He handled a hostile environment in Iran, so the prospect of a packed Carrow Road doesn’t faze Mick McCarthy

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy.

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy. - Credit: PA

The atmosphere at Carrow Road tomorrow will be hostile but Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy has suffered far worse.

Portman Road was rocking during last weekend’s 1-1 draw against rivals Norwich City in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals and the crowd will be equally partisan in Norfolk tomorrow lunchtime (12.15pm ko).

McCarthy insists nothing matches the intensity that surrounds the Old Firm derbies he played in for Celtic though.

And he recalls the red-hot environment of a play-off second leg he managed in Iran, in front of a crowd of 100,000, as the Republic of Ireland lost 1-0 but emerged winners on aggregate to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

“I’d be very surprised if we went anywhere to play the second leg of a play-off, with such a prize at stake, and the atmosphere wasn’t hostile,” said McCarthy.

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“The fact that it’s our nearest and not so dearest will make it even more intense. And I’ve always preferred playing and managing in those sort of atmospheres.”

He continued: “I’ve got loads of memories from that Iran game. The match was almost over and they decided to set fire to every programme in the stadium. It was ablaze.

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“They scored after about 93 minutes and suddenly the noise level erupted again.

“It was an amazing atmosphere. They let them in hours and hours before, so when we got there it was already kicking off. I don’t know who they were kicking off with though because there was only Iranians there at the time!”

There is no such hostility between McCarthy and Canaries counter-part Alex Neil though.

On his relationship with the young Scot, the duo preparing to go head-to-head for the third time in as many months, McCarthy said: “I think he’s a really nice fella. I enjoyed his company after the game last Saturday and I enjoyed his comments and what he said afterwards. I can generally judge someone by that, as much as meeting them face-to-face.

“He said they played well, hadn’t done enough to win and I generally thought he talked a whole load of common sense. We had a beer afterwards and I thought he was a nice guy.

“I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be friendly with him. I prefer to have friends than enemies in the game that’s for sure. I might need a favour off him at some stage.”

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