Karen Carney: 'No one had ever won the quadruple before. We made history'

Former England international Karen Carney
Former England international Karen Carney (Image credit: Getty Images)

Karen Carney is a regular on our television screens these days – she covered the 2022 World Cup with ITV, is a WSL pundit for Sky Sports, and has been seen plenty on the BBC and BT Sport in the past, too.

Her playing career was even more impressive, though. Five FA Cups, three league titles and a UEFA Women's Cup crown a trophy cupboard that few could rival – not to mention 144 appearances for the Lionesses across an incredible 18-year career.

Here, she tells FourFourTwo about the four games that changed her life...

England 3-2 Finland – June 5, 2005, European Championship

Karen Carney scores for England as a 17-year-old at Euro 2005

Karen Carney scores for England as a 17-year-old at Euro 2005 (Image credit: Getty Images)

“The Euros were in England and our opener was at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester – we had 29,000 people there. I was 17, and I got an assist and a goal – the winner in the 91st minute. 

"Everybody always says to me that it was a massive moment for women’s football in England, but it was also a massive moment for me. It really put me on the map. 

"My family were in the crowd and they couldn’t believe I was starting the game. My name was called out and they thought there was a mistake! They thought I’d be on the bench: ‘She’s only 17, she’s skinny, she’s not going to be starting’. 

"Lo and behold, I pulled out the winner. I was still at college and doing my A-levels at that tournament. It was just an amazing moment – live on the BBC.”

Arsenal 0-0 Umea – April 29, 2007, UEFA Women’s Cup Final second leg

Celebrating Arsenal UEFA Women's Cup win in 2007

Celebrating Arsenal UEFA Women's Cup win in 2007 (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Umea were known as the Galacticos – they had players like Marta in their side – but we shut them out over two legs to become champions of Europe. We were so together, I’m so proud to have been part of that team. It’ll never be forgotten. 

"We’d already won the league, the FA Cup and the League Cup, so this completed the quadruple. No one’s ever done that, and no English team has won the Champions League since. We made history. 

"On paper they had the better team, but we had great players too, like Rachel Yankey, Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Katie Chapman, as well as a togetherness. Our coach Vic Akers was a great advocate for the women’s game, the only person I call gaffer or the boss. He taught me about Arsenal and respecting the badge.”

Birmingham 2-2 Chelsea (3-2 on penalties) – May 26, 2012, FA Cup Final

Karen Carney during the 2012 FA Cup Final

Karen Carney during the 2012 FA Cup Final (Image credit: Getty Images)

“I’m usually pretty calm, but I’ve never been so nervous as during that penalty shootout. I knew how much it meant to everyone – it was my team. I’d been a mascot aged eight and I’d started playing for Birmingham at 11, so it was emotional. It was boiling hot and we had 90 minutes, extra time and then penalties. It was brutal for Chelsea, but if you’re going to win, that’s the way to do it. 

"After the game, I’m not going to lie, I went out all night and got in at 5am. I was still up to get a McDonald’s breakfast! 

"The celebrations were wild because the club had never won the FA Cup before. Chris Hughton was the manager of the men’s team at that time and he rang to congratulate us. I’d grown up supporting Blues – it was very special to feel part of the club.”

Great Britain 1-0 Brazil – July 31, 2012, Olympic Games

Karen Carney tussles with Daiane during Great Britain vs Brazil at the 2012 Olympics

Karen Carney tussles with Daiane during Great Britain vs Brazil at the 2012 Olympics (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Nothing beats hosting a tournament. We beat Brazil in front of 70,000 at Wembley. As we were walking out and lining up, I said to Kelly Smith, ‘Wow, this is what dreams are made of’. I was just smiling from ear to ear because, growing up, for a girl to play there was unheard of. We showed we could fill grounds and play attractive football. 

"We simply needed a platform, to turn a vicious cycle into a virtuous one. I’m really proud to be an Olympian. Out of a population of more than 60 million people, only 500 represented Great Britain in 2012. Because it was a late kick-off, we got back to the Olympic village after midnight, and then it was my birthday. You could have whatever food you wanted, so I treated myself to a slice of pizza and some chips!”

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Sean Cole

Sean Cole is a freelance journalist. He has written for FourFourTwo, BBC Sport and When Saturday Comes among others. A Birmingham City supporter and staunch Nikola Zigic advocate, he once scored a hat-trick at St. Andrew’s (in a half-time game). He also has far too many football shirts and spends far too much time reading the Wikipedia pages of obscure players.

With contributions from