Dave Gooderham: Counting the cost of not even reaching the play-offs for Town
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In his latest Town column, Dave Gooderham asks questions of Paul Lambert, tries to find some positives, and considers what the cost of not even reaching the play-offs could be to the Blues.
On a number of occasions this season, my Tuesday nights have gone something like this…
Finish work, coach my Under-8s and then dash back to the 'comfort' of my iPad to watch Ipswich Town via iFollow.
From a production point of view, it does what it needs to. Picture quality is good, the dulcet tones of Brenner Woolley a pleasure. It's £10 well spent - maybe.
I was questioning the wisdom of parting with 10 pounds while sitting through Tuesday night's insipid goalless draw with a pretty woeful AFC Wimbledon. But if they were woeful, Ipswich were little better.
"Why don't you just turn it off" said Mrs G with about 16 minutes on the clock. I was tempted, I really was, as I contemplated swapping screens and continuing the binge-watching of Ballers. Ironically, there was very few of them on show at Kingsmeadow.
But of course, I had paid that 10 pounds and something might happen. I couldn't turn it off and risk not seeing James Norwood smash home a volley rather than striking the crossbar or go clean through and...
As all football fans know, it's the hope that kills you. And there has been a lot of hope around Portman Road this season - whether at the start of the campaign, during those whirlwind first few months or turning a corner - we hoped - into the New Year. So much hope, now quickly turning into dread at the very real prospect that Ipswich won't make the play-offs, let alone the top two.
The run-in still seems very favourable, not least because of the amount of home games starting this Saturday. But the form is truly woeful, as is the lack of confidence running through the team. Question marks have once again been raised about the manager and his team selection.
Why deploy three quite defensive midfielders against a limited AFC Wimbledon instead of a Judge, Nolan or a further advanced Dozzell? Maybe even more annoying was the fact that none of that trio even kicked a ball in anger on Tuesday.
I always try and stay calm in these situations. Paul Lambert sees these players in training day in, day out. Maybe Dozzell is not doing enough on the training ground. As fans, all we can have is an opinion. It is the manager's decision that is final. As one supporter rightly pointed out on Twitter, Lambert's long-term contract presumably means we are with him for the long haul. So we need to support him and his team, now more than ever.
But what about next season? I go back to that £10. Or the £100 it costs me and my family to watch football at Portman Road. Would I pay either next season? Probably. Would I do it with so much regularity? Possibly not. Does that make me a bad fan of Ipswich Town? I'm not sure.
But I would argue that many more supporters will be thinking the same. Let's make this clear, our fans should be mightily proud of themselves this season. They have backed the Blues in their numbers, home and away. Every defeat or poor performance might be met with an avalanche of criticism and concern on social media. But they still flock to Portman Road, the Stadium of Light or the Kingsmeadow in fantastic numbers.
But what about next season? A failure to make the League One play-offs would inevitably result in Ipswich losing some young talents but it would probably also see a reduction in season ticket holders and certainly a reduction in casual fans who might view the club as reaching their level in League One. A depressing thought to go with a largely depressing column.
But I always want to try and stay (a bit) positive and end on a high note. This Saturday, Burton Albion at home, it could all be different. An early goal for Norwood would help a lot - and I would definitely start our number 10. He will come good again, I have no doubt.
It is also Community Trust Day at Portman Road and I, for one, think a £1 donation is nothing to support the work of the club's charitable arm.
Then there is Sunday. Manchester City Women v Ipswich Town Women in the fifth round of The Women's FA Cup. Fighting for a place in the quarter finals at the Etihad Campus is already a monumental achievement for the Tractor Girls. I hope they enjoy and relish the occasion and show everyone what they are about. Win, lose or draw - everyone connected with all aspects of Ipswich Town are incredibly proud of you.