Dave Gooderham: It’s all going superbly but there are still things to put right – starting on Sunday!
© Copyright Stephen Waller
It comes around a little too quick but the international break does give us time to ponder, dissect – and even carry out a SWOT analysis of the season so far, writes Dave Gooderham.
Many fans, players, managers will be thinking about what could have been or what should have been. A dodgy decision here, a missed chance there and things could be different.
Ipswich Town, thankfully, have no such thoughts. A quarter of the way through the season, they sit beautifully - never mind prettily - on top of League One, yet to taste defeat in the third tier.
A cup run, albeit in a cup everyone plays down, is going well with most relishing the opportunity of ending the season at Wembley - and I don't mean via the play-offs.
We're scoring goals, putting up a wall at the other end, and everyone is smiling, on and off the pitch. The dismal - and I'm being kind there - points haul of last season and the dismal football of the last few years are now a distant memory.
Where Paul Lambert has played a particular blinder, for me, is in his squad rotation. Even with my tender Under 8s, I know keeping everyone happy with game time is a delicate balancing act and the toughest part of coaching.
Throw in egos, agents and big wages - I mean in professional football not Year 3 school age - and it must be a constant headache for the Town boss. Or so you would think.
There doesn't seem to be any bickering or moaning on the sidelines despite the fact many players might have expected more game time in the third tier. Andre Dozell, I'm looking at you.
This situation is obviously helped by the fact Ipswich are winning. Any player banging on the door of the manager's office can simply be moved on with the sight of the current League One table put in front of him.
But Lambert has also taken a considered view of what he needs to make this season such a success. There is a relentless league schedule plus a hopeful prolonged run in the EFL Trophy and rearranged matches. And maybe, just maybe, a win or two in the FA Cup to come. Now I really am in dreamland!
This squad strength that we have spoke about since day one of the season is now coming to the fore and Lambert is using it perfectly. The EFL Trophy games are keeping certain players fresh while the likes of Jon Nolan, Alan Judge and Emyr Huws can be used in virtual rotation.
On that note, we were greeted this week with the news that Flynn Downes' England excursions means he's a doubt for the televised game with Accrington on Sunday.
Downes has arguably been our best performer thus far - and that is a interesting argument to have. But there are two or three options for Lambert to ponder and peruse. Huws and Nolan, with Cole Skuse, would be my shout.
How Lambert keeps everyone happy is a mystery but an important part of being a successful manager. It also might point to another example of the long-term planning, ironically aided by Town's inevitable relegation last season.
Let's say the manager started accepting, privately, that Ipswich were going down on March 2nd. We had just lost at home to Reading and we were drawing games we had to win either side of that fixture.
In truth, it may well have been before that. But using March as a marker, Lambert had two months of last season to start planning his assault on League One, never mind the summer.
This head start allowed him to quickly work out who he wanted to keep, areas he wanted to strengthen and what it takes to be successful in a gruelling campaign.
I remember looking at the squad pre-season and thinking there were too many attack-minded midfielders, including the likes of Teddy Bishop and Dozzell, and that it might prove impossible to keep everyone happy.
But Lambert appears to have achieved that across his squad, being equally adept at dealing with selection posers in the heart of the defence and attack. This all bodes well, as everything pretty much has since the first ball was kicked in August.
So what could go wrong? Well we have the draw for the FA Cup first round on Monday night and we know what our record is like in that competition.
And then there is the small matter of Accrington. On Sunday. On television. The last time we recorded a win in front of live cameras was a quite staggering 21 games ago.
Seven draws and 13 defeats since Brett Pitman scored the only goal away to MK Dons in December 2015. It's definitely time to right that particular wrong!
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