Mick McCarthy’s Greatest Hits

Following a 5-1 loss to West Brom on Sunday, relegation-threatened Wolverhampton Wanderers dismissed coach Mick McCarthy, ending his term at the club after five-and-a-half years.

McCarthy took the Wolves job in the summer of 2006, when they were in the Championship, and, according to ESPN, promised promotion to the Premier League within three years. He delivered in April 2009, when Wolves defeated Queens Park Rangers 1-0 to clinch a berth in the top flight. They finished 15th in their first season in the Premiership, and last year, they staved off relegation on the last day of the season, when Stephen Hunt scored against Blackburn with three minutes to play.

But apart from the thrilling relegation and promotion fights, McCarthy was at his best when delivering post- and pre-match soundbites. Here’s a sampling of his best work in that department:

• [When asked for his reaction to Wolves’ position following their 2-0 win over Fulham early this season] “My reaction: bothered. I’ll tell you what I don’t like: we start bottom every year, don’t we? By alphabetical order. It’s nice to be top after two games.”

• “Matt Jarvis for England’? Yes, I heard those chants. It’s when they sing ‘Mick McCarthy is a big-nose wanker’ that I don’t hear the crowd.

• [On players using Twitter] “They have to be careful what they say on it about the club and its policies. If they put a team selection up—which I’m sure some disgruntled numpty will at some stage—they will be in trouble”

• [After a tough 1-0 win over Spurs in 2009] “Marcus Hahnemann’s not been diving around making saves everywhere. [It was] really good stuff at times from Spurs but Marcus made one really good save and no, we haven’t been mullered. They’ve got to work like that every game. If we have passengers we’re knackered.” [We consulted experts in linguistics to break that one down, here.]

• “No regrets. None at all. My only regret is that we went out on penalties. That’s my only regret. But no, no regrets.”

And for the big finish…

[Here’s McCarthy after being asked what he thought of the own goal Wolves conceded in the first minute of a game against Reading in 2009] “Fucking abysmal, that was what I fucking thought of it. C’mon, let’s get to it, I’m trying my best here. What did I make of it? I thought it was the best bit of fucking football I’ve seen in a long time. Do me a favour. It was a crap start to a game. There you have it, can you print all that? Fucking rubbish, absolute tosh. Drivel. Shite. Bullshit. That’s what I thought of it. Did that help? I’m quite pleased, apart from the fact that’s given them the poxy result, I’m fucking livid about it – of course I am. So, there you have it.”

We’re gonna miss that guy.

Dempsey Scores Two in Fulham’s Europa League Opener

U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey buried a pair of headers to lead Fulham to a 3-0 win over Ukrainian side Dnipro in first leg of their Europa League play-in series last night at Craven Cottage.

Check out the goals here:

Deuce and Fulham are back in action on Sunday, traveling to Wolverhampton to take on Wolves and manager Mick McCarthy, who will look to keep any “disgruntled numpties” in check with a second straight win after beating Blackburn 2-1 last weekend.

Dempsey Sets Record, Holden Hurt: Yanks-In-England Weekend Wrap

You may have seen the clip of the studs-up challenge from Manchester United defender Jonny Evans that gashed Stuart Holden’s knee on Saturday. (See it here.) The play sent Holden to the hospital for 26 stitches and will sideline the American midfielder for up to six months.

To us it seemed like Evans came in a little too hard and with his studs up, but Holden also crashed into the 50-50 tackle. It was a case of neither player wanting look like he was ducking out of anything, and unfortunately, Holden is going to miss the rest of the Premier League season—which includes an FA Cup semifinal for Bolton—along with this summer’s Gold Cup, because of it. Holden was scheduled to depart today to join the U.S. national team ahead of its March 26 friendly against Argentina.

It’s a tough blow, and it’s the second consecutive March that Holden has suffered a serious injury. (Last year, Dutch defender Nigel de Jong fractured Holden’s leg with a reckless tackle.)

One name that hasn’t been much mentioned in this is that of Holden’s Bolton teammate Lee Chung-Yong, an excellent player whose overly weighted pass led Holden into the clattering challenge with Evans. We had a coach who called passes like that ‘hospital balls.’ Lee’s was a textbook example.

In better news, U.S. attacker Clint Dempsey set a record for most goals in a Premier League season by an American when he scored his 10th of the year in a 2-1 loss to Everton on Saturday, zipping one past U.S teammate Tim Howard in the Everton goal (click here for highlight).

Dempsey surpassed the record of former U.S. international Brian McBride, who twice scored nine goals in a Premier League campaign.

At Villa Park, veteran U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel started and went the distance in Aston Villa’s 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton. American midfielder Michael Bradley dressed but did not play for the Villans. Ditto U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann for Wolves.

The loss keeps Villa in the thick of the extremely crowded relegation fight with 33 points. Wigan sits in last place with 30, and there are currently eight teams with 33 points or fewer, with eight games to play.

U.S. defender/midfielder Jonathan Spector did not dress for West Ham’s 0-0 draw with Tottenahm at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

American-German midfielder Jermaine Jones played the full 90 in Blackburn’s 2-2 tie with Blackpool.

The quote of the week comes from ever-reliable Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, after his team’s win at Aston Villa, in which the home manager Gerard Houllier heard it from the crowd:

“You didn’t have to be the brightest light on the Christmas tree to recognize there was some tension amongst the crowd. I don’t like to hear any manager get hostility towards them but I would prefer it to be him or 18 other managers rather than me! It comes with the job.”

Your Move, Holloway

Last season, Wolves manager Mick McCarthy took home the honors for top quote in the Premiership, and it wasn’t even close. See here and here for just two examples of his postgame bon mots. He was the Tennyson of the Touchline in 2009-10.

This year, the promotion of Blackpool and its gabby manager Ian Holloway held out the promise of a two-horse race for the title. Some observers even predicted Holloway would run away with it, and he has gotten off to a strong start with last week’s “phantasmagorical” quote.

But this week, McCarthy served notice that he (literally) would not go quietly, offering up this gem to explain his selective hearing on the sidelines:

Matt Jarvis for England? Yes, I heard those chants. It’s when they sing ‘Mick McCarthy is a big-nose w@nker’ that I don’t hear the crowd.”

He’s back!

And still champ until someone knocks him off.

Tip of the hat to reader Old 27, who has the strength of 10 men.

While We Were Out

 

Backpost World Headquarters and most satellite offices went dark there for a few days—we were off securing Massachusetts beaches after the recent shark sightings, among other distractions.

But we’re back now, and ready to play catch-up: Here’s a look at the Top 10 Stories We Missed in the past five days:

10. Michael Bradley Scores in ‘Gladbach Opener

There were rumors that the 23-year-old U.S. midlfielder and son of national-team coach Bob Bradley would move to a bigger club in the offseason, but that didn’t happen, and it appears to suit both club and player just fine. Bradley opened the 2010-11 scoring account for his Bundesliga club, Borussia Moenchengladbach, hitting the net 38 minutes into their first-round German Cup game against Erzebirge Aue. Click here for the hightlights.

9. Bob Bradley Not to Villa, After All?

It seems that way, despite recent “reports” suggesting the U.S. coach would join fellow yanks Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan and Eric Lichaj at Villa Park. Bradley’s agent, Ron Waxman, shot down the rumors last week. Stay tuned.

8. D.C. United is Toast

This didn’t necessarily happen in the past week, but now, at 3-14-3, the Red and Black—the original MLS dynasty—is all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs—for just the second time in the 15-year history of Major League Soccer.

7. MLS Youth Academy Signings

The league’s escalating designated-player arms race has gotten plenty of attention recently, and deservedly so, but there have been some notable acquisitions at the other end of the talent-pool spectrum in the past week, as the MLS youth academies are starting to bear fruit.

D.C. United, which already had academy products midfielder Andy Najar and keeper Bill Hamid on its first-team roster, added midfielder Conor Shanosky.

The Colorado Rapids signed striker Davy Armstrong while Chicago inked midfielder Victor Pineda.

These youngsters—all of them 17 or 18 years old—join Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo, LA Galaxy forward Tristan Bowen, and FC Dallas’s four homegrown signeesBryan LeyvaMoises HernándezRubén Luna and Víctor Ulloa—in the ranks of MLS academy players to sign professional contracts with the league.

These homegrown signings are arguably just as important to the future of the league as the DP blockbusters.

6. Real Salt Lake Blanks Columbus 2-0

The Red Bulls–LA Galaxy game (more on that later) hogged the headlines, but this matchup between Columbus, the top team in the East, and Real Salt Lake, the defending champs and the team currently nipping at the Galaxy’s heels in the West, is just as likely to be an MLS Cup preview as the glamour matchup in New York.

RSL midfielder Javier Morales stole the show with two excellent goals, good enough to win Player of the Week honors. Highlights here.

5. Geovanni Signs with San Jose—MLS’s 14th Designated Player

An attacking midfielder, Geovanni, 30, has one cap with Brazilian national team, and experience with Barcelona, Benfica, Cruzeiro, Manchester City and, most recently, Hull City.

He had a strong season at Hull in 2008-09, but fell out of favor during the Tigers’ relegation disaster last season. Will he help the young San Jose squad in its playoff quest this year?

4. Landon Donovan Stays Put

The MLS transfer window has slammed shut, and Donovan is still running the attack for the LA Galaxy.

This is huge for the league, as Commissioner Don Garber said a month ago, and we think it’s safe to say that Garber priced Donovan out of any transfer move: No team was going to shell out $15 million (or thereabouts) for a 28-year-old attacking midfielder.

So Donovan will finish out the season here, and if Garber’s dreams come true, that season will end with LD and a recovered David Beckham squaring off against Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, and Juan Pablo Angel in MLS Cup 2011 on ABC.

3. Toronto FC Whups Cruz Azul in CONCACAF Champions League

Fresh off a 4-1 trouncing of Pachuca, Mexican side Cruz Azul—“the Real Madrid of CONCACAF” with five CCL titles—may have been a bit overconfident heading into its 2010-11 group-stage meeting with Toronto. The visitors were surprised by goals from Martin Saric and Mista and a determined Reds side, which held on for a 2-1 victory. Big win for MLS.

2. LA Galaxy 1, Red Bulls 0

In arguably the most star-studded and atmospheric game in MLS history, with Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker and Eva Longoria joining a sellout crowd in the stands, and Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, Juan Pablo Angel and Landon Donovan on the field (and David Beckham on the LA bench), the visiting Galaxy took advantage of a turnover by Marquez to score the game’s only goal.

New York was more effective in the second half, as Henry and Angel started to percolate, but they couldn’t find an equalizer. Afterward, Donovan had this to say:

“We’ve heard a lot of talk about the New York Red Bulls over the last month, and we wanted to reiterate to people who the best team in the league is.”

Henry:

“They have been playing together for a while, and you could see that today. When this team is ready, we’re going to be able to compete with them. But we couldn’t compete with them today.”

Highlights here. The teams meet again on September 24 at the Home Depot Center.

1. Premier League Season Kicks Off

Week 1 of the 2010-11 Premier League season is in the books, and while it was a fairly sluggish opening round—when we’re in charge, we’ll push the season opener back to September, to give players a real offseason—there were some notable moments.

Chelsea—and Didier Drogbapicked up where they left off, with a rout for the Blues and a hat-trick for Drogba; Man U rolled over Premier League returnees Newcastle, 3-0; Stuart Holden hit the post for Bolton against Clint Dempsey‘s Fulham; Tim Howard uncharacteristically fumbled away Everton’s opener against Blackburn; Mario Balotelli signed with Man City; and promotion side Blackpool debuted spectacularly, routing Wigan 4-0 in front of manager Ian Holloway, who is sure to challenge Wolverhampton manager Mick McCarthy for top quote in the top flight this year.

Holloway produced the following, after an “ugly” win against Chesterfield a few years back:

“To put it in gentleman’s terms if you’ve been out for a night and you’re looking for a young lady and you pull one, some weeks they’re good looking and some weeks they’re not the best. Our performance today would have been not the best looking bird but at least we got her in the taxi. She wasn’t the best looking lady we ended up taking home but she was very pleasant and very nice, so thanks very much, let’s have a coffee.”

Click here for some of Holloway’s vintage work. Should be a good battle with McCarthy this season.

Also notable:

• John Rooney, brother of um, uh—Wayne; right, that’s it—is on trial with the Portland Timbers, a USSF D-2 team that will make the leap to MLS next season. Rooney is 19, and hoping to establish his career outside his big brother’s big shadow.

The Vancouver Whitecaps are stockpiling talent in advance of their entry into MLS next year.

Gonzalo Segares, for our money one of the best left backs in MLS history, rejoined the Chicago Fire

• Philadelphia’s first-year striker Danny Mwanga continued to build his case for Rookie of the Year honors, bagging his seventh goal of the year in a 1-1 tie with Colorado.

All right, that should get us back up to speed. If we missed anything, let us know in the comments.

CONCACAF Champions League, Yanks Abroad, and MLS goodness to follow.

Premier League Homestretch: Week 31 Wrap

U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann and Wolves traveled to Boleyn Ground on Tuesday and spanked West Ham and U.S. defender Jonathan Spector 3-1 in a critical relegation tilt. The victory lifted Wolverhampton seven points above the drop, while leaving the Hammers just three points clear of danger—with Hull City holding a game in hand beneath them. (Spector came on as a second-half sub and played 45 minutes.)

Kevin Doyle opened the scoring for Wolves in the 27th minute and Ronald Zubar and Matthew Jarvis added goals within three minutes of one another in the second half to secure the points for Mick McCarthy‘s men. Those three points were huge for Hahnemann and Wolverhampton, but the real story, as far as we’re concerned, was yet another spectacular  postgame quote from McCarthy, the Bard of the Byline. We’re starting to think the man has a writing staff. First there was “mullered” and “passengers” and then “great propaganda” and “right chew” and now this:

“We have not sewn anything up yet but we have gone a long way towards helping out….It was a vital win for us in terms of us concertinaed the league above us a little bit more and doing damage to West Ham.”

We know what you’re thinking: There’s a misprint up there. Mick McCarthy did not actually say the word ‘concertinaed.’ I don’t think that’s even a word, and if it is, McCarthy is obviously not using it in the proper form.

That’s the same thing we thought, and then we looked it up, and … well, we’re still a bit confused:

First, we thought he was talking concertina wires, as in “a coiled barbed wire used as an obstacle.” But in that case, wouldn’t Wolves have ‘concertinaed’ the teams below them in the table? As in, built a barrier between themselves and the drop zone.

Then we decided he was making reference to an accordion-like instrument (a concertina) and its verb form, which the OED lists as to “compress in folds like those of a concertina.” So, did he mean his men were drawing the teams above them towards Wolves, in accordion-like fashion? 

That might be it, but in the end, we’re probably meant to just let all of the layers of meaning wash over us—Mick McCarthy is the e.e. cummings, the Bob Dylan, of the 2009-2010 Premier League season: He trafficks in ambiguity and oblique meanings over explicit ones—and we salute him.

Week 31 action continued yesterday, with another American keeper scoring an impressive win as Tim Howard produced a clean sheet in Everton’s 2-0 clipping of Champions League aspirants Manchester City. Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta got the goals for the Toffees, who now stand only three points behind sixth-place Liverpool.

Brad Friedel and Aston Villa played to their second consecutive disappointing draw, 1-1 against Sunderland this time, and had to rely on John Carew for the equalizer again. It was the seventh tie in 10 games for Villa, and another blow to their Champions League hopes.

Chelsea demolished last-place Portsmouth, 5-0, with Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda each bagging two goals (Frank Lampard got the other). Drogba’s first goal came after Portsmouth keeper David James completely whiffed on an easy clearance attempt, leaving the ball and the wide open net behind him for Drogba.

The win puts Chelsea one point behind Manchester United with seven games to play. Arsenal is just two points back in third place.

Finally, MLS Alum Ryan Nelsen dressed but did not play in Blackburn’s 2-1 win over Birmingham City at Ewood Park. David Dunn scored both goals for Rovers.

Premier League Midweek Review-Preview

Down and out at Upton Park.

There were four Premier League games yesterday and four today, with Americans featuring (or missing a chance to) in three of them.

On Tuesday, Brad Friedel backstopped Aston Villa to a 2-0 road win over Sunderland, while his understudy and fellow Yank (and fellow Brad) Brad Guzan sat the bench. Villa midfielder James Milner drilled a goal from 25 yards in the 60th minute to seal the win. Villa is currently tied for third with Arsenal.

West Ham’s Jonathan Spector dressed but did not play for the second game in a row as the Hammers dropped a 3-1 decision to Bolton and fell to 19th place in the table. Things are most definitely not looking up in Upton Park: former England international midfielder Kieron Dyer returned to action after three months away due to injury … only to limp off after 20 minutes with another injury. Then goalkeeper Robert Green handed Bolton the winner in the 76th minute by spilling a bouncing shot from Gary Cahill (Ivan Klasnic buried it from there).

At Old Trafford, Wolverhampton Wanderers may or may not have been mullered (Mick McCarthy didn’t say), but they were definitely blanked 3-0 by Manchester United, and they also suited up 10—count ’em—10 different players from the lineup that edged Spurs this past weekend. Pacific Northwester Marcus Hahnemann, who twice denied Wayne Rooney from point-blank range in this one, was the only holdover from that group in what was apparently a long-term tactical decision by McCarthy:

“At the end of the season I will be judged on whether Wolves have stayed in the Premier League or not. It was my strongest team – because it was a team with fresh legs. I have a squad of 21 to pick from and I regard them all as first-team players.”

Unlike McCarthy’s last postgame quote, this one is easy to translate:

“We had no shot of winning this game, so I decided to rest my first team and save them for this weekend’s home game against 13th-place Burnley, in which we have a realistic chance of getting three points.”

Fair enough.

In the other Tuesday game, Birmingham won its fifth straight Premier League game (the first time the Blues have done that, ever), downing Blackburn 2-1, with both goals coming from Cameron Jerome. Birmingham is now tied with Liverpool, for God’s sake, in fifth place. MLS alum Ryan Nelsen hit back for Blackburn in the 69th minute, but it was too little to late.

Wednesday’s action was bereft of Statesiders, but not of surprising results: Burnley battled Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at home, where they have picked up 18 of their 19 EPL points thus far. (Gunners midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas left with an injury at halftime.) And Tottenham romped to a 3-0 win over Manchester City at White Hart Lane. City has only two losses on the season, but eight draws. In the other games, Chelsea clipped Portsmouth 2-1 and Liverpool beat Wigan by the same score.

In the weekend ahead, Yanks Abroad will have close encounters with the top three in English football as Clint Dempsey and Fulham host Manchester United, Jozy Altidore and Hull visit Arsenal, and Spector and West Ham welcome Chelsea. Friedel, Guzan, and Aston Villa play at home against Stoke City.

Enjoy the games.