“I can’t recall that first season, but I know it didn’t go too well,” said McCarthy.
“You know, we’d been doing okay, and I couldn’t for the life of me think why it didn’t go well. It was a difficult end of the season.
“We were a bit of a mixed bag all throughout and I don’t think we ever went on a real run where we won five, six, seven games in a row. I was only there from December 1983, so I don’t know what went on beforehand. I do remember we went back to Barnsley within a couple of weeks of me signing for City.
“I got a great reception, but my mates were funny because they were walking to the game, as all my pals went to all the games back then, and they told me afterwards as they were walking down the Pontefract Road towards the ground,.
“One of them recalled, ‘We heard the lads as we were walking down with all the chats around were about you.’
I’d only just left and I’ve played 272 league games, I’ve been the captain, I’ve been player the year for three or four occasions at Barnsley, and he’s telling me all the fans are saying, ‘What about this McCarthy then? Ah, he weren’t any good anyway when he played here – we’ll sort him out when he comes back here!’
By the time they got to the terrace, they’re still talking – different people this time – it’s like I’m the talk of Oakwell that day because I’m coming back with City and my mates heard such comments as, ‘He was never any good anyway, you know, we should have sold him earlier,’ and ‘We did well to get £200,000 for him!’
“Then the game starts, and I win the first header and my mates hear more comments – I went into a tackle, and another tackle, and then they were saying, ‘He wasn’t that bad was he – he was alright?” and then, after about 15 minutes, ‘Why the hell did we sell him so cheaply? He’s been our best player!’
“It was hilarious, it went from complete bitterness to resentment, to ‘wow, he’s a good player,’ and I still laugh to this day about that.
“I think we were tipped for promotion because we were Manchester City and we had a decent team, and we maybe could have got there, but just don’t think we were good enough.”
The 1984/85 campaign – Mick’s first full season with City – was a completely different story, however.
McNeill’s City were in and among the top three for most of the season, until it came down to the final day and a home game against Charlton Athletic.
A win meant promotion back to the First Division, while a loss and a win for Portsmouth who were just behind the Blues and Pompey would go up instead.
City fans had experienced these occasions too many times to count their chickens, but there was the added worry of not having the inspirational Mick McCarthy available.
As more than 47,000 packed into Maine Road, the knowledge that our most dependable defender – plus the excellent Nicky Reid – were both sidelined added extra tension to the sun-drenched crowd that day.
“I was suspended,” he recalled.
“I think it was probably an accumulation of bookings. I was suspended and Nicky Reid was as well. I think Reidy and me were sat down near the dugout in the Main Stand. Billy played Andy May at centre half, and Kenny Clements alongside him.
“The Bank Holiday Monday before the Charlton game, we must have taken 10 or 12,000 to Notts County, but we lost 3-2 and oh man, there was a riot that day in the dressing room and with our fans.”
But, even without McCarthy, City delivered to an ecstatic home crowd.
“I think Charlton started okay, then we scored an early goal -Andy May, wasn’t it?