Friday 23 August 2019

McCarthy: Not even brilliant Duffy can halt City

Mick McCarthy. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Mick McCarthy. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Four hundred bills a week is how Mick McCarthy recalls his wages during his time as a Manchester City player. "We didn't have any money, that was for sure," he says, reflecting on his time with the club who are on the verge of back to back Premier League titles today; before the petro-dollars, City was completely different club when McCarthy played there (1983-87).

"I've no idea what the top earner was on. I was on 400 bills per week and I'm not sure where I was in the pecking order. It seemed like good dough at the time and I'm sure it was in terms of the normal working wage," says the Ireland manager. "It seems like a different club to the one I played for at Moss Side. I'd imagine it's completely night and day."

McCarthy speaks with fondness of his time at City under the late Billy McNeill, a spell which included promotion to the top flight in his first season there, an appearance at Wembley in the Full Members Cup (City lost, to Chelsea) and his Ireland call-up.

"I'm certain even moving there got me the call-up from Eoin Hand to come and play for Ireland. I didn't see any calls coming at Barnsley," he says.

Now, as he looks at a City side 90 minutes away from retaining the league title, he sees something of the Tiger in Pep Guardiola's side.

"I haven't seen them slipping up for a long time and I don't see it happening now. Liverpool had the lead, had two draws and let City get back in front. Really top teams, when they get back in front, they don't give it away, like Tiger Woods in the Masters. Once he got there, he ain't giving it up, no chance."

McCarthy does, however, admire the Irish contingent at City's opponents today, Brighton manager Chris Hughton and Shane Duffy.

"Chris has been brilliant. I am delighted he has kept them up. And at one stage, people talked about his job which for me is just nonsense. Shane is my type of player. He just gets on with it. No nonsense, he is great in both boxes, he clears everything in his own box and he's a threat in the other box," McCarthy says. "I thought in just the short time I had with him that he is one of those who is a leader around the place, who other players look up to, in terms of stature, and what he does, and how he does it.

"I don't know how many goals they have conceded, he has probably had a tough old time, but one thing as a defender, when your team is having a tough old time, you are generally playing better, because you are involved more, you have to make blocks, clear your headers, make tackles. He got player of the year, did he? I am not surprised. If you are playing in a team having to defend, it is great as a defender, providing you are doing it well."

McCarthy will keep an eye on the last day of the Premier League season today, hoping that Kildare teenager Mark Travers can get another run out for Bournemouth, while play-off duties could keep the likes of Glenn Whelan and Ronan Curtis away from a training camp in Portugal.

There are also issues over impending births but McCarthy, who ducked out of being best man at his brother's wedding so he could make his Ireland debut in 1984, says he won't punish fathers-to-be who opt for the delivery room over the training ground.

"We've had a few in the past where they've had babies and I say, 'No, you go and see the baby. If you turn up, great; if you don't we'll play someone else'. You can't make people play. Family comes first," he says.

"You generally get it back then. They want to come back and play. I tend to treat people as I was treated, you want to come and play football, it means more to you than pretty much everything other than family. If it's family, fine. I don't want people going 'I've got a little niggle' or 'I need a holiday'."

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