Get Carter: Meet the young Aussie making his mark in Romania
Carter made three first team appearances in total for Cluj last season and lives in Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania – a place better known to the non-football world for Dracula than its on-field exploits.
But the 20-year-old Victorian is hoping to change all that and has been on a mini scoring spree in pre-season, building a strong case for regular game time with the Romanian power house.
“Making my debut with the senior squad was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” Carter said about his first team breakthrough.
“It was against Cluj CFR rivals, Universitatea Cluj, and that was absolutely amazing.
“It’s my greatest achievement as a footballer so far. I had worked for it for so long because I got injured the year before, so being able to play that debut was really special in so many different ways.
“Cluj has a very strong rivalry with the University Club so those matches are always really exciting and played with a lot of passion.
“We played in the national arena with a big crowd and the enthusiasm of our supporters, the chanting and the noise was incredible. It was a very emotional and a match I will never forget.
The 1.85 metres tall Aussie is now hoping to put his previous injury woes behind him as he builds his case for first team football.
“I just finished pre-season with the first team, where I scored three goals in three games as well as making three assists,” Carter said.
“I'm feeling great going into the next season. I will be looking to break through to the starting 11 this season with the first team.
“I want to play as much as I can and I hope to impress and maybe hopefully get called into the Australian team - that is one of my biggest goals.
“Last season I was out injured for six months, and after I came back the club thought it was good for me to go on loan to lower division teams to regain my fitness.
“The loan lasted maybe two weeks and then I came back to Cluj and the club ended up keeping me to train with the first team, and in January 2015 I was ready to be in the team.”
Carter has been at Cluj since 2013 and excelled when he first arrived at the Railway Club scoring 30 goals in 25 games for the youth team.
But he found that moving up to the senior squad was a marked difference from what he previously experienced.
“Playing in the senior first team is far more intense, more physically demanding and needs more focus than playing youth football,” he said.
“On every level you have to step up more, in playing as a team, being even more disciplined with everything from training to diet and behaviour and psychological discipline.
“Everyone is watching your every move and that is good and motivating.”
The Aussie spent time trialling at AC Milan after being spotted by Morris Pagniello from the Genova International School of Soccer (GISS) which also nurtured fellow Aussie and Italian under 16 international Reno Piscopo.
Carter added: “I was a player for Boxhill Inter when Morris Pagniello saw me and he offered me the opportunity to train with GISS in Melbourne.
“He also encouraged me to go on the GISS tours in Italy which was a really great way to experience what life playing overseas would be like and see what the standard there was like.
“We played against some really high level youth teams and it was very exciting and a great way to improve my skills and I really appreciate the opportunities and training that gave me.
“By being seen in Europe I was spotted and it enabled me to trial with AC Milan which was a very exciting opportunity but also very nerve-wracking.
“Although I was very disappointed when it didn’t materialise into anything more, I was quite young at the time. In the end I think life somehow gives you what you need when you need it so I don’t regret any of it and appreciated the experience.”
Carter’s junior career saw him play for Springvale City, Kingston Soccer Club and Boxhill United and finally Melbourne Phoenix. He also trained briefly with the Melbourne Victory youth team.
The Victorian speaks highly of the impact his junior coaches had on his career with some highly credentialed former players involved in his football education – including Mauro Zironelli, an Italian football coach and former Fiorentina star who played in the 1990 UEFA Cup Final.
“He was my coach when I first went out to Europe to train in the GISS residential program,” Carter said.
“Mauro really believed in me, he pushed me to work harder and gave me more knowledge of the game. He also gave me the extra time I needed to develop what I needed to.”
The ambitious young Aussie Abroad also credits his family for supporting his football dream, even in difficult times.
“My father has been my biggest influence,” Carter said,
“He had two heart attacks when I had begun to explore a career in Europe, but he never let it get in the way and he has a great knack for staying positive and finding the positive in things even when things get tough.
“I’ve learned to speak Italian and now Romanian and learning to live overseas at a very young age without my immediate family has made me independent.
“I have a huge desire to play football at an elite level. Since I was five all I have ever wanted to do was play football. I love playing and I also love the travelling and the opportunities it gives you to meet people. It is a great game and I love being a part of it and playing.”