SOMETIMES in football management, honesty is not the best policy. You only have to look at Mick McCarthy’s face to realise that.
Last Thursday, he was asked six separate questions about Roy Keane’s return to the Irish international job.
Each time, he blanked the inquisitor. Getting blanked is something McCarthy is beginning to learn about.
Five years ago, when Giovanni Trapattoni was appointed to the Ireland job, an intermediary posed the question to the FAI about whether they would welcome McCarthy back.
“Not yet,” he was told. “It’s too soon after Saipan.” Imagine then how McCarthy felt last week then when “the other guy” from the Saipan fall-out, Roy Keane, returned to the international scene.
That we are left to use our imagination is because McCarthy’s tongue ceased to work when offered the chance to deliver an opinion on the subject.
He is right to feel hard done by. Aside from the moral debate about whether Keane should be handed a job by the Association he so frequently dismissed for such a long time, there is also the issue of how McCarthy was treated in the last month.
Clearly he wanted back with Ireland otherwise he would have used his weekly press conferences at Ipswich to rule himself out of the running.
Instead, it was a post “he would like to be asked” to fill. All along, he spoke far too openly, revealing his negotiating hand to the FAI as he did so, who knew — from the word go — that if O’Neill said no, they could rely on McCarthy to say yes.
Being a back-up plan is a bit of an insult, though, for a guy who took Ireland to the last 16 of the 2002 World Cup and who, as a player, captained us to our greatest days in Italia 90.
In an ideal world, he’d have received a quiet call to tell him his position in the pecking-order, thereby freeing him to get on with his job at Ipswich.
Yet no call came. Instead, he slowly realised as the weeks passed and the phone stayed silent that he’d only be contacted in an emergency.
So rather than prepare for Latvia and Poland, he has thoughts of Yeovil and Blackpool filling his head.
Rather than trying to see if can develop James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman into world-class operators, he is scrapping around the bargain basement looking for free signings and uncut gems.
He’s good at that — and pigeon-holed too — as that type of manager, the one to turn to when all else fails.
At Wolves, he arrived after Glenn Hoddle had sold the family silver and McCarthy then saved that club from oblivion.
Similarly, with Ipswich, the money dried up by the time he was given the key to the piggy-bank.
“I see myself as a Premier League manager,” he said in the summer of 2012. But others didn’t. After losing his job at Wolves, vacancies came up in various shop windows.
But Aston Villa went for Paul Lambert, Norwich for Chris Hughton, Chelsea for Jose Mourinho, Manchester United for David Moyes, Everton for Roberto Martinez, Southampton for Mauricio Pochettino, Sunderland for Paulo Di Canio and then Gus Poyet, Tottenham for AVB, Liverpool for Brendan Rodgers, Swansea for Michael Laudrup, Manchester City for Manuel Pellegrini, West Brom for Steve Clarke, QPR for Harry Redknapp, Reading for Nigel Adkins and Stoke City for Mark Hughes.
Sixteen jobs were up for grabs and sixteen times the recruitment agents glossed over his CV.
Rejection will hurt a proud man. Rightly or wrongly, he isn’t viewed as a spectacular success story even though his managerial record is more than respectable.
But chairmen want quick-fixes and instant success stories. They want to be the men who discovered the young Mourinho, Wenger or Ferguson and can live with the gamble if it backfires.
They don’t seem to want Mick McCarthy. He doesn’t have the showbiz appeal they crave. He doesn’t ooze charisma like Keane or O’Neill or Rodgers. More often than not, chairmen want style.
All McCarthy can offer is substance. And in the fickle world of Premier League football, who wants that?
Who wants an honest trier who will produce a team in his own image, a side that never gives up?
Why go for that type of man when others will offer better soundbites in front of the TV cameras?