Friday, 11 November 2016

Memo to McCarthy: How not to make friends and influence people

There is no better feeling in this world than a last minute winner.

My three month old son's smiles are special... but they've got nothing on the moment I heard Luke Chambers had scored against Sheffield Wednesday.

The skipper joined Richard Chaplow and Noel Hunt in the hall of fame for goals that will long remain in the memories of those who witnessed them live.

My friend Anthony, who has only ever seen us draw at Hillsborough, was ecstatic: 'Absolute scenes when Chambers scored', he told me in a text after the game, 'Ben must have fallen down about 5 rows of seating'. We've all been there, right?

How happy I am for those who travelled to South Yorkshire on the back of a disappointing result the weekend before. They, more than anyone, deserved to experience that win.

This year has seen difficult times at Ipswich Town, so supporters back in Suffolk surely enjoyed that victory?

Oh no Amy, of course they didn't.

No sooner had the final whistle blown, than I saw tweets appear on my timeline declaring the three points were 'papering over the cracks'.

For many, it's going to take more than an unexpected away win to renew confidence and you can understand the continued frustrations of those who wish to see the end of McCarthy's reign (though hearing fans actually wanting us to lose is unfathomable).

So, what of our controversial manager? He, surely, would be smiling after that result?

Oh no Amy, of course he wasn't.

"Asked if it’s only fair to judge him now he’s got close to a fully fit squad available, he replied: “If you or anyone else wants to judge me then crack on. That performance today and that result reflects my time at Ipswich, my four years and 202 games, far more than the performances that some choose to carp on about." EADT

McCarthy aims these weekly digs at a set of fans who have endured over fifteen years of struggling to get out of the Championship. It is growing tiresome and is the main reason he has lost the support of a great number of fans.


But, to what extend are his comments justified? Are they really as offensive and arrogant as some would have you think?

Here's some other examples of his comments:

"Jonathan Douglas isn’t injured, I just left him out,” explained McCarthy. “That was the team I wanted to play, that strangely defensive team I wanted to play, to play s**t football, that’s why I did it.” EADT (Following criticism for defensive tactics.)

“I’ll just tell you that the more they shout the less chance there is they will come on." EADT (Responding to fans calling for McGoldrick, Bru and Pitman to used in the team.)

"Some people might be frustrated with that result? Some people can f*** off." Football website 'Joe' (Defending a draw away at Leeds.)

And in a similar conversation: "McCarthy was delighted that his side were able to deny a fellow relegation-threatened side all three points, admitting that he ‘wouldn’t have bothered getting on the bus’ had he been offered the draw prior to the match." Ipswich Star

Sometimes I read his post-match interviews and feel like banging my head against a brick wall. With the mood as it is, comments like this further rile those who are criticising him. In short, he is giving them ammunition.

I do wish someone with his many years of experience would have a little more diplomacy. But, I also wonder why people take it so seriously. Take, for example, his comments after that draw with Rotherham:

“If you are ever looking for a point in a season to turn a bad moment around, maybe that could be it, a wonderful strike from a really good player.” EADT

The accompanying headline ('Rotherham draw could be turning point, says Town boss McCarthy') created uproar online, with fans calling him deluded for thinking a point at home against bottom of the league was a 'turning point'.

However, when reading what he says in the context of his other comments, I get a very different impression.

Whilst giving a balanced view of the game, admitting that the second half wasn't good and that we looked nervous, he looks to the moment that saved us - David McGoldrick's late but great strike.

To me, he is saying the performance wasn't good enough but a goal like that, which will be a contender for goal of the season come May, could be the start of something better. The result itself isn't what he thinks is the turning point, but the confidence gained from that lovely goal could be.

Sometimes I think his comments are interpreted harshly by fans who already have an issue with him, those who complain are often the ones who have already decided they want him to go.

I also find it laughable when people take offence to the things he's said. McCarthy has always been an up front, blunt manager - it's the reason his interviews have become something of a legend.

‘I don’t intimate things, do I? I’m not clever enough to say one thing and mean another. I say it as it is, as I always do.’ Daily Mail (Apologies for linking to this website, an alternative was not available. #StopFundingHate)

Throughout his interviews over the years, a clear trend is visible: the majority include a sarcastic answer to a question or a little joke. It's just what he does.

Having lived in Yorkshire for almost eight years now, the bluntness of the locals has taken some getting used to, but they generally have kind intentions: McCarthy is, quite simply, a typical Yorkshire man.

In the early days of my time as a journalist, I attended an Ipswich game at the Molineux during McCarthy's tenure there. He came to speak to the press a little earlier than Paul Jewell, Town's boss at the time, so I took the chance to listen in to what he had to say.

As he made jokes and spoke frankly about the game, he held the attention of every person in that room.  He came across as knowledgeable and likeable, so much so that I missed the beginning of the interview with Jewell because I had been listening too intently to what Mick had to stay.

I don't know him personally, but I have known people who do. They have spoken so highly of him I find it difficult to imagine he doesn't care about the team or he is using the club for a final pay cheque before retirement: two things he has been accused of by some of our fans.

This is also the reason I find it so difficult reading the nasty names and even threats of violence aimed at him on the internet. When I questioned one fan on his wish to 'smash a glass around McCarthy's head', thinking perhaps it was a poorly thought out joke, he responded that his feelings were 'justified'.

This kind of criticism is something McCarthy has faced many times before and he has always been honest with reporters about his feelings towards it, this quote is an example from his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland:

'The Irish media, incredibly, will tell you they have not been hard on me, but they're liars. They've given me a hard time and they all take exception to it when I say it to them, which doesn't bother me.' The Guardian

The quote rings true of things he has said about his time at Ipswich, where he has said he doesn't care if people don't like his tactics. To some this comes across as arrogance; to me it is a case of having to rise above the hate and get on with his job.

He has had to deal with far worse than 'criticism' at the hands of our fans:

“I’m a boring c***, somebody called me last week. I wish they would call it to my face on my own because his pint of lager ... he would have been wearing it." Independent

Though I would not condone the use of the 'c' word, unless referring to Grant Holt, I felt the focus on his use of it missed the point entirely. The criticism from a section of our fan base has turned nasty and personal, no person should ever have to deal with that.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the vitriol that has been aimed at McCarthy in recent months, explaining I think it is unhelpful. In fact, it is counter-productive and shows those who resort to it as extremely petty.

Nasty names are never justified and there are, sadly, more examples of fans being offensive directly to the manager and players. A friend of mine retold her experience of waiting to meet the players after an away game this season:

'The way [a group of fans] spoke to Luke was so rude and disrespectful, they pounced on him when he came out of the gates. I tried to defend him but they said we didn't know what we were talking about because we are female. I made a quick exit'

How awful to think that our fan base is resorting to this kind of hate, but it is not the first time a story has come out describing nastiness on the part of our fans. I am reminded of the time that Paul Jewell told a reporter about his experiences on a garage forecourt.

Nor is it the first time we have had to put up with our manager committing a faux pas in the media room. Compared with a sexist comment about a female official or shouting at a journalist for forgetting to put their phone on silent, these errors from McCarthy don't seem as offensive.

If your opinion on the team differs from Mick McCarthy, that is fair enough. But, if your difference of opinion with him is based on, or influenced by your dislike of him personally, I would suggest you are doing him and our club a disservice.

1 comment:

Matthew Hague said...

I think the fans should lay off him. He's got experience and form at getting teams up. He'll walk before being pushed but there's something behind the scenes that's not looking right. .. has the board not backed him or similar? Perhaps he's saying unconsciously to the fans that this is all he has to work with and to put pressure on above to sort the issues for January. If the fans make him leave he'll turn up at another club and show them what they're missing..