Academy graduate speaks at length
Royals goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has become our first player in the Academy era to be called up to the full England squad, and he spoke at length to the official website about his development, joining Roy Hodgson’s squad and much, much more.
Discuss the best season in the Academy’s history with the hashtag #AcademyWeek.
First of all how did you find out about the call-up?
I was in London doing a bit of shopping, I got a text to say I’d been selected and then five minutes later I got a call from the FA to confirm. I was with Chris Gunter, getting some clothes for holidays that I’ve now cancelled! I still bought a couple of pairs of shorts though!
Were you expecting it in any way?
No, I was only hoping. I’ve been out injured and not played that many games. I’m over the moon, it’s a dream come true. Growing up you want to play for your country and now I’ve got that chance I’m going to take it. The phone didn’t stop!
Did you imagine it, coming to Reading at 16?
It’s a long way ahead at 16! Obviously you’re trying to make a name for yourself, but for me to have come on and get there is unbelievable. When I look back a year ago, I’d been out on loan quite a lot, but then coming back to Reading at the end of last season and playing at the start of this season, then getting and injured and I’ve only played 13 Premier League games, so I’m over the moon.
We spoke to Eamonn and he was very keen to mention how many people have helped your development.
Yes, Colin Barnes, Steve Smith, Sal Bibbo, I always knew it was a great club but as I’ve progressed they’ve all been a massive part to me. Eamonn, Sal, Steve, Colin, I still speak to them a lot, they help me and without them I couldn’t have done it.
And every manager has to help as well.
Yes, I have a lot to thank them for. Brian gave me my chance and my Premier League debut so I have a lot to thank him for, then the new gaffer has put me back in and stuck with me so I’ve got a lot of people to thank.
You must be absolutely delighted with your form. Sky were showing footage of your recent saves, and save after save, you’ve got to be pretty pleased with the way it’s gone in the last couple of weeks?
Yeah, definitely. Coming back after the injury, normally it would take me one or two games to get back into the flow if things, but as soon as I went in for the Liverpool game, it’s sort of taken off from there. I couldn’t have wished for a better start to come back to. From playing at the start of the season I obviously got injured, I’d had a taste of Premier League football. Originally they said I was going to be out for the season so to come back early was massive for me. That sort of helped me get through my rehab, knowing that I wanted to play in the Premier League and that I wanted to get back there as quick as possible. My shoulder feels a lot stronger than it did before, that was a big boost for me, and coming back early was unbelievable. It was difficult, because I hadn’t had a major injury before, that was the biggest one I’d had. Being in the gym for two a half or three months was horrible. Usually I’d be out on the pitch every day. But the medical staff here are excellent, Sal was excellent, and I got back quickly thanks to them.
How will you feel on your first day training with England?
I can’t wait! I’d rather it was soon, I’ll tick over with Sal at Hogwood before meeting up. I know some of the lads from the 21s so I won’t be going into it without knowing anyone.
It’s a very proud moment for the Academy, we’ve had many internationals but we’re an English club so England is extra special?
Definitely. Lots of other boys have done well but England is a dream come true. There’s a lot of younger lads in the Academy who are English and it gives them hope as well, hopefully there will be a few more to follow.
And the goalies here just keep getting better!
We’re blessed here with good goalkeepers but that comes down to the training we do and the work from Sal, Colin, Steve, all the goalkeeping coaches are tight and know what needs to be done. We’re lucky and have a great bunch of keepers.
How do you park mistakes and shift on and make sure it doesn’t affect you?
As you grow up you learn to deal with it more. When I was younger, after making mistakes, you’d dwell on it, be thinking about it. But as I’ve grown up and played more games I’ve got used to it – if you make a mistake, obviously the best way to deal with it is to totally forget about it, because otherwise you can let it affect the rest of your game. It’s so easy to say that, but it’s only human nature that something like that would be niggling away at you in the back of your mind. That’s what sets you guys apart I think. I’ve learned over the years how to do it. I’m very close to my family and I speak to my Dad a lot about it. After you’ve made that mistake you need to get it out of your head, otherwise it will affect the rest of your game. So as soon as I’ve made a mistake, that’s it, gone. You can always reassess it after game with Sal, but that’s the best way.
It’s Ireland first, one to look forward to?
Yes, we were there for the play-off final two years ago which was disappointing but there with England will be unbelievable.
Then Brazil away, you couldn’t have picked two better games!
Yes, and it’s come at the right time. There’s lots of ups and downs in football but this has to be one of the biggest highs. I’ve been to Brazil as a kid but to go and play there will be unbelievable.
How do you reflect on this season?
Very disappointing to have gone down. We’re looking to come straight back though. For me, it’s been difficult, not playing at the start, coming in and getting injured, then back in, but I’m through it and looking forward to the future.
But things are positive going forward.
Yes, you can all see that. Every manager has a philosophy and he’s got us playing football. We look confident, we’re creating chances and look back to Fulham when we battered them. Even against City we dominated so the club is on an up. Lots of teams in the Prem look to play out from the back so it’s a big part of things for a goalkeeper as well.
You were a bit of a cricketer when you were younger weren’t you?
When I was younger I played cricket, Surrey boys. I was a wicket keeper. I played football, cricket and golf, and then as I grew older, cricket slid away and I stuck with football and golf. Then I went down the football route.
And then the golf?
I play off six. That’s the lowest I’ve got. When you’re at that handicap, it’s hard to stay there if you’re not playing regularly because you lose your short game. But also I’m a fair weather golfer, and I only ever play when it’s nice. But now my shoulder is back strong, I’ll start getting back into it.