James McCarthy insists he can develop into the player Roy Keane wants him to be under the new Ireland assistant manager.
Keane claimed yesterday the Everton midfielder possesses the ability to become a “top player” having watched his progress closely at first Wigan and then Everton and, most recently, training under his watch over the past two days.
Having established himself as a mainstay of Ireland’s engine-room during the last campaign, the Glaswegian — who turned 23 on Tuesday — believes the installment of Martin O’Neill and Keane creates the ideal environment for him to thrive on the international stage.
“It’s always encouraging to see such a football hero of mine like Roy giving you tips,” he said. “It’s brilliant — he’s a massive influence. We’ve only been together here a couple of days but he’s given us tips here and there. I’ll pick up as many things as I can from him.
“The little things he does are important. In yesterday’s training, we had 11-a-side game and he was talking to me. Making a run here, get on the ball — just advising that type of stuff. Every little helps.”
Far from being the intimidating character portrayed by some of his former players, Keane was accessible and open with the 20-times capped playmaker.
“I think he’s down to the earth,” he said of Keane. “He’s spoken to each and every one of us individually.
“For me, I want to get on the ball, pass it and make tackles here and there. But it’s a long way from comparing myself to Roy Keane.”
Not to be outshone by his sidekick, the contribution of O’Neill was acknowledged by McCarthy.
“Martin has brought a buzz about the place,” he said. “Training’s been very good, the standard’s been excellent and we’re enjoying it.
“The new management will want to stamp their authority and get wins under their belt. It’s always good to see that, especially going into this friendly against Latvia.”
O’Neill and Keane will have to wait until well into their tenure to roadtest the Everton partnership of McCarthy and Darron Gibson in their midfield.
After showing glimpses of their chemistry in the World Cup qualifier against Germany last month, a cruciate ligament to Gibson early in the next tie against Kazakhstan shelved the blossoming of the duet for the time-being. “Gibbo had just regained his fitness when that injury struck, so I was gutted for him,” said McCarthy.
“You could notice even in the Germany game by the passes he was playing, he was getting his sharpness back and obviously training with him on a day-to-day basis, you can see what a player he is. But he’s had his operation, he’s looking well, he’s working hard and I think we’re trying to get him back just before the end of the season. However, if not, then he’ll be fit for the start of next season. Everything went well with the operation.”
That should see the Derryman in fine fettle for the serious business of the new regime, the kick-off of the 2016 European Championship qualifiers in September.
McCarthy will be approaching his 24th birthday then and a lot wiser, he hopes, from the experience of working under one of his idols.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved