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'Ipswich my only route back to the top flight'

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Mick McCarthy continues to point the way forward for Ipswich on a shoestring budget.

Mick McCarthy continues to point the way forward for Ipswich on a shoestring budget.

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Mick McCarthy continues to point the way forward for Ipswich on a shoestring budget.

Pinned to the whiteboard in Mick McCarthy's office at the Ipswich Town training ground is a picture of an elderly gentleman, with the word 'legend' above his head.

"That is Norman Rimmington, affectionately known as Rimmo," explained the former Republic of Ireland manager.

"It was his 90th birthday in November. When I joined Barnsley, he was the groundsman and he was in charge of the apprentices.

"We used to divot the pitch, clean the boots, clean the bogs and all sorts. He unofficially made me head apprentice and I used to get the stick off him if jobs weren't done or anything was out of line.

"But I loved him and I still do. He gave me more support than anybody else and, if he said, 'Well played, Macca', wow, I was 10ft tall. He really is my hero, my mentor if you like. He is as big a reason why I'm here today as anybody."

The values passed on to him by 'Rimmo' have formed a large part of McCarthy's management philosophy that enabled him to take Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers to the Premier League, and have helped him to build an Ipswich Town team challenging for promotion on just £10,000.

Despite losing against Derby County last Saturday, Ipswich are third in the Championship and face Southampton in an FA Cup third round replay at Portman Road tonight.

What Ipswich lack in financial resources, McCarthy has more than compensated for in hard work, sound judgment and good coaching.

Daryl Murphy was on loan at Portman Road when McCarthy took the Ipswich job, on November 1, 2012, and had scored just a handful of goals for the club.

However, McCarthy rewarded the striker's effort with a permanent contract and the No  9 shirt, and the results have been spectacular.

The 31-year-old is the top scorer in the Championship with 17 goals and won the division's Player of the Month award for December.

"Murph was probably a 10-goals-a-season striker and I put a lot of the change down to the work my assistant Terry Connor does with him," McCarthy said.

CONFIDENCE

"It's not just this last two months, this has been happening for the last two years. He signed from Celtic, he's got a permanent deal, he's got the No  9 on his back and that helps his confidence.

"I gave him the No  9 on the way he played. I'm sure he said he would like it and I probably said 'earn it' and he did, and he's kept it on merit.

"I always thought he could be a 20-goal-a-season striker because he's very good in the air, he's quick, he's certainly powerful, he's got a great left foot and he's practised his right foot.

"We're constantly on at him about where to get his goals and working on all different types of finishes."

While Murphy has benefited from the hard work and confidence McCarthy and Connor have put into him, Ipswich have reaped the rewards of their manager's judgment over the defender Tyrone Mings.

The 21-year-old is one of only two players for whom McCarthy has paid a transfer fee at Ipswich - he agreed to spend £10,000 on his first sighting of Mings.

Mings is now worth £10m and has been watched by Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as Roy Hodgson's England scouts.

"He'll be a Premier League player. He's coped with all the speculation remarkably well. It's gone from £5m to £10m to a million million. He's a really nice young fella - nothing's changed, he's a confident young man.

"Hopefully, he will be a Premier League footballer with Ipswich. That's not guaranteed, but one thing that is guaranteed is Tyrone will be a Premier League footballer."

However, while McCarthy is certain that Mings and teenage midfielder Teddy Bishop will play in the Premier League, regardless of whether Ipswich get promoted, the 55-year-old believes the only way he will return to the top flight is by going up.

"I don't think I'd get a Premier League job now," McCarthy said. "Why? I was out eight months when I lost the job at Wolves and there wasn't a sniff of a chance really, which I found quite sad.

"I had to take a club at the bottom of the Championship. I had nothing else offered. It disappoints me and surprises me a bit.

"I just think I lost the gilt-edged opportunity to become a bit more of a recognised Premier League manager by not staying up for a third year with Wolves.

"I think my CV would be a lot different, but they sacked me before I got the chance to do it.

"I take being called a top Championship manager as a huge compliment because if you have a look at my record in the Championship do you think there would be a lot of managers who would be happy with it? I'd say so.

"My managerial career, with Millwall, Sunderland and Wolves, has been in the top 25, 26 teams in the League. I would say that's pretty good and one to be proud of.

"I would love it to be in the top 10, a Premier League manager, but it's a good record.

"Maybe I am a bit rough around the edges, but I'm not changing, I never have since I was a kid."

Nobody wants McCarthy to change, especially not his straight talking mentor 'Rimmo'. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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