Mick McCarthy shakes on it - secrets of creating team spirit and a bond at Wolves
By: Cathal Dervan | Published Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:06 PM | Updated Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:06 PM
There's much to talk about in the wonderful world of sport this week, but first a little story from a quick fire visit by our old friend Mick McCarthy to Dublin last week.
Mick was in Kildare for most of the week with his Wolves team as they prepare for another season in the Premier League after they survived Survival Sunday on May 22 by the skin of their teeth.
He left the Carton House estate -- and left behind 22 players and 13 technical staff -- on a couple of occasions. Once to see UCD play Bray in the League of Ireland and secondly, to talk to a marketing seminar on behalf of a long time pal.
His speech wasn’t scripted. Mick’s intention was to share his experiences with managing workers, in his case very well paid professional footballers, and budgets with an audience of business leaders.
It worked very well as it happened. Ever courteous and engaging, Mick had the audience eating out of his hand as he talked us through the trials and tribulations of a season that literally went to the wire for Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He told of how Alex Ferguson used to have a glass of red wine waiting for him in his office at Old Trafford every time Man Utd beat the Wolves.
“He handed me the glass of wine and uttered the word ‘unlucky’ to me so many times that I began to think the wine was called Unlucky,” laughed McCarthy, whose own side finally beat United when they met at Molineux earlier this year and the whine was on the other foot so to speak.
Our Mick also revealed a little habit he picked up in France -- from Raymond Domenech of all people -- that all present in the room sat up and took notice of.
Former French boss Domenech, hated in this part of the world these days, was the manager of Lyons who brought Mick to France from Celtic back in 1989.
The first day Mick trained with Lyons they were in camp and staying in a hotel in the French countryside.
Arriving down for breakfast, Mick said hello to the manager in the distance and took a seat at a table near the door of the breakfast room.
One by one the French players arrived. One by one the French players walked to the far end of the room, shook Domenech and his staff by the hand and said good morning.
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Mick soon realized it was the custom in that part of the footballing world, a custom he imported to Wolves a few seasons ago when a number of players who had been through the French system arrived in the English midlands.
Now every morning begins with a handshake for management, players and staff at the Premier League club.
It is something, McCarthy feels anyway, which has helped to generate the team spirit and bond that every Wolves player talks about, a togetherness that was part of the reason why they managed to hang in there when relegation was sorted at the end of last season.
A lot of people at that marketing conference came up to Mick afterwards and said they were going to try the handshake experiment in their own working environment. He urged them all to do so.
“It is the most natural thing in the world to do and it made so much sense, not just for football but in any walk of life,” Mick told me later over a pint at his latest team hotel.
“I came back to English football in 1990 and I didn’t keep it up, but when some French players came to Wolves recently I remembered that it is something they do every morning and I brought it back.
“There’s no point just doing it with the French players, so now I do it with everyone and I make sure they do it as well. It doesn’t matter if you’ve fallen out with me or I’ve fallen out with you, we start our day with a handshake.
“It’s just a nice thing to do, it’s a real sign of respect for everyone and it does help the team spirit we have.”
Handshakes won’t win football matches. Mick McCarthy knows that better than anyone. But anything than can help his team stay in the Premiership this coming season is worth trying as far as he’s concerned.
And he’ll shake on survival now if you’re offering!Sideline Views
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