The ever entertaining Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy frowns as he considers the question, chewing it over as you would a wasp. “Am I f***,” he says. “Twitter? Not a chance. Can you imagine? I’d either have 700 billion followers or I’d be put in prison. Why would I want to do that? If someone came on giving me abuse, it would degenerate very quickly.

“You know yourself when you’re having a tough time. You don’t need someone who, by the way, might never have kicked a ball, who might weigh 25 stone, who couldn’t get out of his chair, who has never coached, telling you you’re s****. No. It would annoy me too much. F*** off.”

McCarthy celebrates 40 years in the game this week; 40 years since he made his debut for hometown club Barnsley.

He has spent the last 25 as a manager. Football has changed a lot in that time, but McCarthy is proud to say he hasn’t. He is as blunt as ever.

At 58, he says, he gets up “two or three times per night” now, his “joints cracking”.

But he prides himself on how consistent he has remained in his approach to the game. “Win or lose on a Saturday my players know I will be the same on a Monday morning,” he says. “I must be doing something right. I’ve won more than I’ve lost at every club I’ve been at. I like to think I make the most of the resources I’m given.”

McCarthy’s various bosses have tended to agree. He has only ever managed four clubs – not including the Ireland team whom he coached for six years – and is currently the eighth longest-serving manager of any club in England, having just begun his fifth season with Ipswich Town.

Mind you, the fact that he is still at Ipswich feels like a minor miracle after last season.

Sections of the Portman Road crowd were calling for McCarthy’s head almost from the word go. “Up and down like a bloody fiddler’s elbow,” he complained bitterly. “I’m all right one week but I’m not the next.”

By January, after Ipswich were beaten in the FA Cup by non-league Lincoln, McCarthy was practically asking to be put out of his misery. “If the club want to sack me, so be it,” he announced. They didn’t. Owner Marcus Evans stuck by him and McCarthy turned things around.

After a summer spent playing golf in Florida, he returned “full of vim and vigour”.

Ipswich have begun this season with four league wins on the spin and lie second only to Cardiff City – managed by another unabashed member of the managerial old school, Neil Warnock – on goal difference.

Even Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace in the League Cup couldn’t dent the renewed sense of optimism about the place.

McCarthy selected the youngest outfield side in Ipswich Town’s history, at an average age of 20, and they impressed. “Super Mick McCarthy,” chanted supporters.

He grunts and shakes his head. Just as he didn’t get too down last year when Ipswich were losing, so he is not getting too excited now.

“I’ve been around long enough to know how it works,” he says.

In the meantime, he will get on with his job. Ipswich host Fulham today and McCarthy is wary. “They pass the ball as well as anybody in the league,” he says.

“They murdered us twice last year. Well, the second one was more of a manslaughter. But they beat us 3-0 here on Boxing Day and we never touched them. But we’ve been playing well lately. We’ve been putting the ball in the net.”

McCarthy is not setting any targets for his team. “Look at this,” he says, pointing to the whiteboard to which red and blue magnets are stuck. “These 10 red ones? They’re my fit players. If you think that squad is going to win the league… no we’re not.

But if we keep those 10 fit then I think we’ve got a good team. And if we get (Adam) Webster, (Tommy) Smith, (Andre) Dozzell, (Emyr) Huws, (captain Luke) Chambers, (Luke) Hyam, (Tom) Adeyemi back… I think we’ll do all right.”

It will not be easy against teams with Premier League parachute payments. Even former club Wolves spent a club record £15 million to sign Ruben Neves.

But Ipswich finished seventh and sixth in the two seasons before last, and McCarthy feels they can make the play-offs again.

Huddersfield, he says, are an “inspiration” for Ipswich. “I’d love to return to the Premiership,” he adds. “I’m not happy just finishing 12th, 10th. Treading water.”

A Bianchi road bike lies against the wall of McCarthy’s office. After 40 years as player and manager, does he not long to get out and enjoy life? Perhaps set to work on his golf handicap while he still can?

“I got it to nine when I was Ireland boss as I had so much free time but it’s been dormant for years.”

He shakes his head. “Last season was awful. I felt pretty sick by the end of it; couldn’t wait for it to end. But I still enjoy this job. I don’t know.

“I’d like to get to 1,000 league games. I’m on 900 and summat but that’s including 68 Ireland games. I’d like to join the 1,000 club.

“I’m not ready to retire. I still have ambitions. People say, ‘If he takes (Ipswich) up he won’t know how to spend (the money)’.

“How would anyone know until they got the chance?

“I think I’ve proven over the last 25 years I know what I’m doing. At some stage you have to blow your own trumpet. You get enough digs in the ribs in this game.”

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