By Stuart Watson
Thursday, March 14, 2013
COULD Ipswich Town be about to follow the Stoke City blueprint?
The Potters looked to be slipping towards relegation in 2002/03. Then Tony Pulis was appointed manager on November 2 and – after suffering a 6-0 to Nottingham Forest amid a turbulent start – he soon began to install a hard-to-beat ethos into his side, finishing the campaign with nine clean sheets from 14.
There were four goalless draws during that run and four 1-0 victories, with Ade Akinbiyi’s winning goal against Reading on the final day just about securing safety. Pulis’ men stayed up by the skin of their teeth, with just 45 goals scored and 69 conceded.
Ipswich were rock-bottom when Mick McCarthy, left, took over on November 1 and there were some heavy defeats – 5-0 at Crystal Palace and 6-0 at Leicester – during his first few weeks in charge.
Since then he has managed to bring some organisation to the side. The goals may have dried up, just two in the last seven, but there have been five clean sheets in the last eight.
Replicate that over the remaining eight matches and the Blues are on course for a goalscoring total of 43 for and 63 against.
That’s virtually identical to Stoke’s aforementioned record of a decade ago.
The rest, as they say, is history, regarding the latter. Pulis, right, is now in his tenth full season at the Britannia Stadium, with his side currently looking to retain their Premier League status for a fifth consecutive campaign.
It’s not always been pretty, with the style of football a subject of much debate, but there is no arguing that it brought significant progress to a club that looked destined to forever make up the numbers in the Championship.
With eight games to go, the prospect of Ipswich Town being relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in more than half a century is very much in the balance.
However, if they do extend their Championship status to 12 consecutive seasons, then there may – at last – be a solid platform to build upon.