Simultaneously an American playing abroad and an Englishman playing for America, Cameron Carter-Vickers is a man of two worlds. Holding deep personal ties to both England and the United States, the 18-year old Tottenham defender now finds himself at a career crossroads that represents the build-up of decades of family history.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has heaped praise on his young prospect as expectations of Carter-Vickers continue to rise for both club and country. But which country? Carter-Vickers was born and raised in Essex by his English mother, but he is also the son of an American basketball player. He currently stars in defense for the United States youth teams by way of his American father, but with no senior call-ups, the English FA may also have its sights set on the Tottenham talent.
Carter-Vickers’ father Howard Carter starred in a Louisiana State University basketball team that reached the NCAA final four in 1981, and Carter was named Second Team All-American in 1982 and 1983. The Denver Nuggets selected him as the 15th pick in the 1983 NBA draft, but Carter spent his rookie season underutilized. He started only 5 games and averaged 12.5 minutes per game, managing to only contribute 6.2 points per game. He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for the next season.
Dallas would be the final stop on Carter’s NBA journey. He featured in only 11 games in the 1984-85 season without a single start, and averaged less than a point per game, resulting in him leaving halfway through the season. In search of playing time and a steadier career, Carter left the United States in November of 1985.
Recruited by professional team Pau-Orthez in the top tier of French basketball, Carter quickly helped the team earn its first French basketball championship in his first season. He became an instrumental part of the team, helping Orthez repeat as champions the next season.
Carter spent eleven years in France, gaining French citizenship and even representing the national team in the 1994 semi-final rounds of the 1995 FIBA European Championships. He would then spend three seasons playing for Greek team Iraklis, retiring in 1998.
While in Greece, Howard Carter met Geraldine Vickers, and Englishwoman working in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. The two never married, with Carter moving back to his home city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while Vickers returned to Essex, England.
It was in the Essex town of Southend that Cameron Carter-Vickers was raised, both by his mother and grandmother. He maintained his ties to America through his father, frequently visiting family in the United States, and he told U.S. Soccer, “I’ve lived in England my whole life, but my dad’s American and I’ve always been quite close to my dad, so that’s where the American connection comes in.”
Carter-VIckers benefited from parents who were both former athletes, with his mother previously a talented netball player. As a result, Carter-Vickers excelled in a wide range of sports as a child, winning the Essex Cup on his grade school basketball team, playing rugby, and even qualifying for the national shot put throwing competition at 14-years old.
But none of these sports had the same draw as football. Carter-VIckers began playing for his local team at 7, and he earned a spot in Tottenham’s develop center after catching the eye of a Spurs scout at the age of 10. The next year, he joined Tottenham’s academy, where his growth his consistently accelerated.
Carter-Vicker’s first joined the United States youth set-up as a 16-year old. Anchoring the defense of a Tottenham under-18 side that dispatched the United States under-17s 5-3 at the IMG Cup in Florida in 2014, the young player quickly attracted the attention of the United States U-17 coach when it became apparent that he could potentially feature for the Americans.
With Carter-VIckers eligible for a US passport because of his father, the US U-17 coach reached out U-18 coach Javier Perez, who flew to London personally to meet with Carter-Vickers, his mother and his Tottenham coaches to pitch the defender on playing for the United States.
“That day I met him, his mom, and his coach, I think it was one of his first training sessions for the first team.
“It’s remarkable to see such a young player so confident and so respectful because boys who are successful at these early ages have a lot of challenges,” Perez told American Soccer Now, emphasizing that it was apparent Tottenham were very impressed by Carter-Vicker’s abilities at such a young age.
Carter-Vickers was named to the US squad for a U-18 tournament in the Czech Republic in August of 2014. He was the only player on the squad living and playing abroad. By October, Carter-Vickers had been fast tracked to the U-23s, starting in a friendly against Brazil.
The defender consistently progressed and performed for the United States youth ranks, regardless of his age and the fact that was raised abroad. Despite being the youngest player in the US under-20 team that competed in 2015 at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand, Carter-Vickers led the defensive line throughout the tournament.
“Even though he’s the youngest player on the squad, he’s probably one of the most mature on the field in terms of the way he plays,” US U-20 coach Tab Ramos told VICE Sports. The US team made the quarterfinals, losing to Serbia on penalties.
Carter-Vickers made his first competitive debut in September starting for Tottenham in a 5-0 League Cup victory over Gillingham. He has been consistently named to the bench for Spurs in the Premier League, but has not seen any time on the pitch.
A second league cup start the other night against Liverpool saw Spurs suffer a 2-1 loss, although Carter-Vickers was partially at fault for the defeat.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has long been a fan of the American defender, and he was quick to deflect any blame from Carter-Vickers, as he stated “I am very pleased for him. My analysis is that he played very well. He’s 18 and a very good prospect for us for the future. He has very good potential. He was very calm.”
Pochettino’s gradual embedding of Carter-Vickers among his starters has given every indication that the defender is in his plans, and the manager previously told ESPN FC, “For me, he will be one of the best centre-backs in England in the future. He has a strong mentality, good quality and all the qualities for playing centre-back.” The admiration is mutual, as Carter-Vickers has stated that with Pochettino “there is definitely a pathway. If you can catch his eye, there is an opportunity.”
Still, no call up to the United States first team has come Carter-Vicker’s way. United States manager and former Tottenham star Jürgen Klinsmann said, “Absolutely Cameron is in our picture,” in a Facebook Q&A earlier this month, but added, “He’s a very exciting young player coming through the ranks, but he also needs to break into things slowly, get into the team and get some minutes, which he did the other day in a cup game.
In the meantime, some in the English media are keen see Carter-Vicker’s attract the full attention of the English FA, with both the Mirror and the Evening Standard alleging that the FA are monitoring the player’s progress.
As for Carter-Vicker’s own outlook, a national team switch is not in his immediate plans. He told American Soccer Now, “I like U.S. Soccer and both times I have been called into camp, it has been a really good experience.”
“England never called me up, so I haven’t had the choice of playing for them or not,” Carter-Vickers told VICE Sports, adding, “I think I would have always played for the USA anyway. My dad has had a big influence on me, in sporting terms.”
While Carter-Vickers’ life and career is the accumulation of a family legacy that spanned many continents and multiple sports, the defender appears well-settled with earning his way into Pochettino’s line-ups at an increasing frequency. With undeniable talent and Spurs’ full support, it can only be a matter of time before Jürgen Klinsmann follows suite.