The Wolverhampton Wanderers manager could be found on Friday casting himself as the prodigal son returning. "They'll be killing the fatted calf as we speak," he joked when asked what sort of reception he expected from the home fans.
It is interesting that McCarthy should expect to get a warm welcome on returning to the Stadium of Light (for he was not being sarcastic). True, he did get Sunderland promoted from the Championship, but having got them up he never once managed to win a Premier League game while he was in charge of the club, a record so bad he must have been tempted to rename the place the Stadium of Darkness.
Of course, much of the reason for that failure was not of his own making, but instead the shortage of funds that were made available to him on promotion from the Championship. In fact, he was given just £6m to spend on transfer fees, wages and agents' fees: not enough to prevent the club's immediate return to the second tier.
Sunderland is now managed by McCarthy's friend Steve Bruce, and the pair spoke briefly at Sir Bobby Robson's thanksgiving service in the week, although McCarthy reported that the £60 million that Bruce is understood to have been given to build the squad was not brought up. Doesn't he feel even the slightest bit jealous that Bruce has been given such a fund of cash to strengthen the club, the sort he was never given himself?
"It's all about timing isn't it," McCarthy responded, "but honestly I'm not bothered. If you want me to start wishing my life back, I wish I was still fit enough to play for Manchester City. If I had one wish, it wouldn't be to go back to Sunderland as a manager and have all that money to spend, it'd be playing with City in that team, at the top of the Premier League, and earning £100k a week, with £4million in my own bin."