IT’S EASY TO forget sometimes just how young James McCarthy still is.
The Glasgow native, who celebrates his 22nd birthday today, is already in his seventh year of senior club football having made his debut at Hamilton Academical at the age of 16 before moving south to the Premier League in 2009.
Enduring a difficult initial six-month settling-in period in England, McCarthy has since become a lynchpin in midfield for the Latics and hasn’t missed a single minute for Roberto Martinez’s side this season.
On the international stage, the midfielder has also taken significant steps in recent months. Having been touted as the solution to Ireland’s midfield problems for some time, he is finally being given his chance under Giovanni Trapattoni after his progress in the national team was prevented by withdrawals, misunderstandings with the manager and an illness in his family.
After missing out on Euro 2012 due to his father Willie, an influential figure in James’ life, contracting cancer, McCarthy has started all five of Ireland’s games and the indications are that run will continue when Ireland host Greece in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday evening.
When asked about the player during a press conference yesterday, Trap spoke glowingly about his “conductor”.
“Since the first game he improved very, very much,” the Italian said. “He brings his personality to this team and I think he can do more. [He is] quality, strong. He is fast. From 20 metres he has good shooting.
He can conduct play a lot in midfield. He watches before the ball comes and plays it simple. If he continues to improve, I think he will be a great player for us.”
The Italian has been spotted at a number of Premier League grounds in the past weeks and took in Wigan’s defeat defeat to West Brom over the weekend with both McCarthy and Shane Long featuring from the start.
While McCarthy hadn’t been aware of his manager’s presence until after the final whistle, he he was glad of the visit. Speaking as an ambassador for EA Sports’s new game FIFA 13 in Dublin yesterday, the softly-spoken player told The Score:
“I didn’t know he was there until after the game. I got told he was there. It was good of him to come and watch myself and Shane. He just said to me ‘well done’ and ‘unlucky with the result’.”
“Obviously it was a frustrating result yesterday. It’s never good to lose a game and we were on a good wee run there with back-to-back winning. It’s back to game-time on Wednesday then we’ve got another big one on Saturday as well.
“I’m looking forward to Wednesday to be honest. I’ve not heard anything (about whether he will start against Greece). I’ll work hard in training and take it from there. I just need to wait and see what happens.”
McCarthy (right) with team-mates Seamus Coleman and David Meyler at training yesterday. Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer
Whether he is deployed as part of a central pairing or a three-man as has been the case in recent games, McCarthy is not fussed.
“I’m happy to play in any formation and in any position. Most important thing is that I do well and give it my all. I’ll always give it my all and do my best for the team.
“I like playing in the middle of the pitch but if the gaffer said play right or left wing I would go and do a job and give it my best shot. I’ll play any position just hopefully I’m selected.”
In Ireland’s first home fixture since the 6-1 annihilation by Germany, he also stressed the importance of getting back to winning ways in Dublin.
“We were all so gutted. It was a bad performance from everyone and everything they (Germany) hit seemed to go in. It was an unbelievable night. Myself and as a team, we know we can do much better than that and must kick on.
It was brilliant to have a game so quick after it in the Faroe Islands so we could try get back on track and I think that’s what we done with a solid performance.
“It’s not an easy place to go (the Faroes). You look at Sweden, who went out there and struggled. It’s on astro turf as well. We went out and were brilliant from first minute to last.
“It was just a matter of time before we got the goal as first half we created a few chances but just couldn’t score. The goals started coming and it was a really good night. It was great to get man-of-the-match but it was just important to get a win out there.
“You want to get back winning ways at home after the bad result against Germany. You want to give it a good performance. We won’t be taking the team lightly and we know Greece are a good side but we’ll give it our best shot.”
James McCarthy appears in EA SPORTS FIFA13 – out now on all formats including PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, PC and iOS.Visit www.jointheclub13.com/uk/en for more info. (FIFA 13 is available from Smyths, Xtravision and Gamestop stores nationwide)