'He's just one of the classiest men I've met' - Mark Rossiter hails Mick McCarthy's support after knee tumour ended Sunderland career
Former footballer Mark Rossiter has hailed Ireland manager Mick McCarthy for the kindness shown to him during his career.
Speaking on the LOI Weekly podcast, in association with Independent.ie, Rossiter revealed McCarthy's support when the young player had to return to his native Sligo in 2005, after a promising career at Sunderland was obliterated by a knee tumour.
"It was a tumour in my knee. I had to get a bone graft from my hip to construct my knee when I was 19," said Rossiter.
"Then I had a reoccurence of it so they more or less had to snap my medial a second time and then I had another reoccurence two years later. So it was in 2003, 2004 and 2006. The surgeon at the time said it's the closest you will get to a career-ending injury. It was malignant growth, but it wasn't life-threatening."
But the former defender recalls fond memories as a youth of his time in England with the Black Cats under the watchful eye of McCarthy.
"I can remember Mick McCarthy had come in after Howard Wilkinson and we were playing against Manchester United in the ressies (reserve team). I was marking Quinton Fortune and he got taken off at half-time because he couldn't get a touch," Rossiter said.
"But I can remember Mick after the game, in the dressingroom, and he said 'you're the closest thing to Stephen Carr.'
"So I was like 'class, I'm delighted with life'. So I came in next day and Kevin Kilbane comes in and says 'what are you smiling about?'
"And I just went 'ah I had a decent game last night and Mick was buzzing with me.' So he said 'what did he say?'
"And I told him what Mick had said and he said 'Nah.' And me heart sank. He said 'you're a far better footballer than Stephen Carr.'
"That was in March (2003) and then I got called up to the Irish Under-21s because Thomas Butler pulled out with injury and I tore my cruciate.
"Tearing my cruciate actually saved me in terms of being able to play.
"In January that year I had played in the FA Cup and got stretchered off and that triggered the tumour.
"It was misdiagnosed as a cyst and it grew four times the size in six months.
"So my knee started to distort. I was going back for a check-up on my cruciate and I said it to him.
"He stuck a syringe in to get fluid and there was nothing there. So I went to a specialist and I was diagnosed then.
"That was a Friday, I was in on a Monday, was diagnosed on the Wednesday and had surgery then and was in hospital for two weeks."
Rossiter, who went on to have an 11-year career in the League of Ireland with Bohemians, St Patrick's Athletic, Dundalk and Longford Town, had nothing but praise for the current Irish boss.
"Mick, to me, is one of the best. I'd left Sunderland in 2004 after I was rehabbing for about six or seven months when I got the second tumour done and I moved back to Sligo in April or May 2005," he said.
"So I had a reocurrence of the tumour in 2006. I got this phone call at home it was like 11 in the morning so I went out to answer it and it was Mick.
"He said to me, 'I've heard you've just been diagnosed with another tumour.' He said 'the club is open to you in any capacity.' To me he's one of the best I've met, a gentleman. He didn't need to do it.
"And any time he came over, when he was manager of Wolves and we played them with Bohs in a friendly, he's just one of the classiest men I've met."