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MICK McCARTHY: What’s his Craic?

When most of us think of Mick McCarthy we think about a gruff, dry Yorkshireman who helped the Republic of Ireland through a difficult qualifying group to an unfortunate World Cup penalty shoot out defeat by Spain. There is, unsurprisingly, a lot more to our Barnsley born manager than that so we endeavoured to find somebody from across the Irish Sea who knows how Mick McCarthy works. Malachy Clerkin is a sportswriter for the Sunday Tribune in Dublin and he kindly agreed to give us an introduction to the man who will be in charge at Sunderland for the foreseeable future.

“The thing is, we liked Mick McCarthy over here. We really did. After all, what wasn't to like? The guy missed his brother’s wedding in order to win his second Ireland cap in a two-bit triangular tournament in China. He captained the country during its first World Cup back in 1990. He was also, and we took some sort of strange, perverse pride in this fact, the player who committed most fouls during that tournament. He learned the words to the national anthem and sang it at matches when the likes of Tony Cascarino kept schtum. He always said that his father would rather him to have played hurling for Waterford than football for Ireland. Little things, perhaps, but they all added up."

“And then when he came along and took over from Jack Charlton, a fool’s errand if ever there was one, we liked him even more. Where a few of the outer candidates squabbled over money, McCarthy just sat down and told the FAI he wanted the job and he didn’t much care how his wallet swelled. He spent a few delicate years weeding out all his old team mates and changed the playing style to something a little easier on the eye than we were used to."

“It worked, too. Performances improved and, but for a goal thirty seconds from time against Macedonia, they’d have made Euro 2000. That night was when the tide started turning against a touch. His tactics were all wrong, he had too many players behind the ball, the way he set his team up invited the Macedonians on in droves. After that night, It sometimes seemed he could get credit for nothing. Good results were the work of the players, bad ones the fault of the manager."

“And then there was Roy. That they didn’t like each other was the truth that dared not speak its name for the longest time. The uneasy peace between them was part of the energy that drove McCarthy’s team to last year’s World Cup. But the meltdown in Saipan was the beginning of the end for both men."

“It was then that we stopped liking Mick. He became defensive and snippy at press conferences; he took insults where none were intended. He said that people were either outside his tent pissing in or inside it pissing out. He made things personal. He really can’t afford to do that with Sunderland."

Malachy Clerkin, Sunday Tribune

Mick McCarthy has announced that his First Team Coach will be a man who has partnered him for a long time. While Mick McCarthy is a household name, his first team coach – and not assistant manager, as it is a title he loathes – is Ian Evans. Eamonn Carey of Irish radio station Newstalk 106 gave us a synopsis of Evans’s career.

“He’s a former international defender, Barnsley player, and member of both the Millwall and Irish managerial setup. Evans was a Welsh International Defender in the 1970s, and a player for Crystal Palace and Barnsley, where he played alongside a young Mick six years ago, where he took up the assistant manger’s post, as well as taking over the reins of the Under 21s team."

“Ian Evans always came across as the more tactically minded of the two, and his parade sergeant attitude towards training always seemed to stand out when the Irish team were training in Dublin."

“What will stand Evans in good stead is the fact that he will be very familiar with the many of the players who are at the Stadium of Light at the moment. Many of them will have worked with him at Under 21 level, and the likes of McAteer, Babb and Kilbane will be used to his training ground routine."

Eamonn Carey, Newstalk 106FM – Dublin

McCarthy Timeline

1959: Born Barnsley, February 7.

1977: Makes league debut for Barnsley.

1981: Helped Barnsley to promotion from Div 3.

1983: Moves to Man City in a transfer that sees Barnsley recoup their (then) largest transfer fee.

1984: Makes Republic of Ireland debut in 0-0 Lansdowne Road draw with Poland.

1985: Helps City win promotion to Division One.

1987: McCarthy joins Celtic after Man City are relegated to Division Two.

1987: Wins Scottish League and FA Cups with Celtic.

1989: Picks up second-successive Scottish Cup winners’ medal after 1-0 final win over Rangers.

1989: Joins French club Lyon.

1990: Returns to England and makes Millwall debut at Luton.

1990: Plays in all Ireland’s matches in final stages of World Cup as the Republic reach the quarter-finals before bowing out to hosts Italy.

1991: Succeeds Bruce Rioch as Millwall player-manager and plays last game for Lions in final match of the season.

1992: Wins last of fifty-seven Republic caps in 2-0 victory over Portugal in Boston.

1994: Steers Millwall to third place in Division One but Derby defeat them in Playoff semi-final.

1995: Guides Millwall to twelfth position after poor start.

1996: Takes Millwall to top of Division One but poor form sees the team in ninth position when he is appointed as Jack Charlton’s successor in February.

1997: November: Fails narrowly to qualify for ’98 World Cup after a playoff defeat by Belgium.

2001: Ireland qualify for 2002 World Cup alongside Portugal. Group favourites Holland stay at home.

2002: Skipper Roy Keane sent home from Far East before World Cup starts following a blazing row with McCarthy after criticism of Ireland’s facilities. A plucky Ireland side are eventually eliminated by Spain on spot kick in a game they should’ve won. McCarthy leaves post in November.

2003: Having been hot favourite to succeed Peter Reid back in October, the now out of work McCarthy is appointed as Sunderland boss after the departure of Howard Wilkinson and Steve Cotterill.

Heroes and villains

Heroes: Martin Smith

The early nineties was a dreadful spell. Between our relegation to the old Second Division in 1991 and our 1996 championship victory, there was very little to write home about on the SAFC front. For four consecutive seasons, we struggled against relegation, surviving by the skin of our teeth on three of them.

When new signings arrived at the club they had as much impact as the likes of Shaun Cunnington and John Colquhoun would, largely because these were exactly the players we were signing.

In this horrendous barren period, there were only two things worth writing home about. There was the small matter of an appearance in the 1992 FA Cup final, a match we may well have won had it not been for John Byrne’s spectacular first half miss, and there was the arrival of a youngster who apparently fell out of the sky, exploded into the first team and until the start of the 95/96 season, provided the brightest ray of light in an almost permanently overcast and drizzly sky.

At the time there were a number of players breaking into the first team. Craig Russell had established himself as a livewire forward who was more keen than Tony Blair at a George Bush arselicking contest. Kieron Brady had proven his quality but was battling a condition that would finish his career and Michael Gray had already arrived on the scene with a goal after forty-two of his full debut at Barnsley. These players had been talked about for some time along with the likes of Stephen Brodie and Anthony Smith who had flirtations in the first eleven. Then out of nowhere along came Martin Smith.

Smithy arrived as a substitute during a rainy midweek Division One match against Luton Town. The weather was cold, the conditions were horrible and the football had 0-0 nailed to it when young Smith appeared as a substitute, causing many fans to check their memory banks to see if they had heard of him before. With almost his first touch, Smudger fired a free kick under the Luton wall and began a love affair that saw the Smithster destroy opposing full backs and lift the Lads from the bottom end of the league to the security of mid table oblivion.

During a dark era Smithy was an unexpected bright light and became the sole reason that many fans turned up to watch the lads. As Mick Buxton once said when he was asked if he was pushing Smith too hard, too early, “if you’ve got a Rolls Royce, you don’t keep it in the garage.” In an incredibly defensive team, Smith was instrumental in creating and scoring goals that kept us afloat until the arrival of Peter Reid. His strike against Bolton from beside the corner flag was of the ilk that earned him the nickname ‘son of Pele’ and a call up to the England U21’s. Shortly after Reid’s arrival, his winner against Swindon Town was possibly the most important goal of his Sunderland career.

Though he played a key part in our 1996 promotion, Smith’s sending off after a bout of handbags with Rob Jones in the Coca Cola cup-tie with Liverpool was the beginning of the end. On return from suspension, runs in the team became flirtations and flirtations became odd appearances as injuries (and a rumoured fall out with Peter Reid) began to play their part. Although he hit some crucial goals and put in some excellent performances when called upon in the 98/99 season, it was clear that his days were numbered and he eventually joined Sheffield United for the painfully low fee of zero pounds.

Villains: Gareth Hall

If ever the wrong player arrived at the wrong time, it was Tino Asprilla to Darlington. However the signing of Gareth Hall must rank as one of the biggest mistakes of Peter Reid’s managerial career. His decision to stick with the man who was voted Chelsea’s worst ever player shortly after he arrived at Roker park was surely the biggest error of his life. Hall initially arrived on loan in the December of 1995 along with young Blackburn keeper Shay Given. Though Given was thrust immediately into the first team in a game against Leicester at Filbert Street, Hall had to make do with a place on the substitute’s bench. In rubbish 0-0 draw, Given put in a good performance, save for some dodgy kicking, whilst Gareth Hall appeared as a second half substitute and was sent off.

After serving a suspension following his sending off, Hall became a permanent member of the Sunderland squad after £300,000 found it’s way to Chelsea football club who were presumably struggling to keep faces straight and sides from splitting. However the Lads began to struggle in the Premiership despite a promising 4-1 away win at Notts Forest, Zico Hall was drafted into the side that lost 1-0 at Derby County, a game in which our Welsh defender was selected ahead of fan favourite Dariusz Kubicki who, had he played would’ve equalled George Mulhall’s post war record for consecutive appearances for Sunderland.

From the beginning it was obvious that Hall was not anywhere near the standard required in the Premiership but Peter Reid’s faith with the alleged fullback continued as Sunderland headed towards the relegation zone. Though Hall was to defending what Teesside is to aesthetics, he was also hindered by the fact that his regular inclusion in the side coincided with the introduction of extremely tight and negative football in which we were crying out for some creativity. Consequently he became the scapegoat for an under-performing team in the same way that Kevin Kilbane became the scapegoat a few seasons later when his signing was followed by a slump which saw us slip from a Champions League slot to seventh place at the end of the season.

Hall’s disastrous impact on the Sunderland side realistically came to an end when we returned to the nationwide, where e made one further appearance for the Lads due to an injury crisis. He spent some time on loan at Brentford, helping them to try and get relegated, before eventually moving to Swindon where he successfully assisted (and captained) the side to relegation from Division Two in bottom spot. Hall is currently residing at Havant and Waterlooville where, during the 2001/02 season he received the Player of the Year award thanks not only to the quality of his defensive performances but thanks to some startlingly good goals. The fact that Havant and Waterlooville aren’t in the bottom three is bizarre enough but that the notion that Hall could hit Jo Brand’s backside with an Al-Samoud missile never mind an eight yard by eight foot target with a small leather sphere is a bit too much. I think I better lie down now.

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