Wolves bid to spike gunners
"So how many Saturday afternoons are we going to feel like we did against Manchester United?" pondered Mick McCarthy, as he recalled Wolves' rousing 2-1 victory over the Premier League leaders last Saturday.
"Twenty weekends a season, we're going to feel like s*** because we got beaten. That's the reality."
McCarthy redefines the word bluff. Bluff is simply too nuanced a description of the stripped-down way in which the Barnsley-born Irishman views football and his task of trying to keep the Wolves from the relegation trapdoor.
Wolves arrive at the Emirates today to face a team, Arsenal, and a manager, Arsene Wenger, with whom McCarthy has not always seen eye-to-eye. He does not expect the same "hug" and praise from Wenger as he received at Molineux from Alex Ferguson should three points be gained.
"If we emerge victorious, I don't care what I get," McCarthy said.
There was Wenger's questioning of McCarthy's integrity when he fielded a weakened team against United last season and there was the furore over Karl Henry's tackle on Tomas Rosicky with, this campaign, Wolves crying foul over Cesc Fabregas' challenge on Stephen Ward.
It could be spicy, but hopefully not spiteful. There is no love lost, although there is an admiration of Arsenal's football and a ringing endorsement of the talents of Jack Wilshere.
"He's an excellent player," McCarthy said of the 19-year-old midfielder. "He wouldn't be out of place if he played in Spain with all the others who can play like that. He's just terrific."
But that is as far as McCarthy goes. If it is a wider appreciation his audience is after then "you'd have to ask my scout, Dave Baldwin, about young players with potential, not me".
What McCarthy concerns himself with is the here and now and beating Arsenal. "We have to keep the ball when we get it, that's what we need to do," he said. "If we keep giving it back to them, then it'll keep coming back with bells and whistles on it." And alarm bells at that.
Not that McCarthy feels Arsenal are invulnerable. "If there wasn't a way to get at them, then they'd be top of the league," he said. "There's a way to get at everybody, whatever that is, and it's for us to try and exploit."
That way is not being over-physical, insisted McCarthy, who understandably still bridles at the flak Wolves received after the games against Fulham and Newcastle earlier this season when they collected a total of 13 bookings and a red card. "Two nonsense games have set us up as that," he said of the 'dirty team' tag. "I never get that comment from anybody. They say we play good football; nobody ever says we're a destructive team, because we're not.
"I have no problem with tackling. And I don't want anybody gibbing at my team when they tackle. You have to accept, the way I play the game, that there will be tackles and challenges."
It has been a curious campaign for Wolves. How can a team beat United, Chelsea and Manchester City at home -- and Liverpool away -- yet sit in the bottom three with just three more wins? How can they ship 43 goals in 25 games, with a former central defender in charge?
Yesterday, Wolves chairman Steve Morgan implied that the manager would stay even if the club went down.
McCarthy is confident that the drop can be avoided: "Whatever permutation is needed to stay up, I'm still saying we can get it. The fact we're in the bottom three now, doesn't bother me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)