James McCarthy sets his medical record straight, and explains why James McArthur won’t be joining him at Celtic

IN a profession where being the wrong side of 30 can have you viewed as winding down your career, a reputation for being injury prone isn’t exactly a welcome one for any free agent.

Fortunately for James McCarthy, Celtic were more interested in his pedigree as a player than any perception of his past injury problems. Though, upon his arrival in Glasgow, the midfielder is keen to set the medical record straight.

McCarthy made just 17 appearances for Crystal Palace last season, and a statistic has been doing the rounds showing that Callum McGregor had played more minutes last term alone than McCarthy had managed in the last five seasons combined. In fairness, that spell took in a near two-year absence from the game due to a horrific leg break.

Far from coming to his boyhood club to be put out to pasture though after 12 years in English football, McCarthy says he has arrived here in his prime, and the 30-year-old is determined to prove that he is both fit and fired up to help Celtic back to the top of the Scottish game.

“I’m a good age to come here and I’m excited,” McCarthy said. “I want a new challenge, I want to make sure I do well here and I’m fully focused on doing well for this club.

“To be fair, the last two years I have been fit for the majority of games – near enough them all. Last season I had a wee issue. Nothing serious. I think I was out for two or three weeks with it.

“Apart from that, I’ve been fit and ready to go. It’s just been one way or another why I haven’t been selected but, as I said, I’m delighted to be here and really looking forward to a new challenge.

“I have been training on my own. I’ve been training at Lennoxtown the last couple of days so I feel good and they’re happy enough with what I’ve been doing away from the club. Now it’s just about when the manager is going to get me involved.

“For this summer I’ve been at home up here. I’ve been running, doing my own training and stuff. I feel good physically.

“I’ve been going to quiet, out of the way places in the morning to make sure I am ticking the boxes. I made sure I kept myself fit because you never know when the call is going to come.

“It’s been a long summer, not knowing what’s going to happen, but when this call came there was only one team I wanted to go to.”

The question of when McCarthy may be match-ready is one that even he isn’t sure of the answer to. In the end, it is only the opinion of Ange Postecoglou that matters, and McCarthy doesn’t know if tomorrow’s game against Dundee may come too soon.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I’ll be back involved with the team [on Saturday]. I don’t know if it’s this week, next week, two weeks. I just need to wait and see what the manager says.

“I know the medical staff here and spoken to them quite a lot since I’ve signed. They have said they will make sure I am up to speed before anything.

“As I said, I feel good. I have been training a lot on my own and had a couple of sessions this week. I’m looking forward to getting started with the team.”

Having made his Hamilton debut at the age of just 15, McCarthy knows only too well how difficult it is for young players making their first steps in the senior game. The pressure that comes with playing for a club like Celtic doesn’t exactly make it any easier.

That’s why he feels ideally placed to help the younger players in the Celtic squad at the moment, and he is happy to take on the mantle and responsibility that comes with now being one of the club’s senior professionals after experiencing every emotion the game has to offer during his time in England.

“I remember when I came through at 15 and I got away early from school to go in to Hamilton,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.

“There’s been highs and lows down south, as always. Winning the FA Cup (with Wigan) and playing with a big club like Everton was up there, as was being at Palace these last couple of years.

“There’s been ups and downs but I’m now home and what more could you ask for than playing for your boyhood club. This is what you dream of as a kid.

“I’m happy with the responsibility. I’m experienced now after 12 years in England and I’ve been through a lot. I’ll do whatever I can do to help anyone.

“There are guys here like Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Ryan Christie and now Joe Hart, so there are a few experiences heads in the dressing room and hopefully I can add to that. There’s a few young lads in there as well.

“It’s a good changing room and I’m looking forward to getting to work.

“It’s an exciting time. The gaffer’s style of play is really good from what I’ve seen and I can’t wait to get going. I’ve spoken to a few of the boys at the club and they speak really highly of him.

“It’s always the dream to win trophies here. That’s part and parcel of football. This season we’ve brought in a few boys and it’s about gelling together and kicking on.

“It was obviously a tough year [last year] but it’s a fresh start.

“We’ve got the fans back from Thursday, which will be a massive lift. It’s been a long time coming, and that will give everyone a huge lift.”

Unfortunately for McCarthy, he deems it hugely unlikely that his right-hand man James McArthur – who started out alongside him at Hamilton before they were teammates at Wigan and Crystal Palace – will be joining him at his new club this time around.

“We’ve followed each other throughout our careers but I can honestly say I don’t think he’ll be coming here!” he said. “Maybe the other side of the city!

“He’s still under contract down there so I might not be against him any time soon.

“He’s happy for me –he’s been winding me up on the text. I’ve known him since I was a wee boy, but he won’t be here anyway!”

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