Mick McCarthy not happy with ‘underdogs’ tag for Ipswich Town ahead of Norwich City play-off clash
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Mick McCarthy is happy for Norwich City to be labelled as favourites ahead of today's play-off semi-final – but he does not accept that his Ipswich team will be underdogs.
The straight-talking Town boss was happy to heap praise on the Canaries after seeing his club's main rivals complete an East Anglian Derby double on their way to finishing third in the Championship this season.
The former Sunderland and Wolves manager refused to concede that his team were far behind City in terms of quality though.
'You look at the amount of points and the fact that they were a Premier League team, the money they've spent and everyone is going to suggest that we are underdogs,' McCarthy said.
'But when I look at the two squads, when I look at my players, I don't think we're underdogs to anybody.
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'They looked like they were going to get into the top two, in the last knockings of the season they looked like they were going to achieve that, and they didn't, so they're in the play-offs with us.'
However, the Blues chief's reaction was very different when it was suggested to him that most people outside of East Anglia would be expecting Norwich to triumph.
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'I hope so, if other people think they're favourites, I'm not so sure,' McCarthy continued. 'If you look at both squads, we can win it, I don't doubt that. Maybe because they've beaten us twice that adds a little more pressure.
'From the outside everyone will think they have the better squad, the better team and they've beaten us twice, and if it adds a little bit of pressure and causes them to tighten up a bit – happy days! We're all different, their manager will be feeling different, their players, some will be bothered by it, others won't be bothered by it, some will be feeling nerves, some won't, it's a very personal feeling.'
City's two victories gave the 56-year-old his first taste of the East Anglia Derby, having taken over at Portman Road in November 2012 with the Tractor Boys struggling in the Championship, when the Canaries were battling in the Premier League.
And having played for big clubs including Manchester City and Celtic, the intensity of the rivalry has come as little surprise to the former Republic of Ireland manager.
Yet he doesn't feel he has felt the full force of the Norfolk-Suffolk divide just yet.
'I don't see a lot of them,' McCarthy said of Norwich supporters. 'I went to see an under-21 game (at Norwich), got a bit there but that was to be expected, that doesn't bother me.
'I've been involved in bigger derbies, Celtic and Rangers was considerably bigger.
'People tell me that it can be quite tasty, I don't know, I just think like anywhere else, derby games, there's something special about them and very often people worry about the week.
'They want to get it over and done with because they want to get the result out of the way because they all get anxious about it.
'Their worried about losing, that's what fans get. They want to play it and they want to win it but actually their fear is 'I don't want to get beaten by that mob'.
'So they want to get it out of the way because it builds up during the week, and I get that, nobody wants to lose to their nearest and not so dearest, and that's me included.'
McCarthy believes the two-legged tie is likely to come down to a 'moment of brilliance' from one of the two teams' creative players in what are likely to be draining battles either side of the border.
One City player the Yorkshireman will not have to worry about is suspended striker Lewis Grabban, inset, who scored in both derby games earlier this season, as he serves a three-game ban for swinging a body punch at Rotherham's Craig Morgan in the penultimate game of the season.
Town's boss admitted that suspension for both legs of the semi-final can only benefit his team though, adding: 'Well if Daryl Murphy was suspended, I think Norwich would be delighted.
'So likewise, if it gives us an advantage, but Norwich have still got good players though. Don't think for one minute I'm thinking 'Lewis Grabban is suspended so it's going to be easy', in the least.
'But that's his own fault, he shouldn't have punched the guy.'