Paddy McCarthy believes that his new coaching career as Crystal Palace under-18 boss has filled the void left after he was forced to retire from playing after a series of serious injuries.
The Irishman made 151 appearances for the Eagles and captained the club – most notably helping to secure survival in avoiding relegation from the Championship at Hillsborough after a 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday in 2010 – before retiring in the summer.
He took the opportunity to launch a career in coaching when he was brought into the under-16 set-up following Richard Shaw’s move up to manage the club’s under-23.
McCarthy, 33, was named the successor to Ken Gillard after his fellow Irishman vacated the under-18 hot seat to move to Arsenal. He said: “I came in to do some coaching – I was part-time with the under-16s – and a job opportunity came up. It wasn’t really a decision “I went down the same channel as a lot of internal and external applications because it’s such a coveted job. It’s a fantastic step for me in my coaching career and one that I am thoroughly enjoying.”
Several serious injury problems caused the former Palace skipper to hang up his boots. He played his final game in October 2015 while on loan at Preston North End.
“It’s never easy – but it was inevitable. I tried everything and did unbelievably well to ever get back on a football pitch after a really serious injury with my groin. It was something that disappointed me greatly. I miss playing massively but my body just let me down. It started to take its toll on me mentally as well and affect my life. That disappointment was hard to take.
“But I’m enjoying a new lease of life and I couldn’t have asked for a better job than under-18 manager as my first step away from the game. It’s been a really smooth transition and one that I have enjoyed – apart from I can’t kick anybody anymore!
“I literally haven’t got time to think because I’ve got so much other stuff going on. I was fully qualified for the job and went about doing my coaching badges from the age of 28. I completed my A licence and did my youth modules. It was always something I was conscious of going into.
“It’s something that is preached right from the beginning that your career is only short-lived, so you have to have something in place for when it finishes. I took that advice and had put things in place for when it finished.”
McCarthy feels suitably experienced to coach his young charges and prepare them for the future.
He came through the youth system at Manchester City before moving onto Leicester without making a senior professional appearance. McCarthy moved on briefly to Charlton and later going the other way as Mark Hudson moved to the Valley from Selhurst Park.
With a solid second tier playing education and relevant coaching badges under his belt, as well as a fruitful seven years at Palace, he knows what it takes to hit the upper reaches of the game.
“The big thing for me is that I understand the demands of the football club.
“I understand what it takes to walk down the tunnel at Selhurst Park. I understand the demands of the chairman and everybody else – the directors of the football club, the manager and the first team players – and that’s something I am trying to put across to these lads – that I’ve walked the path that they are trying to walk on.
“I’ll give them every opportunity that I can and they’ve all bought into it.”