It’s Sir Alex Ferguson who says it only takes six to carry your coffin. I reckon you’re a very lucky person if you meet a handful of very close friends – after all, we’re all different. It’s rare in life you meet a truly top man. A man you’d like to be in the trenches with, to watch your back. Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Mick McCarthy is one such man. Just to be around him, in this world of cobblers and bluff, you appreciate who he is and what he stands for. If my father was still alive, he’d love Mick – and I couldn’t pay him a bigger compliment than that. In dreadful commercial parlance, he is ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.
In the hyper, headline-chasing world of the English Premier League, Wolves have been struggling. His chairman ran into the changing room to castigate the players after the defeat by Liverpool last week, and to say Mick was unhappy is to state the very obvious. In football, the dressing room is sacrosanct: no one other than the players and manager is allowed. I think it’s pretty safe to say Mick’s head was on the block if they couldn’t get a win against lowly QPR. With the home side’s new signings and a rocket start, Wolves found themselves 1-0 down. Remember, both teams are desperate for points at the low end of the table.
Then, as if the footballing gods decided it was about time the good guy got a break, QPR’s Djibril Cisse was sent off. Even now, no one really knows why. It was the stroke of fortune Wolves needed. Mick threw on some attacking substitutions, and the rest is history (2-1 to Wolves). Just to see the delight and emotion from the players when Kevin Doyle scored the winner illustrates the belief and focus the team has. It was a lifeline at a time when the rug looked to have been pulled from under them.
My pal (and fellow Dubai resident) Derek Whyte began his Celtic career playing alongside Big Mick, and is eternally grateful for the guidance he received. He says that during one game a player spat at Mick, and that was the last thing he did. Mick clocked him with a right hand and walked straight off, not even waiting for the red card. What you see is what you get from Mick McCarthy.
Look, he might not survive the cull, and it might yet hurt him personally, but I’ve never met a person (besides Roy Keane) that has a bad word to say about the man. Imagine that: in an amazingly volatile and hot-headed industry, no one says anything bad about you. All that rubbish about ‘losing the team’, yet you could see from the players’ delight that they’re right behind him. Yes, they might get relegated; yes, they might go down; but in the real world, so what?
I’ve always tried to remain as impartial as possible when it comes to talking about football, but I’m making an exception this time. I genuinely hope Wolves stay up.
Hear Rob’s radio shows on Coast 103.2FM every Friday 11am-2pm live from the Mövenpick JBR (04 449 8888), and every Saturday 6pm-9pm live from the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 399 5000).