Mick McCarthy will offer fraternal greetings to Roy Hodgson before tomorrow's Black Country derby at The Hawthorns, but the Wolverhampton Wanderers manager believes that it will have been "very difficult" for West Bromwich Albion's new head coach to put his imprint on the team he inherited from Roberto Di Matteo in less than a week.
The relegation rivals collide twice in the season's final three months, and for McCarthy a "huge game" will dwarf even the Championship play-off double-header of 2007 which Albion won. He is familiar with the way Hodgson's sides play – Wolves won at Liverpool in the latter's penultimate game in charge at Anfield in December – yet experience tells him it is awkward taking over a faltering side with only 12 games remaining.
"It's very difficult if you want to change everything that's gone before," said McCarthy. "They've all been playing a certain way for 18 months. Having had only a week to work with them, I'm not sure he [Hodgson] could stamp his style on them. Would it be too much to ask in that time to flip everything on its head and start doing something completely different? That's his dilemma."
One theory argues that Albion's change at the top can only make it harder for Wolves, in bottom place, against neighbours one rung above the drop zone. "There could be a worse time to be playing Albion if they didn't like the outgoing boss, if there was dissent towards him and people weren't doing their job for him," added McCarthy.
"I didn't see that at all. The players didn't look as if they'd stopped playing for Roberto. Whenever they scored they were high-fiving with him and the staff. I'm hoping they're brassed off that they've lost him, but that's something I can't do anything about."
If Di Matteo's demise surprised McCarthy, the appointment of former Internazionale manager Hodgson, "a very good coach, tactician and technician", did not. "He's better than a safe pair of hands. He kept Fulham up [in 2008]. At the moment, that's what they need."
Three points, rather than bragging rights, are the priority for both men, although McCarthy urged Wolves to "embrace" the added "spice" of the occasion rather than be daunted by it. "My best was my last game for Celtic when we beat Rangers in the Scottish Cup final," said the derby veteran. And as a manager? "Hopefully, on Monday I can say that it was Sunday's."Reuse content