Norman Rimmington - Barnsley LegendMick McCarthy
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy always gets a hero’s welcome in Barnsley but Tykes legend Norman Rimmington will be especially pleased to see him, as Tim Nash explains.

Mention the name Norman Rimmington to Wolves fans and you’re likely to get a puzzled look.

But the man who helped launch Mick McCarthy’s career warns Wolves had better hold on to him – because he’s going to the very top.

Rimmington has been a fixture at opponents Barnsley for more than 60 years.

Now 85, the stalwart described by Sir Alex Ferguson as “more famous than me!” has seen them come and go as goalkeeper, coach, physio and kit manager at Oakwell.

But he’s never seen anyone quite like Wolves boss McCarthy, who can lead his side to the title by avoiding defeat at his home-town club.

Rimmington said: “I’m 85 now and I might not be around to see it, but I hope and pray he’ll go from strength to strength.

“Potentially, Mick has the ability to go right to the top. He’s had a tremendous career up to now and I only hope what he’s done at Wolves carries on.

“I don’t know the chairman at Wolves but I do know he couldn’t possibly have a better manager.

“I remember when I was younger and Wolves were THE team in the country with Stan Cullis and Billy Wright, so I’m delighted to see them back where they should be.

“Wolves is a huge club with the history and the crowds to be right up there.

“Mick will achieve bigger things – whether with Wolves or not.

“So far, he’s achieved things with lower league signings. That might not be enough, but if he scouts in the Premier League, he’ll go from strength to strength.

Advancing years and cancer of the bladder have slowed him down slightly, but for his age, Rimmington’s remains sprightly and younger looking than his eight-and-a-half decades suggest.

Despite concerns about his own health, Rimmington was more bothered about McCarthy’s back in January.

He revealed the Wolves boss feared for his job during the run of one win in 11.

The 85-year-old said: “When he flew back from a training camp in La Manga early to appear at a charity appearance at the Lamp Room Theatre here, the place was packed out.

“He spent the whole of the interval with me. I got worried because they (Wolves) were having a bit of a wobble and he said he might be sacked.”

McCarthy’s fears weren’t realised as Wolves picked up their form and went on to seal automatic promotion.

As Rimmington reveals, the 50-year-old’s renowned level-headed approach has its roots at Oakwell after he was saved from a life down the pit.

Rimmington reckons the leadership qualities McCarthy became renowned for didn’t take long to shine through.

He recalled: “I first met him when he was 16 – he was going to go down the pit to be an apprentice electrician. I hadn’t had him six weeks when I realised he was going right to the top.

“He knew where he wanted to be – even though he was a bit impatient to get there – but he wanted it so much.

“I made him head lad of the apprentices and he knocked them into shape. Then from there, he got into the under-18 team.

“He was soon taking all the throw-ins and free-kicks and I had to curb him because he wanted to do everything.

“The youth team only used to train Tuesdays and Thursdays, but he used to come back at night and train – and we didn’t have any lights over the training pitch then!

“At the time, we only had five apprentices and the rest were made up of lads who worked, but Mick just wanted to bring everyone together.

“Then when he got into the reserves, he wanted to do everything for them too!

“Jim Iley was manager at the time and he didn’t take to him and Mick said ‘he’ll have me out’.

“But then Allan Clarke took over and straight away he said what a great lad Mick was and I remember saying “not half!”

“In my opinion, Mick was a great centre-half – his concentration and his heading were superb. He never did anything fancy – he’d just win it and give it to the full-back – but I never used to panic about him if he was left one against one because I always knew he would sort it out.

“He was never dirty, but he was very aggressive. No one could beat him in the air and his tackling was superb too.”

The pair have kept in touch ever since McCarthy’s early days as a player at Oakwell.

And while there is little surprise to the characteristics Rimmington trots out when talking about McCarthy’s traits, there is also a glimpse of a thoroughly decent bloke.

The 85-year-old said: “He’s a lovely lad, but he won’t suffer fools. He’s honest and he speaks his mind – but he’s a Yorkshire lad, even though he’s Irish!

“He believes in honesty and hard work, anyone dealing with him won’t go far wrong if they’re the same. As a person, I haven’t met any better.

“He’s very thoughtful – he always asks how my wife Jessie is. He’s a wonderful person and they’re a wonderful family.

“I knew his father well and he used to wave at me as he drove his bus picking up disabled people. I also knew his brothers John and Kevin – Mick used to hammer Kevin because he was as good as him but he wasn’t as dedicated.

“I think he puts a front on – his bark is louder than his bite, because I used to say to him ‘Tha’s as soft as a brush!’

“He can stand his ground but I don’t think he ever wants to appear as a big head or rough because he’s never been that type.”

Rimmington revealed McCarthy took his responsibilities very seriously from a young age.

He recalled: “He was never one to be chasing around after women or drinking. He met Fiona (his wife) and that was it. I remember we went to Miami under Norman Hunter and he rang Fiona every day – we couldn’t get him off the phone.

“He’s also a staunch Catholic and he had to go to church wherever we played.”

Rimmington smiles as he recalls plenty of McCarthy’s grit and determination.

He said: “He’s always been so confident – if we went away before a match, you could see him grow in stature – he’d puff his chest out and the confidence would just ooze out of him.

“He never lacked confidence in any company.”

McCarthy’s sometimes confrontational nature has left him open to the odd dissenting voice.

Rimmington added: “I can’t remember any confrontations off the pitch, but there was one time after a defeat at Southend where he interrupted Allan Clarke and he fined him £100.

“David Speedie told Allan “you can’t do that” and so it went on with Dave and Mick having a go. In the end, they both got fined and when it came to drawing his wages, Speedie only had £11.

“David ended up being transferred to Darlington for £5,000. He had a right ding-dong against Newcastle – one of their players went for the ball with his head down and Mick kicked him in the head. The Newcastle boss Arthur Cox called Mick an assassin!

“I remember when we played Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final and Mick was marking Kenny Dalglish.

Rimmington said: “Mick turned said, ‘You’ve been moaning all match and now I’m going to give you something to moan about!’

“We went to Marbella under Allan Clarke after we won promotion and were 3-0 up against this team and we were supposed to having a banquet with them afterwards.

“But they started getting stuck into us and Mick came over to the dug-out, asking Allan ‘can I volley this ****** because he’s spitting on me?’

“Allan said ‘yes’ and so he did. Then Speedie was sent off and all hell broke loose – we never got the chance to go to the banquet.”

Rimmington also reflected on how a stubborn trait put McCarthy at odds with his adoring Barnsley public.

He said: “Mick also used to like to pass the ball back to the goalkeepers when keepers could pick it up.

“The fans behind the goal were on at him, so he did it even more – and gestured to them as well!”

McCarthy is guaranteed a warm reception tomorrow too, but this time it’s his turn to give his outcome.

Rimmington said: “My heart says Barnsley, but I want Mick to be successful. They (fans) idolise him here – but I think they think more of him for what he’s done than when he was a player here.”

It promises to be an intriguing encounter as, according to Rimmington, it’s McCarthy’s turn to buy the cigars.
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