Mick McCarthy will take a no-nonsense approach to rebuilding the Republic of Ireland squad as he prepares to launch his second spell in charge.
That is the view of former Ireland team-mate John Anderson ahead of the Republic’s opening Euro 2020 doubleheader against Gibraltar and Georgia.
McCarthy was able to call upon the emerging talents of Shay Given, Kevin Kilbane, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane as he moulded his team the first time around, but Anderson believes he may now have to take a more pragmatic approach.
He said: “I think he knows it’s going to be an awful lot tougher this time around. He hasn’t got the players, he hasn’t the quality within the squad that he had back then either, which is going to make it very, very difficult.
“But the one thing that he does have, he’s got a game-plan, he knows how to play. He’ll see the strengths, he’ll see the weaknesses. He’ll play on the strengths and he’ll look to strengthen the weaknesses if he can do that.
“I think it will be all built around being strong defensively. He will have a structure and a game-plan and he’ll stick to it, and he’ll expect players to buy into it and stick to it as well – and it might not be pretty, it might not be good on the eye, but if it gets results, I don’t think people will care.”
McCarthy famously guided the Republic to the last 16 at the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East despite his Saipan showdown with skipper Roy Keane which saw his captain return home without kicking a ball.
He will pick up the reins hoping to follow in the footsteps of predecessors Giovanni Trapattoni and Martin O’Neill in taking the nation to the European Championship finals but will do so against the backdrop of a desperately disappointing Nations League campaign.
McCarthy, 60, has been appointed for two years and will be succeeded by current Under-21s boss Stephen Kenny when his time is up, but while the situation is far from ideal, Anderson is confident he will take it in his stride, just as he did when he replaced adopted national hero Jack Charlton in 1996.
Anderson said: “It was always going to be difficult because you look at the players that Jack had and there was so much quality there. But Mick did exceptionally well, there’s no doubt about it.”
Full-back Anderson and central defender McCarthy played together in a rearguard which also featured Kevin Moran and was shielded by Paul McGrath, perhaps most famously on May 23 1987, when they beat Brazil 1-0 at Lansdowne Road.
The former Newcastle defender remembers 57 times-capped McCarthy’s introduction to the international scene well.
He said: “He was always an abrasive, shoulders-back, chest-out, typical Yorkshireman – and that’s meant as a compliment. That’s the way he was.
“You always heard Mick, he was always loud on the pitch and shouting and growling at people. He didn’t suffer fools, always let you know he was about and led from the front.”
He added with a smile: “Back then, new boys had to sing a song on the bus on their opening game, and he sang On Ilkley Moor Bar T’at. Nobody knew what on earth he was on about.”