PREVIEW: Bristol City vs Nottingham Forest
LOUIS Carey insists beating John Atyeo's all-time Bristol City appearance record will mean nothing if the club is relegated this season.
Now in his 18th year as a professional at Ashton Gate, Carey is just five games short of equalling Atyeo's remarkable tally of 645 appearances for the Robins.
Reinstated to the starting line-up by new head coach Sean O'Driscoll, the 36-year-old Bristolian admits he has one eye on the record.
But he will only derive pleasure from eclipsing the late great Atyeo in the record books if City win their fight for npower Championship survival.
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"The honest truth is that people do mention it and it is the back of my mind, but breaking the record would mean nothing if we were relegated," said Carey, who could move a step closer to beating Atyeo's mark if selected to face Nottingham Forest at Ashton Gate tomorrow.
"I want to play and help get the club out of the position it is in. If that means playing games to get the record, then happy days.
"But the main thing is for us is to get out of trouble and stay in the Championship. Nothing else matters compared with that."
Atyeo established his long-standing record between 1951-66, scoring 351 goals for the club and making six appearances for England.
Carey's chances of emulating the striker appeared slim when he was repeatedly overlooked by previous manager Derek McInnes during the first half of this season.
But O'Driscoll wasted no time in restoring City's most experienced defender to the heart of the back four and he will be one of the first names on the team-sheet if he recovers from the knee injury that forced him off after 43 minutes of last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers.
He told The Post: "I felt I was ready to play in most of the games this season and I spent a lot of time on the bench when I really wanted to be part of it.
"I'm like everybody at the club in that I want to play all the time, but I understand that managers all have their own ideas and their own way of doing things.
"I spoke to friends and family about it and, at one stage, it did look as though the season might just fizzle out for me.
"If it was going to be my last season, then I didn't want it all to end that way with me just coming off the bench every now and then.
"But things change quickly in football and I'm really enjoying myself under the new regime."
Carey has played alongside Liam Fontaine in the centre of defence and a partnership that has served City well for several years contributed mightily to the Robins registering their first clean sheet in nine months against Watford recently.
Carey reflected on a change in fortunes, both for him and the team, saying: I'm enjoying training and I'm enjoying the new manager's ideas and way of looking at things.
"When you are a defender, there is no better feeling than being organised as a unit and knowing you are hard to beat. When the goals are going in against you, it can feel like a burden and you do feel as though you are letting your team-mates down. I know football is a team game, but the back four always feel happier when they keep a clean sheet. I don't slog myself and I certainly don't do double sessions when the pitches are heavy or anything like that."