McCarthy in no mood for mind games ahead of East Anglian derby
Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy was in no mood for mind games ahead of tomorrow’s high stakes East Anglian derby against Norwich City at Carrow Road (2.05pm ko).
This is the first time in a decade the fierce rivals have faced it each other while both vying for promotion – Town third and a point above the Canaries heading into the final 13 matches of the Championship campaign.
Norwich boss Alex Neil, the 33-year-old Scot whose record reads P9 W7 D1 L1 since arriving from Hamilton Academical, was asked about his side’s tricky looking run of fixtures followinga 2-1 win at Blackburn on Tuesday night. He replied: “You have to respect sides like Derby and Middlesbrough and Brentford and Bournemouth.”
Was that ‘over sight’ a dig or simply a sign that still people aren’t taking low-budget Town’s promotion credentials seriously?
“I tell you what, if we’re in the top two at the end then we’re going to p*** off a few aren’t we?” said McCarthy with a broad smile.
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“It does not bother me what people say. I don’t know if that was a faux pas on his behalf, or whether it was meant.
“All I’ll say is I think he’s got a really good squad of players and one of the best teams in the league. If they want to treat us like that little also-ran on Sunday I’ll be delighted. I don’t think they will though somehow.
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“Listen, I’m not out to score points. You (the media) would love that, but it’s nonsense. I just don’t get it at all because, come Sunday at two o’clock, everything I’ve said, and everything he’s said, it won’t matter a jot when the two teams walk out on to the pitch. It’s up to the players then.”
With very few players in either camp from Suffolk or Norfolk, do the players appreciate just how much this fixture means to the fans?
“They understand the passion in football,” said McCarthy. “Of course there’s always a bit more of an edge because the fans insist on it. You’ve watched my team and know that they give everything they’ve got every week.
“You don’t have to show the fans your passion by going around and being stupid with tackles and throwing your arms around and complaining at the referee. You just have to be passionate with the way you play.”
Norwich may have been behind Ipswich for much of the season, but the Blues have exceeded expectations while Norwich have been viewed as under-achievers up until their recent upturn in form.
“I think they are now where everyone expected them to be at the very least,” said McCarthy. “They arguably have one the strongest squads, if not the strongest squad, in the league and have a team now that’s playing well.
“Norwich have come from a false position that they shouldn’t have been in. Now they’re in the top six, can they keep going? We’ll see.”
Is all the pressure on the home side on Sunday then?
“I’m not Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger of Alex Fergsuon – I don’t do mind games,” said McCarthy. “I’m not in to all that caper of adding pressure to somebody.
“There’s pressure on us to win the game. We could go out of the top six or even get in to the top two. There’s pressure on us all at the top.
“It’s all about getting three points for me. There’s the added thing with the fans, I get that and I never underestimate that or dismiss that, but for me it’s three points. Or a point. Get something out of the game and stay in the top six and keep competing for the top two.
“That won’t change when we go to Leeds either. Or when we face Brentford here.”
He added: “I love the big games. I love the atmosphere. Will I get some abuse? Bothered. That’s really going to upset me isn’t it? I’m 56. I’ve been doing this job over 20 years and have been in football for 40 years. If they can come up with a unique one I’d be interested to hear it.
“It’s great. If we were both mid-table there might be a half full stadium, but we could both go up, we could end up facing each other in the play-offs yet.
“It’s a huge game. There is lots at stake. The bragging rights, on this occasion, aren’t the most important thing on offer.”
– Follow @Stuart_Watson on Twitter for live match updates from Carrow Road tomorrow.