McCarthy favourite for vacant Barnsley job – it seems a good fit, but is the timing right?

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy. Photo: Pagepix

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy is now the odds-on favourite for the vacant Barnsley job among some bookmakers.

Highly-rated young boss Paul Heckingbottom left the Tykes for Leeds United on Tuesday, with the South Yorkshire club just a point above the Championship relegation zone.

McCarthy, who turned 58 yesterday, was born in Barnsley and made more than 300 appearances for his hometown club, helping them climb from the fourth to the second tier as a no-nonsense centre-back before moving on to Manchester City.

Following more than five years in charge of the Blues, he is set to be out of contract this summer and has repeatedly said he doesn’t know if he will still be at Portman Road next season.

Barnsley were taken over by a consortium that includes Chinese billionaire Chien Lee in December, with baseball boss Billy Beane – who inspired the Hollywood film ‘Moneyball’ – appointed to the board.

• BIG INTERVIEW (April 2015): Mick McCarthy on his Barnsley upbringing

Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley was installed as the early favourite for the Tykes job, but the former Braintree boss has ruled himself out of the running by insisting he and his brother Nicky are ‘fully committed’ to a League Two promotion push and ‘always like to finish what we start’.

McCarthy’s odds tumbled to 8/11 with SkyBet and Bet Victor this morning. Cowley is second favourite (6/4), with current Tykes caretaker-manager Paul Harsley third (10/1).

Former Leeds, Huddersfield, Preston and Sunderland manager Simon Grayson (14/1) is also on the list.

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It’s not the first time McCarthy has been the bookies’ favourite for another job during his time with Town. The Blues boss has been strongly linked with a return to his former role as Republic of Ireland boss on two occasions.

McCarthy’s pre-match press conference, ahead of Saturday’s Championship visit of rock-bottom Burton, will broadcast live on this website from 1pm tomorrow.

• BIG INTERVIEW (April 2015): Mick McCarthy on playing for Norman Hunter at Barnsley

Stuart says...

This, on the face of it, seems a very good fit. The only question would be – is the timing right?

For all his undoubted good work at Portman Road on a strict budget, McCarthy has burnt bridges with many Town fans over the last 18 months – first with a turgid 2016/17 campaign on the field and then with some toxic comments off of it this season.

Everything is not broken, and the grass may not be greener on the other side, but there’s a sense of staleness at the club and perhaps change is best for all parties.

McCarthy clearly feels unloved and may be tempted by the thought of being welcomed back to his homeland with open arms. He’d still be trying to uncover and develop hidden gems, but potentially on a slightly bigger budget. And you get the sense he feels he has hit a glass ceiling here.

Might he be offered a ‘bigger job’ at some stage? Maybe. Those sort of gigs could come with the risk of interfering and trigger-happy owners though.

Would he prefer to be closer to his London-based family? Possibly. Few jobs will have this emotional lure though. His parents met and worked there. It would be the chance to do his old mentor Norman ‘Rimmo’ Rimington proud too.

Blues owner Marcus Evans will be concerned by falling attendances at Portman Road and, with the season ticket sales pitch just a few weeks away, might see this as an opportunity to foster some fresh hope and excitement.

If McCarthy, or Town, say they want to see the season out before making any decisions will Barnsley – fighting for their Championship lives – be prepared to wait? That could depend how much they think of caretaker Paul Harsley.

Of course, Evans may still decide to block out all the noise and try to persuade McCarthy, an undoubted steady hand on the tiller, to stay for another two years. And McCarthy may decide that, with the benefit of working for a patient employer, he wants to prove a few people wrong in Suffolk.