Monday was James McCarthy’s summer in microcosm — a day of rumour, raised hopes, expectations apparently dashed and then, at almost literally the eleventh hour, confirmation that, finally, he was back in the top flight.
A long day, but then it had been a long few months too, during which speculation about the player’s future had run riot across the back pages on an almost daily basis.
“All summer, to be honest, there was paper talk and it got a bit frustrating at times, seeing your name linked with various clubs,” said McCarthy after Irish training in Malahide yesterday.
“No disrespect to Wigan Athletic but you want to get back to the Premier League and I am delighted it has finally happened.”
And all the more so because his move to Everton appeared on-again and off-again throughout the course of a transfer deadline day during which Wigan chairman Dave Whelan’s expert brinkmanship and the circumstances of Marouane Fellaini’s late move from Goodison combined to create a lot of uncertainty for McCarthy as he waited at home for events to unfold.
“At times I was wondering if it was going to happen,” he confirmed. “It was a long day. As anyone would be, I was a bit nervous at times, looking at the phone constantly to see what was happening. Obviously my agent was there as well. We were just waiting for that call to say it was happening. It’s a business at the end of the day, isn’t it? I kept hearing that it was going to happen and then it wasn’t going to happen and you start wondering if it’s going to get pushed over the line. I’m stuck in the middle of it and it was a bit frustrating.”
McCarthy revealed that he’d opted not to follow the transfer day drama on telly. “Nah, I didn’t bother, I had enough emotions without watching Sky Sports News,” he smiled.
In the end, and just as Dave Whelan had predicted on his visit to the K Club on Sunday, the deal went right down to the wire, McCarthy getting the green light not long before Big Ben was tolling on Sky.
“I think it was about 10 to 11pm when I was on my way to the training ground,” he recalled. “We had 10 minutes to get the paperwork done and it was a relief. I wouldn’t have gone to the training ground without confirmation. It had been a long, long day. I was just delighted to get it done.”
The move meant McCarthy was reunited with his former Wigan boss Roberto Martinez late on Monday night. After his time working closely with the Spaniard, the player reckons he knows exactly what to expect of a manager he regards as “different class”. But as the clock ticked down on Monday, there was little time for in-depth planning.
“It was just a quick chat because we had so little time to get the paperwork done and he told me to go enjoy the two games with Ireland and try and get maximum points for the country,” said McCarthy.
Despite the late finish, McCarthy had to be up early on Tuesday to fly into Dublin for a morning training session with the Irish squad, his international room mate Seamus Coleman now his new club-mate.
“I spoke to Seamie,” he said. “Everton have brought in a few on deadline day and I think we will have a go. It’s a good club to be at and Seamus has told me all about the fans and atmosphere. The club is going in the right direction and I’m excited about the challenge. I know there is real competition for places and I have been told by the staff that I won’t walk into the team. I have to work hard and prove that I am willing to go on and play.”
Which, as it happens, was also the message he got from Everton fan Jon Walters when the new Toffee arrived in the Irish camp. “Yeah,” he smiled, “he’s told me to get my head down now and work hard.”
McCarthy insisted that he doesn’t feel burdened by the £14m price tag. “It happens, doesn’t it?” he observed. “You see players going for huge money and obviously it’s Wigan that wanted the money and it is not down to me.”
But he was happy to note that his first senior club, Hamilton, will benefit from a financial windfall — said to be in the region of £1m — as a result of his move to Everton.
“(Former Accies boss) Billy Reid was brilliant with me,” said McCarthy. “He keeps in touch and it is a good club with a lot of young boys coming through. They are at the top of the league in the Scottish First Division and I keep an eye out for them every week, and keep in touch with a few of the boys. I got so many texts (after Monday night) and spoke to the chairman at Hamilton who did me a huge favour with everything.”
Now that his club future is resolved, McCarthy says his entire focus is on Ireland’s World Cup games against Sweden tomorrow night and Austria next Tuesday.
“I’m looking forward now to getting these two games under way as they are massive games,” he said.
And presumably a win at the Aviva on Friday would make for the perfect end to a perfect week? “It would,” he smiled. “We want to win the game. It won’t be easy but we will give it our best shot.”
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