McGoldrick’s ‘living a dream’ during Ipswich Town’s nightmare... but it was still the right decision to let him leave
- Credit: Archant
Of all the former Ipswich Town players plying their trade in the Premier League, none provoke a reaction like David McGoldrick.
There’s a sense of pride when we’re reminded Tyrone Mings and Aaron Cresswell used to wear Blue, while the likes of Ryan Fraser, Mark Noble and Adam Webster are remembered fondly. Then there’s Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, whose 10 appearances in 2012, when the Ipswich goalkeeping merry-go-round was in full swing, are largely forgotten.
But then there’s McGoldrick.
Should he have stayed? Were Ipswich right to release him? Was he overrated or underrated? Would Town be in the position they are now had he been kept around?
The striker was a hot topic of conversation in Ipswich circles again at the weekend as he found the net twice in Sheffield United’s victory over Chelsea, notching his first Premier League goals. Those goals were far from stunners, but they did provide the platform for all those associated with the Blades to proclaim aloud just how vital the forward has been to their side.
MORE: The inside story on McGoldrick’s Ipswich departure in 2018Two goals in 26 league games isn’t anything to get too excited about from a striker’s perspective, but he’s proved to be so much more than that for United. Manager Chris Wilder called him ‘one of the best I’ve worked with’ while praising his attitude and work ethic.
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McGoldrick’s impact in the Premier League isn’t limited to the football pitch, either, with the former Ipswich man said to have been pivotal in the top flight players’ support of Black Lives Matter by taking a knee prior to games. That level of exposure and education is clearly needed, too, given the sickening levels of abuse black players, McGoldrick included, receive on social media.
It’s been quite the journey at Bramall Lane. Successful trial, one-year deal, quickfire new contract, player-of-the-year award, promotion, Premier League and soon, possibly, Europe.
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It’s mad to think that just two years ago he was a free agent following his release from Portman Road.
But for my money it was absolutely the right decision. Both for McGoldrick himself and for the club.
Full disclosure, I only regularly watched McGoldrick during the 2017/18 season, which ended up being his final one with the Blues.
I was, of course, well aware just how highly thought of he was at Ipswich and how well he had done for the club during much of the previous four-and-a-half years. I’d seen flashes of it myself and heard about plenty more from others.
But in that final season he struggled for fitness, scoring eight goals in 24 games but featuring just five times after the turn of the year. It was becoming difficult to see where he would fit into the team, with Martyn Waghorn playing the linking role in attack and McGoldrick even played wide on the left of midfield.
Such was his desire to create, he found himself dropping deeper and deeper in search of the ball, so much so that, if he was able to launch an attack he would struggle to get back into the final third to attempt to be on the end of a final ball.
I saw a player who needed a fresh start, new ideas and a change of scene.
The fact he later admitted publicly he was lacking in motivation proves that point. “I believe I had lost my way a bit,” he said in March 2019. “I don’t think you realise it until you’re in that sort of situation. I maybe got a bit too comfortable at Ipswich, although I loved my time there.
“But we were mid-table every week and there was no big expectations to go out there and win every game.”
The problem McGoldrick has described there was bigger than just himself. He can’t have been the only player feeling that way, which perhaps in part hints at why a change of approach was needed in the summer of 2018 in the wake of Mick McCarthy’s departure.
He was already out the door before the appointment of Paul Hurst and, as the former Town boss stated, ‘wasn’t on the budget sheet’. McCarthy foresaw McGoldrick’s departure months earlier when he suggested he and ‘Didzy’ ‘could walk hand in hand through the golden gates’.
Through those gates they went and, clearly, things went horribly wrong in the following months. That summer accelerated a downward spiral and was a big part of why Ipswich find themselves in the depths of League One right now.
I’d argue McGoldrick wasn’t one of the headline reasons for the rapid descent, though. The decisions to allow Webster, Joe Garner and Waghorn to depart are far more debatable. though that’s ground that doesn’t need to be gone over now. At the time of McGoldrick’s departure, 87% of fans told our online poll the decision to allow him to leave was the right one. I’d have voted that way too and so would, with the benefit of hindsight, McGoldrick.
It’s been reported McCarthy told Wilder that his former striker’s injury problems weren’t helped by the fact he was regular commuting from his family’s home in Nottingham to Suffolk. That’s not sustainable for anyone, let alone an athlete.
The move couldn’t have worked out better for the 32-year-old, who last weekend admitted he’s ‘living a dream’ in the top flight. One thing’s for sure, he wouldn’t be living that dream now had he remained at Ipswich Town, with the Blues suffering a nightmare 24 months since.
But we can’t be revisionist on this one. Ipswich and McGoldrick both needed to part ways.
The latter kept up his end of the bargain and prospered in a new environment while embracing change.
The same, so very sadly, cannot be said for Ipswich Town.