Dave Gooderham: Last two have been poor, but we’re still in the fight - plus my top 12 Town players for Portman Road pillars
PUBLISHED: 16:23 05 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:34 05 February 2020
It has always been one of those journalistic conundrums, writes Dave Gooderham. How far do you push the constructive criticism of the team you are reporting on?
Sometimes a football writer can't win. Seen to be too soft, and the world of social media and message boards will soon come down on you. Too critical, and more than a few people will say you are only out to sell papers or get clicks on a website. Sit on the fence - well, that's never an option!
Being a columnist rather than a full-time football writer, I have no such constraints. Or do I? I can't help harbouring more than a few nagging doubts. Over the owner, the manager, the lack of transfer activity, our inability to beat anyone in the top six or perform for a whole 90 minutes.
There is also a fear of my Ipswich Town becoming a yo-yo club, bouncing between League One and the Championship. Of course, we have to get to the Championship first.
They are my doubts, some stronger than others. But I also don't want to appear too kneejerk or downbeat. Despite the last two results, Ipswich are still very much in a promotion fight. They have a decent-looking run-in and our problems have not come against sides below us.
There have been teams in the recent past who have stuttered their way towards promotion and then turned it on when it really mattered. And we do have players who can turn it on.
Then there is a delicious sense of history and excitement in equal measure. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of that play-off win, the finest match I have ever witnessed in my 35 years watching live football. A game that had everything and ended with the perfect result.
I can't lie. If I could choose the path and the result, I would rather go up with a play-off win at Wembley. I know a league title should be celebrated more, but taking my boys to the home of English football, experiencing, savouring every last drop of it, would be something truly memorable. But only if we win of course.
So for now, let's continue focusing on the top two even if Ipswich may have just lost consecutive games against the sides most likely to achieve automatic promotion. Saturday's trip to Sunderland will be another indicator, but most fans would take a point. Which is a little depressing given recent results, but also completely understandable.
All eyes will then be on that run-in - which of course includes nine of the last 13 games being at home. Turn Portman Road into a fortress and the tide could turn in our favour. But for me, that is more down to the players. As my esteemed colleague Mike Bacon wrote this week, there can be no accusations levelled at our incredible, but long-suffering, fans.
With the future still very much up in the air, a lot of attention has once again reverted back to our historic past. The club have started canvassing fans for their top 12 players with the winners going on pillars around the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand.
It is a great idea. I have long thought - and indeed used this column to articulate - that our past is not celebrated enough. I don't mean with anniversary after anniversary. But just simple graphics around the ground that highlight our fantastic past achievements.
As for who the 12 will be, or should be, that will be a matter of some conjecture although a few players are pretty much guaranteed. A fantastic suggestion on Twitter was to have 12 members of the 1961/62 Division One-winning squad - to go in the stand bearing the name of the great Sir Alf. A similar fitting tribute could then be devised for the Sir Bobby Robson Stand with more modern-day players elsewhere in the ground.
But for now, in no particular order, and some for different reasons than others, here are my two lists of 12 - one from players I have seen and one from across our club's past..
DG Top 12: Kevin Beattie, John Wark, Alan Brazil, Paul Mariner, Allan Hunter, Terry Butcher, Mick Mills, Matt Holland, Ray Crawford, George Burley, John Elsworthy, Ted Phillips.
DG Top 12 of players I have seen: Bartosz Bialkowski, Tony Mowbray, John Wark, Luke Chambers, Matt Holland, Marcus Stewart, Martijn Reuser, Richard Wright, David McGoldrick, Fabian Wilnis, Tommy Smith, Jim Magilton.
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