‘I couldn’t take any liberties with Birmingham,’ says Mick McCarthy
“I’ve got a fair bit of experience in knowing how to manage a team.”
That’s Mick McCarthy’s message to Ipswich Town fans ahead of his side’s Championship clash at top-six rivals Birmingham City this afternoon.
The Blues boss came in for some criticism this week after Town crashed out of the FA Cup following a 2-1 defeat at League Two side Portsmouth.
Claiming that the busy Christmas and New Year schedule had ‘taken its toll’ on his players, McCarthy left his entire first-choice starting XI behind in Suffolk for the midweek trip to the south coast. In their absence, a team full of youngsters and fringe players were comfortably beaten.
“I can’t guarantee that we will beat Birmingham because of that, but I can guarantee that we will be a lot fresher, a lot fitter and a lot more ready to face a very able team that didn’t play in midweek,” said McCarthy.
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“I believe that is my job to manage that. I’ve done it in the past. I still go back to that time at Wolves when I changed virtually the entire team against Manchester United in midweek.
“We beat Spurs away, we lost 3-0 at Old Trafford, then we beat Burnley at home on the Saturday. To this day I think that was the right thing to do because we got six points from a possible nine.
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“I had to manage that process and it was the right thing to do. It put me under a hell of a lot of pressure for that Burnley game though!”
When it was put to him that his team’s short-lived time in the FA Cup would soon be forgotten if Town were to finish in the play-off places again this season, McCarthy replied: “Yeah, and if we don’t, people will say ‘that was when things started going wrong’. That’s my job – it’s about getting more decisions right than wrong.
“Nothing guarantees you a result, but I’ve got a fair bit of experience in knowing how to manage the team and get the best out of them. Let’s hope it works.”
Close to 800 Town fans were at a bitterly cold Fratton Park on Tuesday night to witness another meek FA Cup exit.
“I felt for our fans but, believe me, I’m the last person to take liberties with anybody,” said McCarthy. “I’m not going to take liberties with Birmingham either though. That’s my job, to manage the team over 46 games and get the best out of them.
“I’ve got to do that physically, as well as emotionally. That’s part of my job.
“After that Tuesday-Saturday schedule (against Leeds and Preston), which they put a hell of a lot of effort into, they just looked like they needed a rest.”
– See today’s EADT for full match preview. Follow @Stuart_Watson for live match updates.