Mick McCarthy: Is he still 'SuperMick' to Wolves fans?
There is an old saying that distance lends enchantment and time certainly has proved a great healer at Molineux for former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy.
When 'SuperMick' lost his job as Wolves boss in February, after five and a half highly entertaining years at the helm, there were few dissenting voices at the golden palace.
His sacking came the day after an embarrassing 5-1 home defeat by, of all teams, West Bromwich Albion.
Although it was just eight days after Wolves had celebrated their first win in two months, and all five Albion goals owed something to good fortune, the general mood at Molineux was that he had to go.
It was only when it became clear that bungling Wolves had no immediate replacement lined up that attitudes changed once more.
By season's end, when Alan Curbishley, Steve Bruce and Walter Smith had all passed on the job and Wolves had picked up just four points in 13 winless games under McCarthy's old number two Terry Connor, it was widely considered that they might have done better to stick with Mick.
McCarthy's best Wolves one liners
- August 2006 (news conference before his first game): "At the moment we've got 16 players. The MM on my tracksuit stands for Mick McCarthy . . . not Merlin the Magician"
- December 2009 (after fielding a weakened team against Man United at Old Trafford, shortly after Tiger Woods' fall from grace): "I've had a lovely letter from Tiger thanking me for taking the pressure off him. Apparently he's driving round in his car singing 'SuperMick McCarthy'"
- September 2011 (response to QPR captain Joey Barton's Twitter taunts): "Opinions are like backsides. We've all got them, but it's not wise to air them in public."
Could he have kept them up?
"Yes," says McCarthy confidently ahead of Saturday's return to Molineux as manager of Ipswich Town. "But that's easy for me to say. The reality is I don't know.
"We'd stayed up for one or two seasons prior to that and been in worse positions.
"And I do think I'd have kept the club up," he told BBC Radio Suffolk.
The feeling that Wolves made a mistake 10 months ago still pervades Molineux.
Some of the more rose-tinted recollections of McCarthy are perhaps engendered by slight mistrust of the Norwegian methods of current manager Stale Solbakken, on whom the South Bank jury remains out.
But the continued affection for the much-loved, wise-cracking Yorkshireman from the majority of Wolves fans is also triggered by seeing from afar the job he is now doing down in Suffolk.
"People made the decision," said McCarthy. "Whether they have any recriminations about making that decision I don't know, but not from me, not at all.
"It wasn't to be but I'm here now, I'm loving what I'm doing and I have no desire to do anything else."
Having taken over the Tractor Boys when they were bottom of the Championship, McCarthy's no-nonsense approach at Portman Road, aided by his former Wolves assistant Connor, has already dragged Ipswich five points clear of danger.
In his 11 games in charge, Ipswich have won six and drawn two and, aside from two hammerings in his first four games (5-0 at Crystal Palace, then 6-0 at Leicester), Town have shipped just eight goals in his other nine games at the wheel.
Contrast that to a Wolves side who have averaged close to two goals per game over the last two months, culminating in the misery of a 3-0 Boxing Day home stuffing by relegation favourites Peterborough United.
"They had a bad result on Boxing Day," admits McCarthy. "But that often happens on Boxing Day. This league throws up crazy results and Peterborough had been on a good run.
Mick McCarthy's Molineux years
- 2006-07 - Takes charge in July 2006, following Glenn Hoddle's abrupt exit, two weeks before the start of the season, inheriting a squad of just 12 contracted players - but leads Wolves to the Championship play-offs, losing over two legs to West Bromwich Albion
- 2007-08 - Wolves finish just a place outside the Championship play-offs on goal difference
- 2008-09 - McCarthy leads Wolves to the Championship title
- 2009-10 - Wolves finish 15th in the Premier League - their best top-flight finish in 30 years
- 2010-11 - Wolves scrape Premier League survival on goal difference on a dramatic final day of the season
- 2011-12 - Sacked on 13 February following a 5-1 home defeat by Albion (all of whose five goals were deflected)
"And I actually think Wolves have got a great team. They've some really good players and I'm surprised to see them where they are, I have to be honest.
"Of the team that's playing, six or seven of them were in Championship-winning teams with me [Karl Henry, Kevin Foley, Richard Stearman, Stephen Ward, Christophe Berra, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Carl Ikeme], Reading [Kevin Doyle] or Birmingham [Roger Johnson].
"I know them. I know their strengths and their weaknesses."
Solbakken has had bad luck with injuries to a string of wide players, not to mention the loss of Wales international keeper Wayne Hennessey.
And given that McCarthy's more recent Wolves predecessors Graham Taylor (Watford), Mark McGhee (Brighton), Colin Lee (Millwall) and Dave Jones (Cardiff) have all taken teams back there and got results - as far as Solbakken is concerned, it is not the ideal timing for the return of such a favourite son to Molineux.
Not that he will come back to the Black Country bearing any malice.
"I did a good job at Molineux," said McCarthy. "I loved it there. I had a great time.
"Great club, great people and I've no axe to grind with anyone. I'm going back with my head held high.
"I hope I get a good response. If I do, great. If I don't, it won't bother me.
"There's always got to be a little bit of you wanting to show everyone what they're missing
"I'd like to take my team back there and play well put on a good show and win.
"But I don't want to win this one more than any other game... not unless they give me more than three points."
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