Wednesday 17 January 2018

'My name doesn't get mentioned when a Qatari billionaire buys a club'

‘I’m very loyal to what I have signed’ insists Mick McCarthy. Photo: Paul Sharp/Sharpix
‘I’m very loyal to what I have signed’ insists Mick McCarthy. Photo: Paul Sharp/Sharpix
David Kelly

David Kelly

For someone who once confessed he couldn't play or couldn't manage, Mick McCarthy has come a long way.

A career which has rained too much condescension and, as we know all too well in this country, conflagration, too.

He's 57 now and, as he often was as a player, remains a figure too easily patronised as an unforgivable remnant of football pragmatism; then again, as this remarkable season has demonstrated, pragmatism can still prompt glory.

Still they will call him a plodder who, despite working with a limited budget, almost produced Ipswich into the play-offs for the Premier League.

He is unbendingly loyal to owner Marcus Evans, who is not awash with billions of oil money.

As with Sunderland, then Wolves, McCarthy has pitched up at clubs where he has had to cut his cloth to suit the measure, earning a reputation for working within limited means.

Ipswich Town Manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Stephen Pond/Getty Images
Ipswich Town Manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Just as you call 'Big Sam' to get your team out of a relegation scrap, Neil Warnock to scrap for promotion, Mick McCarthy will keep the show afloat without having to splash the cash.

"I am used to doing it this way," he smiles, unburdened by any sense of being patronised by the game or its observers.

"If ever a job comes up that people think requires that sort of person to do the job, then that's what I get named for.

"I'd like to be as good as I possibly can be, of course. I'm also very loyal to what I've signed. I've not got an agent putting my name for this job and the next job. I abide by the rules.

"It might be that I do well at what I do and that's it. I can't do anything else."

Unbidden, he mentions Claudio Ranieri in passing a couple of times; the man who after a lifetime of near misses finally bloodied the noses of the elite.

A once in a lifetime opportunity, maybe, but one that, still, must infuse the former Ireland manager with some sense of even thinly concealed yearning.

"I'd love it to be known better that I've won the Premier League but I doubt that's going to happen," he says, a sentiment that may appear poignant but is actually sanguine.

"But I am good at what I do. And that's something I think to be proud of. And not always wanting to chase something else.

"I've not yet been named where there's been a Qatari billionaire and somebody says, 'Mick McCarthy would be great for that job'. I've not heard that one yet. I'm living in hope rather than expectation.

"If it happens, it happens. I've been one of the top 26 managers out of 92 for the last 24 years. And the Republic of Ireland - we went from, what, 39 to 13th, was it? I reckon I've had a pretty good managerial career.

"And I'm proud of that, I'm pleased with that. And if something else comes along - Ranieri is 64, so is Martin (O'Neill), I'm only 57 - I'd like to be as good as I possibly can be.

"But I'm not touting myself around to do that. And while I'm at Ipswich I'll continue to ply my trade, give a 100pc.

"But it would nice if my way of working was respected as well."

It is and it isn't; he is fourth favourite for the Aston Villa gig, a job which will demand an all too familiar, trademark gruelling Championship scrap with limited funds; yet nowhere does he appear in backable range for plum posts at Watford, Newcastle or Everton.

"I'm not giving up on it either, by the way," he says. "That's not the case, far from it."

You just suspect, as the club he once played for, Manchester City, so brutally suggested of Richard Dunne, McCarthy the manager, a son of Barnsley - by way of Waterford - doesn't roll off the tongue in Beijing.

He wonders aloud at having endless riches at his disposal, multi-million pound talent bought for him and how much it might take to compromise his air-tight principles.

Wishful thinking but be careful what you wish for.

"If in two months' time there isn't a manager of Ireland, and Pep Guardiola decides that because they didn't finish in the Champions League that he's not going to Manchester City, if I was offered both jobs, which one would I take?

"We'd find out then, wouldn't we? So let's hope both come up, or four or five, and I could have me pick, and we'll see how much my pride in Ireland is favoured over £5m a year or whatever, I don't know.

"But then I don't see the point in having to take all the responsibility for results without any input in signing the players.

"Why would anybody do that? Players inflicted on them and players given to them that they have to play? No, I would not want that at all."

He knows it's a dilemma that will never interrupt his regular routine even if, perhaps, Ireland comes calling again. Not that he is pining.

"I love it better on a Monday morning when we've won, like everybody else. But what gives me enthusiasm for it? I just love it. I love being involved. I love going into training.

"Yeah, I am getting older but it's kind of great being involved when there's players and the youthful energy that's around a football club.

"I have no problem with jumping on a coach and travelling for six hours. It's a luxury problem for me.

"Getting driven from Ipswich to Burnley on a Friday afternoon? Watching whatever it is on my iPad and we go up there and try to take the points from somebody? Loving it. I'm still loving it; every single bit of it."

Being comfortable in his own skin is happiness now. No longer defined by the past nor indeed, by what he cannot do.

Mick McCarthy will contribute a series of exclusive columns to the Paddy Power Blog throughout Euro 2016 in which he'll candidly discuss the key matches, tactics and Ireland's chances.

Irish Independent

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