Category: Archive

McCarthy’s well out

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

A very highly-rated schoolboy footballer, Kinsella’s career had then become mired in the lower reaches of the English game with a struggling club.
As the reporter waited around for the player, he struck up a conversation with a groundsman. In the middle of a hymn to Kinsella’s ability, the groundsman decided to have a bit of fun and mentioned “in complete confidence” that Barcelona were actually tracking the Dubliner.
In one of the more entertaining and ridiculous incidents of transfer speculation ever, the journalist somehow convinced his editor it was a genuine tip-off.
The Evening Herald in Dublin ran with it on the back page and, wherever the ludicrous nature of transfer gossip is discussed, the yarn is always unfurled for one more telling.
Against that cautionary background, we had to do a double take when we read the newspaper reports over the past few days about Wigan Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers battling it out for the signature of Irish Under-21 midfielder James McCarthy.
That part of the story was obviously true, but what about everything else we have read about this kid in the past couple of years?
Surely, this wasn’t the same McCarthy who has been linked with, amongst others, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Deportiva La Coruna, Arsenal, Celtic, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich.
The length of the list and the presence on it of some of the largest clubs in the world demonstrate just how bonkers newspaper coverage of transfer speculation has become over the years. But surely, there was no smoke without fire?
“Barcelona have asked me to keep them informed about James’ situation,” said his agent George Gray in an interview with The Scotsman last November.
“They are just one of a few Spanish sides who have been in touch. In fact, the amount of teams who have contacted me about the player is unbelievable. There are a number of English clubs keeping tabs on his progress, too.”
Perhaps, Barcelona did have somebody tracking him. But, notwithstanding the fact Gray has a massive financial interest in stoking up the market for his player, these reports were taken at face value without anybody considering a few serious questions. Doesn’t it sound a tad preposterous to claim the Catalan giants were sending scouts to watch him play in the Scottish First Division, hardly a renowned breeding ground for world-class stars, back in 2007?
And wouldn’t it be something of a first for Europe’s leading club to be hunting for potential replacements for Xavi and Iniesta in last season’s Scottish Premier League, again not exactly laboratory conditions for growing the next Kaka.
Irish fans should hope Gray was telling the truth and that McCarthy is made of such quality stuff that Barcelona and all the others were genuinely on his trail.
However, the sight of Wigan and Wolves trying to outbid each other for his services makes a mockery of all the tittle-tattle in newspapers since he made his Hamilton Academicals debut at the admittedly precocious age of 15.
With all due respect to the ambitions of Roberto Martinez and Mick McCarthy (whose achievement in getting two clubs promoted on shoestring budgets in the past few years is immense), both their outfits are a long, long way from the Camp Nou.
From an Irish point of view, McCarthy’s move to England is good and bad. On the one hand, Scottish-born McCarthy gets the opportunity to play in a better league where he won’t be taunted by opposing fans for choosing to play for the country of his ancestors over that of his birth.
That his formative teen years were spent listening to ignorant Scottish yobs chanting abuse about the famine (where else in world sport do hooligans reach back nearly two centuries for material?) suggests he’s well out of the place.
Who wouldn’t want to escape from the sort of behavior that makes anybody wander about the perverse mentality of some of the fans up there?
On the other hand, there’s a sense that another couple of years in Scotland might not have done the 18-year-old any harm at all had they been spent at Celtic Park.
Think about it. We know the standard of most of the Scottish Premier League is nowhere near even the bottom half of the English Premier League these times, but a stint at Parkhead might have been very good for his development.
Apart from the annual character-building jousts with Rangers, the opportunity to play in Europe in general, and the Champions League in particular, would have been hugely beneficial. See how it’s helped Aiden McGeady, troubled relationship with Gordon Strachan and all, blossom.
However, Tony Mowbray admitted the other day his club was priced out of the market in bidding for the player. A stunning illustration of how much money is swilling around the English game, the last time Celtic lost out in the race for a highly-rated Irish prospect was when Anthony Stokes was offered 14,000 pounds a week by Sunderland, exactly twice as much as was supposedly on offer in Glasgow.
Of course, money isn’t everything. Stokes’ career has hit the skids since in a way that again begs the question whether he would have been better off opting for Celtic on that occasion.
As a halfway house, Celtic has much to offer. Playing at a club with huge expectations, ambitions beyond its station, and a majority of fixtures where the team usually wins kind of handily.
McCarthy has other cautionary tales available to him too that should have had him wondering whether heading south now is the right move at the right time.
It’s not that long ago since Liam Miller was the most coveted player in Scotland. When Manchester United came calling, it looked a tad premature but he couldn’t resist the lure. His career has never recovered the momentum lost in that decision. Here’s hoping McCarthy fares better. A lot better.

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