second Port Vale captain to lift a domestic Trophy. Carragher’s side came from behind to defeat Brentford at the Millennium stadium and win the LDV Trophy final.
The defender continued to be a regular presence in the Valiants backline making 47 appearances the following season and a further 40 on 2002-2003. So, it came as some surprise when manager Brian Horton opted to release him in 2003. He had made 220 appearances for the Vale, scoring twice.
Carragher was still only 27 when he left the Valiants and went on to have spells with Stafford Ranger and Macclesfield Town, where ironically Brian Horton, the man who had released him at Vale, was in charge. He finished his playing career in 2004 with 422 senior appearances, a promotion to Division Two with Wigan and that memorable LDV Trophy final win.
Sadly, Carragher passed away through cancer in 2016 aged just 40. However, his contribution as a popular, consistent defender and captain of the LDV team will live on in the club history.
Matt Carragher 1976-2016. RIP. Forever Valiant.
Cult credentials: Popular defender, cup winning captain, tragically short life