Soccer Digest: Healthy Stephen Hunt backs Mick McCarthy as Wolves manager


Irish winger Stephen Hunt has criticized the decision made by his club’s owners to sack Mick McCarthy as Wolves manager in March.

Wolves look destined for relegation, and Hunt believes the McCarthy sacking hasn’t helped.
“We were all playing for the manager so first of all, it was disappointing for the gaffer. In terms of results, the board thought it was time for a change,” he told RTE Sport.

“Little did we know we would end up losing a lot of games since we’ve sacked him so it has probably proved to be the wrong decision in the end.

“Mick will go on and do well for himself. He has got a good enough CV to get another job for sure and he is definitely good enough to work for. I’m sure he will be back with a vengeance. It is just disappointing for us that we lost him.”

Hunt also dismissed suggestions that recent surgery on a groin injury will keep him out of the Euro finals this summer.

He added, “I am progressing well, I hope to be back in training in four or five days. The injury was a hernia, a recurrence of one I had last year.

“It didn’t bother me for a couple of months but then I decided to go ahead and have the operation, which is better for me. I hope to be back for Manchester City next week, but maybe Swansea the week after to be safe.”

He also welcomed the competition in the Ireland squad and the emergence of James McClean as a real threat to his position.

Hunt said, “Anyone who is an Irish fan welcomes the pressure on the players because obviously that brings competition for places.

“That’s good for Ireland and good for me, hopefully it will get the best out of me. Obviously, most importantly it’s good for Ireland, with James doing so well.”

Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni has again refused to rule McClean out of the reckoning for the European Championships, but admits the Sunderland winger is more likely to be seen as a long term option.

“We have 27 or 28 players and it will be a great pity, a great pity, when we have to decide on the 23, to decide on this player or that player,” said Trapattoni as he inspected the team’s Euro 2012 training camp base in Italy.

“The squad is very important to me and they deserve to come with us, they helped us achieve qualification. But I have to decide which players deserve to come with us. We are watching games all the time.

“I have two or three decisions to make. McCarthy, Coleman, players like that, I have to make a decision and I do not forget them for the next campaign, for the World Cup, but we have to decide the best for now.”

Wes Hoolahan was also name-checked by Trapattoni as a World Cup contender after the Euros while he is hopeful that Richard Dunne will be fit for Poland.

Trapattoni said, “I am optimistic about Richard Dunne. Two days ago I was in touch with him and he was very confident.

“He said to me, ‘Giovanni, I am well, I am sure I can play in the last game in the Premier League.’ The recovery from his operation is going well.”
Celtic Bust

Celtic boss Neil Lennon is in the wars again after his team’s double hopes bit the dust in controversial fashion as they lost Sunday’s Scottish Cup semifinal to Hearts at Hampden Park.

Lennon was incensed when referee Euan Norris awarded a 92nd minute penalty to the Edinburgh club which former Celtic striker Craig Beattie scored from to secure a dramatic 2-1 win.

Celtic, angry that Norris awarded the penalty for handball against Joe Ledley, then had a late penalty claim of their own turned down in the dying seconds.

A furious Lennon confronted Norris on the pitch after the final whistle, snubbed the post match press conference and then engaged in a Twitter rant against the referee, claiming the decision was “personal.”

Already in trouble with the Scottish authorities for clashing with refs on three occasions this season, Lennon is now in more hot water as former ref Hugh Dallas accused him of “bullying” Norris at the end of the match.

Lennon tweeted, “Referee told players he thought (Victor) Wanyama handled...feel so sorry for players and fans...I think it’s personal myself.”

He later re-tweeted a comment from Celtic supporter @DazDiCanio which suggested the club “pack our bags and get out of this league that is run by crooked #SFA officials.”

Celtic coach Alan Thompson had to attend the post match press conference in Lennon’s place when he confirmed that Lennon had also confronted Norris in the referees’ room after the match.

Thompson said, “I think he has been in, yes, but I wasn’t there so I don’t know what was said.

“We are all angry. We have just lost the semifinal of the cup when there were 92 minutes on the clock, it is frustrating.”

Reports also suggest that late on Sunday night, Lennon continued to rage on Twitter, accusing Manchester United supporter @mccart3204 of talking “clap trap” when he suggested Celtic striker Gary Hooper had been offside for the Hoops’ equalizer which cancelled out Rudi Skacel’s opener.