The first Reading youth graduate to earn a call-up to the England senior set-up since the Berkshire club started their academy in 1998, Alex McCarthy had always been a goalkeeper with a bright future.
The current Southampton shot-stopper spent seven years in the first-team squad at the Royals and, mixed with several loan spells to lower league clubs, he amassed 75 appearances at the Madejski Stadium.
After starring for Reading in their 2013-14 campaign in the Championship, McCarthy moved to big-spending Queen’s Park Rangers that summer, aged 24.
It would be three-and-a-half seasons until he would gain regular first-team football since, with a series of misguided career choices and a lack of trust from his managers being the problem.
The Guildford-native played only four times for the West London club before moving across the capital to Crystal Palace the following year for £3.5m. One season and just seven appearances later, he joined current club Southampton.
It looked to be another poor choice for a goalkeeper who was quickly fading out of the general consciousness. With just two first-team appearances in his debut season, he was fielded just four more times before January 2018.
Patience paying off
The Saints were plummeting under boss Mauricio Pellegrino but the form of long-standing first-choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster was of increasing concern which culminated in a 5-2 defeat at Tottenham on Boxing Day.
The former Celtic goalkeeper was dropped in January and McCarthy was handed his chance. He has not looked back since. Starring in the south coast’s side end of season run-in, the goalkeeper was a key reason behind Southampton’s ultimate survival under Mark Hughes.
In the final five matches of the campaign, he conceded just three goals as the Saints defied the odds to stay in the top flight. Now three successive seasons of patiently waiting for his chance at QPR, Crystal Palace and finally Saints have ended, the goalkeeper is rediscovering his once-coveted potential.
He has now been linked with a potential move to Tottenham, who are said to be interesting in adding a goalkeeper who is both capable of challenging for a starting position but also one who is willing to sit on the bench, with Hugo Lloris expected to remain in North London for next season.
McCarthy has already shown such patience in his rise to the Premier League, this may not be something he wishes to repeat. The keeper has played the waiting game in the past, playing second fiddle to Rob Green at QPR as well as Wayne Hennessey at Crystal Palace and Forster at Saints.
He is the first choice at St. Mary’s and had his run in the first team been afforded earlier, he could well be on his way to the World Cup this summer. As it is, the future looks bright for McCarthy, but surely his relish for first-team football will see him stay put this summer.
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