Mick McCarthy believes Wolves would have been relegated from the Premier League in the 2010/11 season had they not earned a memorable 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Molineux.
Speaking on the fifth instalment of Old Gold Club: Big Match Revisited, the former boss admits he had to remove all the emotion a Black Country Derby brought that day and focus on taking on whatever team he was up against, as Wolves battled against the drop, with victory against Albion leading to a final-day survival quest against Blackburn Rovers.
McCarthy joins Mikey Burrows and Chris Iwelumo from 8pm this evening to relive the memorable fightback, along with several of his squad who played a key part in that season.
Supporters can catch the latest episode of Big Match Revisited on Wolves’ official YouTube channel, with Stephen Hunt, Stephen Ward and George Elokobi also joining McCarthy in looking back at a game which will live long in the memory.
On team selection for the visit of Albion
“I looked back at that game today and saw the bench with ‘Bez’ [Christophe Berra] on it, Sylvan [Ebanks-Blake], Nenad [Milias], ‘Stears’ and ‘Jarvo’ [Matt Jarvis] were on the bench, and I’m thinking ‘what team did I pick for that game?!’
“The selection must have been based on the performances before, or the games before, or for what had happened, but I didn’t realise the significance of playing West Brom.
“It was the third-last game and we then had to go on to play Sunderland and Blackburn, and I just had my tried and tested lads who I knew I was going to get a real shift out of.
“It was all in or bust after that game. I said to the lads at the time that it wasn’t a must-win game, but who was I trying to kid?! I was staying cool.”
On the emotion of a derby day
“Of course, emotion plays its part, but for us, it wasn’t about West Brom, it was about Wolves winning. Whether we’re playing Manchester United or Halifax Town or West Bromwich Albion, that generally didn’t matter to me.
“Had we lost, we were in serious trouble and I probably wouldn’t have stayed on because if we’d have lost this game, we probably would’ve been relegated.
“You had to take the emotion out of it being West Brom. Whoever was turning up, we had to play well and put everything on the pitch – and we won because of it.”
On having doubts about surviving the drop
“If you ask any manager, or players as well, they always have doubts going into games. They might be looking at the opposition and fancy it, but they might be playing against so-and-so today and thinking ‘that’s going to be a tough one’. As soon as you start thinking that, that’s the doubt.
“I’ve seen my interviews after these games, and I couldn’t guarantee that we were going to stay up, but you saw the performances from the lads and the one thing I could guarantee was that effort, that energy, that work rate, that desire and I was amazed when I watched this performance.
“First-half we murdered them. Second-half we hung on!”
On heading into the dressing room at half-time
“Everyone says going in at 2-0 is the most dangerous scoreline, and it probably is, because you’re not quite sure.
“People say we didn’t quite go for it [in the second-half], but I always look at it the other way round. What has Roy Hodgson said to them in their dressing room? He must’ve blasted the walls because we murdered them and they just couldn’t play out.
“We were on top of them physically, they couldn’t defend from corner and free-kicks which we scored from, so his team-talk is a damn sight easier because he probably told them to start passing the ball and not play through our press – which they did in the second-half.
“Mine is that we certainly don’t want to give the next goal away, but you don’t want to sit back and invite them in, and watching it back, we went at it in the second-half as we were in the first and I think we ran out of gas a bit.”
On staying up on the final day
“It was the closest of margins it could ever be. I’d said to Blackburn ‘leave it as it is, you’ve won the game, we’re staying up, there’s only about four minutes to go’. If you remember the game, we were passing it to them, they were knocking it to us.
“Steve Morgan asked me afterwards ‘where you aware that we were staying up at that stage?’ and I said ‘yeah, I think I’d clocked on to that one’, I managed to work that one out!”
On watching the West Brom game back
“I’m glad I was asked to watch this game back because I forgot how hard working and how athletic the guys were.
“It was unbelievable and it was a pleasure to watch it again.”
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