McCarthy Delighted to Have Options
Friday, 14th Aug 2015 16:05
Town boss Mick McCarthy is delighted to have plenty of selection dilemmas as the Blues go into their first home game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday (KO 3pm). Only skipper Luke Chambers started both the 2-2 opening day draw at Brentford and the 2-1 Capital Cup victory over Stevenage in midweek, with several youngsters and new signings handed their debuts over the two games.
With a number of players impressing during those matches, McCarthy has decisions to make in most areas of his team, something he says managers love to have.
“For sure,” he said. “It can only prove to be difficult if the players who are not playing become difficult.
“If there are any better four strikers in the league I’d like to see them and two of them are mainly going to be left out at some stage, so that’s a difficult one. But it has to happen. I won’t [fit people in for the sake of fitting them in].
“But there’s nothing worse than when you keep turning round and looking at the bench hoping that somebody’s face is going to change because you think ‘Can’t put them on’.
“I’ve been there, I’ve been there when Taff [Town scout Ian Evans, McCarthy’s assistant at Sunderland, Ireland and early on at Wolves] came up alongside me and said ‘Don’t even think about it!’ because he knew I was and I wasn’t going to make the team any better. Now when I look around I’ve got some good back-up.”
In front of a crowd expected to be approaching the 21,000 mark, McCarthy looks set to start with Bartosz Bialkowski in goal, despite the Pole having made an error for Brentford’s late, late equaliser last week.
Jonas Knudsen will make his home debut at left-back, despite Myles Kenlock impressing against Stevenage, while Christophe Berra - who served his one-match ban at Brentford - seems certain to be on the left of the centre of the defence.
The Town boss has much to think about elsewhere in his defence with Josh Emmanuel impressing on his debut at right-back last week.
The Blues manager will be considering whether to give the 17-year-old - he’s 18 on Saturday - his home debut, which would probably see Tommy Smith drop to the bench and Chambers join Berra at the heart of the backline, or to continue with his captain at right-back and Smith alongside the Scottish international.
Jonny Parr is now back in training after his thigh problem but seems unlikely to start, although may be on the bench.
In central midfield, with Kevin Bru, Teddy Bishop and Luke Hyam all sidelined with injuries, McCarthy will have to choose between recent additions Giles Coke and Jonathan Douglas to take the role alongside Cole Skuse.
Coke, who was released by Wednesday at the end of last season after five years at Hillsborough, may well get the nod having played more football in pre-season than the former Brentford man.
Ryan Fraser, who has signed a new three-year deal with parent club Bournemouth, will be on the left with Ainsley Maitland-Niles making his home debut for the Blues on the right.
As McCarthy has said, he has big decisions to make up front. Last season’s 27-goal top scorer Daryl Murphy seems likely to start, while Freddie Sears impressed at Griffin Park and David McGoldrick and Brett Pitman were amongst Town’s best performers against Boro on Tuesday.
McGoldrick may well have done enough to come into consideration for his first league start since suffering his troublesome thigh injury at Rotherham in February but Sears would be unlucky to miss out if that's the case. Pitman and whoever else is left out of the XI will play a part from the bench at some stage.
Despite Wednesday bringing in new head coach Carlos Carvalhal over the summer and plenty of money having been spent, McCarthy says the core of their squad is much the same as last year.
“They’re not hugely different because the two centre-halves are probably similar or the same [Tom Lees and Glenn Loovens], the left-back is Jeremy Helan, they’ve got Jack Hunt on loan [at right-back].
“The differences are that Ross Wallace is a left footer on the right and a guy called Marco Matias, Portuguese I believe, and Alex Lopez are in the middle. But other than that it’s Lewis McGugan and Sam Hutchinson, Atdhe Nuhiu up front.
“They’ve a couple of who came on as sub, one a lad called Lucas Joao. They’ve got a Portuguese manager and they’ve added some of the players he knows and he likes, so there’s a slightly different feel to it, they were playing 4-3-3. But, I’d say the nucleus of the team is still the same.”
He added: “Wallace is a good player, Matias is, Nuhiu is because of his size and his physical presence. McGugan certainly, he’s a really good footballer and shoots from anywhere with both feet.
“The couple of lads who came on as subs, they did all right as well, so I think they’ve got a bit of back-up as well.
“And if they do get in front they make it difficult to play against them because they sit back and get really tough.”
He says Wednesday is a big club with ambitions of returning to the Premier League after a long absence: “They always expect to be up there. It’s a big club and expectations are always high there. And if they’re investing money then expectations will be greater.
“Whether they can live up to all those expectations we'll find out. We’ll all be the same this year, there’s a big prize at the end of the year for getting promoted, everybody wants to do it.”
The Owls, who have also fielded essentially two different sides in their two games so far this season, will be without defender Claude Dielna (toe) and midfielder Filipe Melo (knee)
Head coach Carlos Carvalhal says travelling to take on the Blues will be a different challenge to Bristol City, who they beat 2-0 at Hillsborough in their opening Championship fixture, prior to a 4-1 Capital One Cup victory at home to Mansfield on Tuesday.
“I will choose the 18 squad players that in my opinion will be the best to try and win the match,” he told swfc.co.uk.
“Our principles will remain the same. Playing against Bristol City at home will be very different from playing against Ipswich away but we need to keep our identity and principles that we’ve had since day one.
“We must provide the right answers to the questions that Ipswich ask and it will be very different from Bristol.
“That’s not saying one team is better than the other, it’s a different type of football, it’s a different game with different challenges and we must provide the answers. This is how it will be with every game we face this season.”
He added: “We see what the players do in the previous matches, what they do in training and the opponent that we will play, looking at their strong points and weak points.
“After that, we will select our XI. Our identity will always be the same, home and away and this is important.
“Teams will ask us different questions all season but we can’t respond with the same answers, we need different answers for each game depending on the opponents.”
Historically, the record is very evenly balanced, both sides having won 17 games (16 in the league) with 11 (10) matches between them having ended in draws.
Last time the teams met, at Portman Road in February, Daryl Murphy and Luke Chambers netted second-half headers as the Blues came from a goal down at half-time to win 2-1.
A defensive mix-up between Bartosz Bialkowski and Christophe Berra led to Kieran Lee putting the Owls in front on 20 but the Blues were always on top and Murphy flicked home a Freddie Sears cross on 52, his 19th goal of the season, and Chambers powered in the winner 15 minutes later from Kevin Bru’s ball in from the left.
In September last year at Hillsborough, returning loanee Jonny Williams struck four minutes after coming off the bench to claim a 1-1 draw.
The Crystal Palace man, who was making his second Town debut, half-volleyed home in the 63rd minute, Atdhe Nuhiu having put the Owls ahead in the fifth minute.
Recent Blues signing Giles Coke spent five years with Wednesday having signed from Motherwell in July 2010, making 77 starts and 24 sub appearances and scoring seven goals.
Both Town’s front two have had loan spells with the Owls. David McGoldrick spent a month there during the early part of 2011/12, scoring once in three starts and one sub appearance, while Daryl Murphy was at Hillsborough for a month in 2005 while a Sunderland player, making four appearances but failing to find the net.
Former Town keeper Lewis Price, 31, joined Wednesday this summer following his release by Crystal Palace. After joining the Town as an academy scholar from Southampton, Price went on to make 74 starts and one sub appearance for the Blues between 2004 and 2007.
Canadian-born striker Caolan Lavery, a Northern Ireland U21 international, joined the Owls in the summer of 2012 having turned down a professional contract with the Blues during the previous season after coming through the Town Academy.
Saturday’s referee is James Linington from Newport, Isle of Wight, who has shown just the one yellow card in his two games so far this season.
Linington’s most recent Town match was the 3-2 home win against Blackpool last season in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Earlier last season he was in charge of the 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, when he booked only one home player, and the 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Portman Road in which he yellow-carded David McGoldrick and three Teessiders.
Town squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Emmanuel, Knudsen, Kenlock, Parr, Chambers, Berra, Smith, Yorwerth, Skuse, Douglas, Tabb, Coke, McDonnell, Benyu, Maitland-Niles, Fraser, Touré, Murphy, McGoldrick, Sears, Pitman.
Photo: Action Images
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