The family heartache that will drive on James McCarthy at Celtic

Amid the joy of finally joining the club that forever has had a deep emotional pull for him, there could only also be a deep sense of sadness for James McCarthy about signing for Celtic at this point in his life.

James McCarthy says, following his father's death only a matter of months ago,  he determined to do him, and his family, proud in joining Celtic, so close to all of them. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
James McCarthy says, following his father's death only a matter of months ago, he determined to do him, and his family, proud in joining Celtic, so close to all of them. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The player hails from a Castlemilk family of fanatical followers of his new club. However, he was not able to share his fulfillment of their collective wish since his earliest days at Hamilton with the person to whom it would have meant everything following the death of his father Willie only a matter of months ago. McCarthy will carry his dad with him every step of the way at his boyhood team, while the move, on the back of 12 years in English football, will allow him to be there for his kin through the grieving process.

“My dad was a massive influence for me throughout my career,” said the Republic of Ireland international. “From a young kid, he took me back and forward to Hamilton. He'd pick me up and take me here and there, my mum and my dad. Losing him has meant it's been a tough time for the family, and I am delighted to be back home seeing them a lot more. I know how much it would have meant to him. I am coming here to do him and the family proud.”

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While his family provided the support structure outside of football that allowed him to pursue his professional career, it is Roberto Martinez’s guidance that accounts for the footballer he has become. A spindly box-to-box midfielder in his youthful days, under the Spaniard at first Wigan and then Everton, he developed and improved as he took on the holding role he will now be expected to perform for Ange Postecoglou.

“I went down there as a young boy and grew into a man within six or seven months because I went down there when I was 18 and found it difficult to get in the team,” McCarthy said of his 2009 switch from Lanarkshire to Lancashire. “By the January [of 2010] I eventually broke in. But at that time I was more advanced midfield, inside left where I'd play for Hamilton. After a year or two I went to a deeper midfielder, so he changed a lot of things in my game and I am thankful to him. I still speak to him quite a lot. I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago on text.”

The mid-career McCarthy was a mainstay for the Irish but he has only featured twice for the nation in the past four years, his two caps under Stephen Kenny coming almost a year ago. He is unsure about what the future holds in the international domain. “I've not closed any door with Ireland. I want to make sure I am fit to play every week and then we'll see when the internationals come about,” he said. “If the door is still open, then I have not had a thought of 'Ireland, I am not going to go away or retire'. It's never crossed my mind. I just want to keep playing every week here and then see where it takes me.”

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