Se­cre Win y et of my suc­cess? your first match!


The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -


T is 2pm the day be­fore Ip­swich travel to QPR and Mick McCarthy has just been asked how he feels about his op­po­nents boast­ing a for­mer Eng­land man­ager on the coach­ing staff.

“Well,” he says, rais­ing those fear­some white eye­brows. “There’ll be an ex-Ire­land man­ager on the other bench, you know. Got to the last 16 of the World Cup an’ all. Just thought I’d re­mind you!”

McCarthy, of course, is only mess­ing. And th­ese days, with Ip­swich in rude health, the dead­wood dumped and fans on his side, the fa­mously nonon­sense York­shire­man is en­ti­tled to crack a joke or two.

Like his ver­dict on QPR’s in­fa­mous plas­tic pitch. “I al­ways liked play­ing at Lof­tus Road,” he says. “Un­til they put that astro­turf down. It was the worst pitch in the league, and there were some bad ones in those days.”

Or his ru­mi­na­tion on poor set plays: “There’s noth­ing more frus­trat­ing as a cen­tre-half. You come run­ning up and you’re re­ly­ing on your mate to put it any­where near you. Then they miss you by a mile. It’s a long way back, es­pe­cially when you’re shout­ing abuse at him all the way!”

This time last year, no­body at Port­man Road felt like laugh­ing. In the fi­nal days of Paul Jewell’s ill-fated reign, I team an pumme easy thr

A 6-0 Au­gust games w with the the foot was esc

Into t re­cently sug­gest brows a in­credu think to

Yet McCart the end safe in m sive rec

Of the by McC game. O would h place an

But p fac­tor o achieve who’d e months 54-year

“I wo that’s a Thursda

pswich were less a football nd more a punch­bag, glee­fully elled by any­one re­quir­ing an ree points. 0 de­feat to Black­pool in late

pre­cip­i­tated a run of 13 with­out a win and in Oc­to­ber, e Trac­tor Boys ly­ing prone at t of the Cham­pi­onship, Jewell corted from the premises. this mess walked McCarthy, y sacked by Wolves. When I t it was a tough gig, those eye­arch again. “Tough?” he says ulously.“I should say so. I don’t ugh quite cov­ers it.”


how­ever tough it was, thy was equal to the task. By d of the sea­son, Ip­swich were mid-ta­ble with the best de­fen­cord in the bot­tom half. eir 60 points, 53 were gained Carthy, a tally of 1.6 points per Over the whole sea­son, that have been enough for fifth nd a play-off berth. per­haps the most im­pres­sive of all is that those re­sults were ed with the same set of play­ers em­bar­rassed the club for two of the sea­son. So what did the r-old do? on a game,” he says.“Hon­estly, all it takes. I ar­rived on the ay, picked a team to play Birm- ing­ham on the Fri­day and we played them on the Satur­day. Thank­fully, we won it.

“If we hadn’t, who knows what would have hap­pened? If you walk in and win a match, peo­ple be­lieve in you. We could have played a lot bet­ter at Birm­ing­ham and got beat. Then ev­ery­body goes ‘Ey up, same old, same old’. Fans have noth­ing to shout about. Play­ers think ‘Well, we played bet­ter than we did but we still got beat’.

“Per­for­mances change noth­ing. You need a re­sult. Get that and peo­ple be­lieve in you, they be­lieve in them­selves. You get on a roll and that’s what hap­pened.

“We did get slapped twice af­ter that (5-0 at Crys­tal Palace and 6-0 at Le­ices­ter) but it’s all about that first re­sult.”

Ip­swich don’t get slapped any­more. As McCarthy says: “I can’t imag­ine any­one think­ing ‘Happy days, Ip­swich are com­ing – this’ll be an easy one.”

“It’s just not go­ing to be. And that’s not be­cause of me. It’s the play­ers. Yeah, they might get beat but it’ll never be for want of try­ing. I’ve got 16 play­ers all bust­ing their nuts for this club.”

Yet if Ip­swich don’t lack ef­fort, they could cer­tainly do with a bit of cash. Like Jewell, McCarthy has been ham­strung by the largesse of the Roy Keane era, which saw mil­lions spent on a string of flops.

While QPR are splashing £3m on Scott Parker and For­est fork­ing out £2.5m to snatch Kelvin Wil­son from Celtic, McCarthy – who has tar­geted the top six – has barely spent a penny over two trans­fer win­dows.

This sum­mer’s mar­quee sign­ing, Cole Skuse, was a free­bie from rel­e­gated Bris­tol City. Paul An­der­son also came from Ash­ton Gate, a straight swap for way­ward striker Jay Em­manuel-Thomas. Jay Tabb was re­leased by Read­ing, Christophe Berra off­loaded by Wolves.


When some­one sug­gests his bud­get isn’t ‘any­where near’ that of Harry Red­knapp or Billy Davies, McCarthy laughs.

“Any­where near? You mean nowhere near. I haven’t spent any­thing! Sorry, that’s not quite true. We bought Jack Docherty for 20 grand.

“But there’s no point be­ing en­vi­ous is there? It won’t get you any­where. And I’m not con­vinced there’s that much dif­fer­ence be­tween any of the play­ers in this di­vi­sion.

“A higher price doesn’t al­ways mean a bet­ter player. It just means he’s on a longer con­tract. The dif­fer­ence be­tween me and Billy is he can buy play­ers who are un­der con­tract.

“We took Jay Tabb for nowt. Tabby’s fan­tas­tic, a re­ally good Cham­pi­onship player. Had he been un­der con­tract, who knows what we’d have to pay for him? More than we can af­ford. We couldn’t have bought Cole Skuse or Christophe Berra.

“So good luck to Billy. He can get who he wants. But that doesn’t mean they’re bet­ter than our lads.”

Of course, af­ter two decades in man­age­ment with Mill­wall, Ire­land, Sun­der­land and Wolves, McCarthy knows that the feel-good fac­tor can quickly wear off.

Just look at Wolves, where a pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League and two solid sea­sons counted for noth­ing when the Mid­lan­ders plunged into the rel­e­ga­tion zone in early 2012. Mo­lineux turned nasty, McCarthy was sacked and now Wolves are in League One.

“It was a tough time,” he ad­mits. “But the Wolves fans were no worse than any­one else. If you’re not do­ing well, the crowd’s on your back, the play­ers are ner­vous and it’s a pretty un­pleas­ant place to be.

“The only dif­fer­ence is that some places have 30,000 fans and some have 25. They’re both hor­ri­ble.

“That’s why it can’t just be a case of ‘Mick comes in, changes things round, it set­tles down and it’s all OK’. The play­ers proved last year they are good enough. Now they have to keep prov­ing it. Over and over again.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

BAR­GAIN: Paul An­der­son, be­low, play­ing for Bris­tol City

FAST START: David McGoldrick scores for Ip­swich against Le­ices­ter

MAR­QUEE SIGN­ING: Cole Skuse gives Mill­wall’s Shaun Derry a lift

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