MICK McCarthy bristled last weekend when, minutes after leading his newly-promoted Wolves to a deserved defeat of Fulham, his joy was punctured by a question that alluded to his previous forays into the Premier League with Sunderland.
The questioner was pointing out that it was McCarthy’s first ever home win in the top flight as a manager – a statistic that understandably didn’t go down too well with the former Black Cats boss.
It might have felt like a pertinent statistic but McCarthy had a point. His two Premier League campaigns with Sunderland look disastrous when boiled down to the bare statistics, but the truth is that he did a lot for the club during his four years in charge – and his managerial career must no longer be defined by them.
Sunderland have moved on since then and so too has McCarthy, although he remains as steadfast and principled as he was during the darkest of days on Wearside.
While the Black Cats’ trajectory has taken them to a level where shelling out £10m on one player barely raises an eyelid, McCarthy has proved that Championship success with Sunderland was no fluke.
His Wolves team arrive at the Stadium of Light bearing many of the hallmarks of the Sunderland teams he took up – enthusiastic, talented, hard working and loyal.
Just like in his spell at Wearside, McCarthy has invested in the judgement of his chief scout Dave Bowman and been repaid with a clutch of rough diamonds who have already made an impact in the Premier League.
But the difference here is that he has cash to spend – never the case at Sunderland where his hands were effectively tied. “Mick (McCarthy) has packed his team with hungry players – young lads who have not played there before. He has made a decent start. They had a good result against Fulham, ” Bruce said.
“I remember playing against him when I was at Gillingham and he was at Barnsley. We were both hairy-backed defenders back then!
“He did a difficult job here and got promoted but he might say his hands were tied when he was in the Premiership. But sentiment means nothing – he will want to come here and turn us over.”