‘It was bizarre’ – Waghorn looks back on McCarthy’s dramatic exit and his own subsequent departure
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:46 31 July 2020
Former Ipswich Town striker Martyn Waghorn has been looking back on Mick McCarthy’s dramatic exit from Portman Road and his own subsequent departure.
Told he was surplus to requirements at Scottish giants Rangers in the summer of 2017, the front man was snapped up by McCarthy for just £250k. He went on to score 16 goals for the Blues before being sold by new boss Paul Hurst a year later, joining Frank Lampard’s Derby County for an initial fee of £5.5m.
The 30-year-old has been a hit at Pride Park over the last two years, scoring 25 goals in 91 appearances as the Rams finished sixth and 10th in the Championship. Ipswich, of course, finished bottom of the Championship after McCarthy, Waghorn, plus the likes of David McGoldrick and Adam Webster all left, subsequently stuttering to an 11th place League One finish in the recently curtailed campaign.
Speaking on the Open Goal channel on YouTube, as part of the ‘Si Ferry Meets’ series, Waghorn was asked about what it was like to work under McCarthy.
“I’d heard a lot about him, you see the videos online and whatever, but when I got there I got a completely different impression of him,” he says.
“I thought he would be this mad man, but what a nice guy. He was very laid back, very calm, very relaxed. It really surprised me.
“He was great with me. He said ‘I know you’ve had an indifferent year, but I’ve liked you for a number of years, just play your game’. I thought he was going to be a lot more intense and expect a lot more and demand a lot more.”
Waghorn continues: “So I’m quite relaxed with him and I ask; ‘Can I have the number nine shirt? I see myself as striker’. He went ‘it’s a big number...’ and I went ‘yeah, yeah, it’s fine, it’s only a number to me’. Anyway, a few days later we’re doing old v young in training and the old team gets absolutely battered. I missed a few chances. This is before I’d even made my (league) debut.
“He pulled me in his office afterwards and went ‘do you think that’s good enough?’ I said ‘what?’ He went ‘your performance out there today...’ I said ‘I didn’t really think about it to be honest’. He went ‘well if you think my number nine is performing like that for me then you’ve got another thing coming’. I thought I better pull my finger out after that!
“That’s kind of how he was. I never really looked back. What a top guy he is. I’ve got nothing but praise for him. He’s a really, really top guy.”
Waghorn, who has spoken openly about his struggles with mental health during his time at Ibrox, was asked what it was like swapping Glasgow for Suffolk.
“It was complete chalk and cheese,” he says. “It’s a very family orientated club. There’s not much stick or abuse. Fans turn up, support you and go home. It was a complete contrast to Glasgow. At the time it was probably what I needed to get away from the animosity and the drama and everything that comes with playing for Rangers.
“To go and play for a family orientated club that had a bit of stability, for a manager that had a style of play which I fitted into, it worked out great for me. My wife and son felt settled straight away. I can’t thank the man (McCarthy) enough, because he got me moving towards where I am now.”
As Town ground their way to a 12th place finish with forgettable footballing fare, McCarthy’s soon to be expiring contract became a regular topic of discussion. Supporters started to voice their frustration at the club stagnating as the games began to blur into one. McCarthy, feeling unloved, became increasingly tetchy.
In the end, owner Marcus Evans announced McCarthy’s deal would not be renewed in the summer. Then, with four games left of the campaign left to play, the Blues boss delivered his dramatic table-thumping exit after a 1-0 home win against Barnsley.
“It was bizarre,” said Waghorn, when asked about the incident. “He was getting a lot of stick in the press and fans were on him. I remember we played at Brentford away. He was meant to come back on the coach and all the fans were waiting for him to give him a bit of stick, so instead he went around the other side of the stadium and left in his car.
“He pulled me in on the Monday and said ‘I think I’m going to leave, I think I’m done, I don’t deserve this, I think it’s unacceptable’. Then we have a midweek game and after the game he says to us all ‘that’s me lads, I’m done’. We’re like ‘what?!’ He goes ‘yeah, that’s my last game, I’m leaving next week, I’m done’. Everyone was like ‘that’s the most bizarre resignation and leaving of a club ever’.
“He just wore his heart on his sleeve. He was like ‘I don’t deserve this, you players don’t deserve this’. He respected us enough to say; ’You go out there week-in, week-out in front of fans that are giving me stick and I shouldn’t put that on you. If they want change I’ll do that for the fans, I’ll do that for the club and I’ll do that for the owner, but most importantly you players deserve a bit of respect and support. Hopefully the next man can push you on as a group because you deserve that’.”
Waghorn continues: “A lot of the people at Ipswich I don’t think realised how good he was for the club. He worked on a budget for so long. Just because of who he was and the personality he was, he was able to recruit good players that essentially they couldn’t have got without him.
“The grass isn’t always greener as they say. It’s just gone backwards for them ever since he left.”
Following a brief caretaker spell from Bryan Klug, the Blues appointed Paul Hurst as McCarthy’s replacement. Hurst had just led unfancied Shrewsbury to the League One Play-Off Final. He sold the likes of Adam Webster and Waghorn, bringing in a host of players from the lower leagues.
“My agent always joked ‘get 15 goals and I’ll get you a move’, but leaving Ipswich wasn’t really in the forefront of my mind,” said Waghorn. “I’d moved to get settled and enjoy my football, but then the manager left, a lot of players were out of contract and I didn’t know how it was going to sit.
“Then we’ve brought in Paul Hurst, who had his own way of doing things, and he wanted to bring in a lot of players. It just wasn’t where I saw myself, a bit like the year before when I left Rangers.
“Then obviously Derby and Frank Lampard came in. As soon as I heard of that interest I was like ‘that’s me done, I’m out of here’.
“The chairman at Ipswich had a fee in mind. I just wanted to get it done.
“Eventually I had a text off my agent saying Frank was going to call. I was playing golf and putting for a birdie when the phone went. He said ‘hi Waggy, it’s Frank’. I was buzzing. I was like ‘where do I sign?’ Within a matter of days the deal was done.”
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