The Republic of Ireland looked back to go forward yesterday when they announced their next manager. Having had the best years in their history under an English centre-half, they hoped the trick would work again when they appointed Mick McCarthy.
The Barnsley-born Millwall manager succeeded Jack Charlton yesterday with one advantage over the man who was so successful he earned the sobriquet "Saint Jack". Whereas his predecessor won his caps for England, McCarthy played 57 times in the green of Ireland.
McCarthy, who will leave Millwall, has been given a two-year contract for the unenviable task of following Charlton's 10 years, in which the Irish reached the finals of two World Cups and a European Championship.
"Of course I've learned from Jack," McCarthy, who was the Republic's captain 23 times under Charlton, said. "But the biggest thing he has taught me is to be single-minded, to do things the way I think best.
"It is a daunting prospect following Jack, but I'm not going to attempt to copy his ways. I'm Mick McCarthy and, to be honest, I have had more arguments with Jack than anybody else in my career."
McCarthy, 37 tomorrow, has the initial task of steering the Republic to a third World Cup finals in France in 1998. "That is the target," he said, "and it won't be easy, despite what some people are saying about our draw in the qualifiers.
"We'll see what happens after that. Jack never had a contract while he was manager but I've signed for two years, and if we are successful maybe they will offer me 10. If not, I have no illusions. I'll probably be sent packing on the next ferry."
The Association of Ireland announced McCarthy's appointment after Kenny Dalglish, Alex Ferguson and Joe Kinnear dropped out of the equation.
The FAI president, Louis Kilcoyne, insisted McCarthy was the only man to be offered the job. "Joe Kinnear came very close," he said, "but he was honest with us and told us he had ambitions in the Premier League. A lot of names were thrown into the ring, and about 70 per cent of the speculation was true, but we're confident we've got the best man for the job."
McCarthy's first match will be against Russia in Dublin on 27 March, followed by a game in Prague against the Czech Republic on 24 April. His first priority will be to address a squad that is ageing. "I'm not saying where I'm looking to strengthen the team, but there are players, some of them great players, who are 35 or 36. Those are the ages and you can put the faces to them. I'm hopeful we can continue to keep getting a supply from England, like Jack.
"The Bosman ruling abut foreign players should mean that clubs don't put so much pressure on their players to turn away from us and stay English. I want to look at all the players who could be eligible for us."
An obvious target would be Tottenham Hotspur's Chris Armstrong, who played under McCarthy at Millwall. Charlton repeatedly tried and failed to attract him to the Republic and the new manager admitted: "He is one I will obviously want to consider."
McCarthy will also be considering his own backroom staff, one of whom could be his assistant at the New Den, Ian Evans. Other contenders are Kevin Moran and Frank Stapleton, both of whom played alongside him in the Ireland team.
"I can't talk about the people I am considering bringing in with me," he said, "because some of them are currently in jobs at clubs, but it will be resolved fairly soon and the appointments will be my decision."Reuse content