x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

No nonsense McCarthy

The former Sunderland manager is relishing a return to his not-so-happy hunting ground.

Mick McCarthy has rarely been one for fancy words. On the pitch he was a rugged defender whose performances were prompted by pride and power and he was unflinching in his playing style. Having gone into management, that attitude did not change much as Roy Keane found out during their clash before the 2002 World Cup finals when McCarthy was the Republic of Ireland manager and the volatile midfielder was sent home after a row over the conditions for their training camp.

Expletives often pepper his comments. It might not be politically correct, but often underlines McCarthy's passionate persona. Generally forthright with his opinions, questions about his three years at Sunderland seem to bring out the beast in him. "It's been talked about enough. Let's not go there again," said a bristling McCarthy on the eve of the season. It was a tumultuous time on Wearside. Relegation from the Premier League amid financial problems was followed by defeat in the Championship play-offs, then promotion as champions and eventual dismissal in 2006 after just two league wins on Sunderland's return to the top flight.

The club recorded just 15 points - a record low before Derby claimed that unwanted mantle in 2008 - in the season he departed. It was inevitable that he would be constantly asked about this on his Premier League return with Wolverhampton Wanderers. As he heads to Sunderland's Stadium of Light again today, the subject has again fuelled McCarthy's emotions. But he said he would not swap places with his opposite number Steve Bruce, who has enjoyed the squad investment that McCarthy never had.

"If I had one wish it would not be to go back to Sunderland with all the money, it would be to be able to play at Manchester City now, to be in that team and be at the top of the Premier League and earning £100,000 (Dh587,241) a week." McCarthy's frankness is welcome and the Yorkshireman, 50, added: "I have worked hard and tried to do my best wherever I've been. It's not easy, but that's life and you just get on with it. I don't want to look back. My focus is on what I can do with this team, this season."

It is a reason why his Wolves players will be going all out to bring him a third victory of the season that would mean he has already surpassed the tally in that dismal 2006 campaign. The midfielder David Edwards said: "The boys will be trying to win every tackle and header for his cause. He's got a point to prove up there." So he has, and McCarthy will draw on the experiences of his Sunderland days to help Wolves survive at this level.

"You have to keep going until the very end," he said. "It's a challenge, but it's why every team wants to be in the Premier League and every manager and player wants to be there." akhan@thenational.ae Sunderland v Wolves, KO 7pm, Showsports 1 & 2