Mick McCarthy will favour a ‘play to play’ policy when it comes to choosing his team for the resumption of the European Championship campaign in September when Switzerland come to town..
“It’s the season that counts, not pre-season,” he said yesterday.
“To be battled-hardened to play against a really good Swiss side you have got to be playing or got to have played last season for a long period of time.”
The observation was prompted by the inevitable question about the potential for boy-of-the moment Troy Parrott to be fast-tracked into the senior international set-up, after the 17-year-old striker was given his second run-out for Spurs against Manchester United in Shanghai yesterday.
If, come the Autumn, the young Dubliner is playing for Tottenham then he will be a “shoo-in” for the squad, said McCarthy. But he was keen to point out that he would apply much the same kind of requirement to someone at the other end of the experience scale, like Everton’s James McCarthy, who is desperate to re-float his career after being so long sidelined through injury.
“I’d like to see him playing in September,” said McCarthy. “You all probably know that there are some stories that he might be moving to Crystal Palace, sooner rather than later - for him, for me. So he should be in a place to get a game for the first game of the season. But it doesn’t matter - he can go and sign for whoever he wants, he can sign for Oxford, and if he’s in the team he has a better chance than if he’s on the bench at Crystal Palace. He has done the pre-season and I think he is waiting to get his move. And so am I.” McCarthy said he was delighted to see Callum Robinson join promoted Sheffield United in the Premier League but again underlined that, for his purposes, the important follow-on is that the former Preston man actually gets playing time. “I don’t want players at Premier League clubs, I want players playing at football clubs, preferably in the Premier League,” was how he put it.
That said, it sounds like he fully expects Robinson to thrive in the top flight.
“He’s got good ability and he’s got the pace and power to cope with the Premier League,” he observed. “I think he’ll run away from people and I think he has a goal in him as well.”
Speaking about another Irish player who has recently made a big move, McCarthy revealed that, prior to Luca Connell signing from Bolton Wanderers for Celtic, he had given a “ringing endorsement” of the player to Damien Duff when the former international, now on the coaching staff at Parkhead, canvassed the manager’s views on the 18-year-old who made a big impression when he trained with the Irish squad in Portugal earlier this summer.
“I said to him, ‘I’d take him all day long, having seen what I’ve seen of him’. But that might be one for the long-term. He might need 12 months somewhere else or he might need 12 months on the bench, coming on and playing, just for him to mature and get in the team.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy said that, while he has been away in recent weeks, he has continued to receive positive reports about someone else in green and white hoops, Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne. “People have watched him and been very impressed with him and the last report I got he was playing further forward instead of playing back between the two centre-halves like he was the last time I saw him. And if he plays there then he is never ever going to have a chance of playing for me - getting the ball off the centre-backs, being a quarter-back and firing the ball all over.
“By the way, I’m not trying to tell Stephen Bradley where to play him. I’m saying that any chance he has of playing for me is him playing further forward where he can find a final pass because he can see it. And he can finish too.” Speaking as the star attraction at an FAI ‘Festival of Football’ event at Trim FC, McCarthy firmly took the initiative when a journalist asked if he has had any contact with John Delaney.
As an FAI media officer was about to intervene, McCarthy said: “Sorry, I will answer that. You know full well - and if you’re being mischievous - I’m not allowed have any contact with him, or he I, so that’s your answer. If you ask any more about it you’re going to get an even worse stare. I have answered you and if you want to talk about football, fine, if not ...”
Asked then if the FAI crisis had upset him and his team, the manager replied: “It’s really upset us so far, hasn’t it? It’s caused us a great deal of consternation because we’re top of the league with 10 points, we have won three and drawn one.
“Not at all. It doesn’t affect me one iota, not a little bit, because I’m the coach, not an administrator. See all this out here today?
“There are so many good things going on with the FAI so it doesn’t bother me.”