Mick McCarthy has revealed his frustration at Declan Rice deciding to play for England instead of Ireland, explaining how he gave the West Ham midfielder an earful down the phone after his choice was made public. McCarthy was enjoying his second spell in charge of the Boys In Green when Rice’s club performances started earning calls for international recognition.
The defensive midfielder, who was born in England but is eligible to play for Ireland thanks to his grandparents, had represented the Boys In Green at youth level and went on to make three friendly appearances for the senior team before switching allegiance to the Three Lions – despite McCarthy’s efforts.
Speaking to Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Mick revealed how he gave the youngster a verbal hammering before later calling to apologise.
“Yes it was a blow – I knew from meeting him that he wasn’t going to join us. I just got that feeling and it was no surprise when he rang to tell me,” said the two-time Ireland manager.
I felt a bit bitter and twisted, but that was because we had just lost a good player.
“I knew he would have made a difference to the team. But, the other part of that is that if you don’t want to play for us, then don’t play. We’ve always had a team where everybody has been fighting tooth and nail wanting to play, and giving everything for Ireland. That’s what you need.”
“We’ve had it with Jack Grealish as well. Both him and Rice are now playing in the England side and playing well”.
Even though McCarthy knew in his waters that the Rice defection was coming, Big Mick was in no form to give the West Ham man a pass when he called to inform the then Irish boss of his decision to choose England.
“It was no surprise that he chose England, but I had been waiting for a response from December when I had met Declan and I’d been in touch. I then kept in touch and the longer it went on the more it was obvious this was not happening,” said Mick.
When he finally made his choice I had a bit of a snarl at him down the phone.
“I was very abrupt, and there was no, ‘Oh thanks for letting me know, good luck with that and I hope it goes well for you’. I don’t know exactly what it was, but it was the opposite of that!
“I was venting my feelings on him, but he had a choice and if he’s got a choice then it’s not for me to be like that. I was having a dig and that’s not for me to do”.
After reflecting on the call McCarthy felt bad about his reaction to the news. However, he revealed his ire was rooted in the length of time it took Rice to make up his mind when it was clear he was always leaning towards Gareth Soutgate’s Three Lions side.
“It was because I was upset about it, and I was more upset because I had known! I’d known since I met him that it wasn’t going to happen, and I’d been fending off bloody stupid questions from journalists about Declan Rice. That was all it had been about, all the time,” said McCarthy.
“I thought it was never going to happen, but I spent months answering questions and now I’m getting the answer that I knew already! I was frustrated”.
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