E-mails: Is Mick McCarthy Ipswich Town’s ‘Mr Right’? Blues fans have their say
Ipswich Town were booed off the field following Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to relegation-battling Rotherham. Blues fans have been sending in their thoughts via e-mail.
There is a line I recall from some awful film. A woman, explaining her relationship, says of her current beau ‘he isn’t Mr Right, but he is Mr Right Now’. The line came back to me when Town appointed Mick. I knew his reputation for slightly dour football. I knew that he had a conservative approach to team selection. But back then it didn’t matter at all.
After years of chronic mismanagement we were bound for League One. I remember how it felt after Jewell’s last game and Hutchings’ one game in charge. We were an utter, utter shambles. Mick came in, sorted the back four out brilliantly and led us on a heady charge up the table. Mick may not have been ‘in the Ipswich tradition’ but he was Mr Right Now alright.
Relegation avoided, squad strengthened and a succession of improving league finishes culminating in the play-off appearance last year. And there, if this was a movie, we would have beaten Norwich and the credits would have rolled.
Sadly life doesn’t work that way. Instead we have had the season after the one before. And it has been a frustrating one for all concerned.
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In mitigation, Town have been hugely unlucky with our more creative players this year. Fraser, Bishop and (inevitably) McGoldrick have spent much of the season unavailable. Maitland-Niles has dipped in form, Oar decided to head back down under while Bru has continued to frustrate and delight in equal measure. The net result is that we have struggled to create chances. Murphy and Sears are short of goals and, I think, confidence.
And yet. Those of us who saw the Blackburn game knew that the midfield didn’t work. We struggled to break down a highly limited Blackburn side. The cracks were papered over by the penalty and by Varney and Murphy’s excellent work on the break late on. Mick, being Mick, went into the Rotherham game with the ‘don’t change a winning side’ maxim. It’s a rule I normally subscribe to but it was so clear that the midfield needed adjustment. Besides, we had acquired Feeney, so we had more options now.
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But Mick stuck with it, and we all know what happened. It was a horrible game and a horrible result. To be fair, Mick has held his hands up to a large part of the blame for it, but he is right to do so. I know that Mick knows infinitely more about football than me, so why could he not see that the Douglas-Hyam-Skuse axis simply wasn’t going to work?
Mick is, I believe, a man with a method. And it’s a pretty good one, as we saw last season. But football is a fluid, fast-moving game and it requires management to be flexible sometimes. And this, I think, is where Mick can struggle sometimes. He is a conservative manager, and it is this reluctance to change things that has frustrated fans at times.
Having said that, some of the opprobrium hurled at him this season has been completely over the top. ‘Worst Town manager ever!’ Really? Some people have very short memories. It is worth remembering too that Mick has been given virtually no money to spend on transfer fees, unlike some of his less successful predecessors.
Nevertheless, it is my belief that it is valid to re-ask the question. Is Mick Ipswich Town’s Mr Right, or even Mr Right Now? My feeling is that the answer to the first question is ‘no’ and that it probably always will be. When other teams claim to have a ‘way’ (see Derby sacking Paul Clement) I always react with some scepticism. But there is no doubt that those of us of a certain vintage know what it is to see Ipswich carve the opposition up. And having seen it, we can never forget it.
Mick is not that guy. We know it, and I suspect that deep down, he does too. So that brings us to the second question – is he still our Mr Right Now?
There are convincing arguments both ways. I suspect that, in the immediate aftermath of Rotherham-gate, the answer among those who attended would have been an overwhelming ‘NO’. But it is worth thinking about the question a little more dispassionately.
The problems Mick has – chiefly the lack of transfer funds to invest in the squad – are unlikely to disappear with a change of management. That isn’t to say that all the issues are beyond Mick’s control, far from it. However, what I am trying to do is think dispassionately about what a change of manager could do for us. Of course that depends on who is available, but I believe it would have to a very good manager to improve on Mick.
The football world is full of clubs who live to regret changing managers. Of course sometimes it works too (Leicester!) but I think that, after having his fingers burned with Keane and Jewell, Marcus Evans will be cautious.
So do I think Mick remains Mr Right Now? Well yes I think I do – with conditions. If he is to guide us through next season, he must adapt. It is hard to believe we will have such a difficult season with creative players next season, so the buck will most surely stop with Mick.
I do confess an affection for the man – his sense of humour is priceless – and I do want him to succeed. But even I am not prepared too many more performances like Saturday.
STEVE RANSOM, TRIMLEY
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Defeat to Rotherham on Saturday has by no means put an end to the play off push, but has fans reflecting on the team’s credentials to achieve it. The usual mutterings of discontent increased to something more significant at the sound of the final whistle for the first time in a long time.
Mick has been popular throughout his tenure. It is a period in which the club has been transformed from relegation fodder to promotion candidates. The well publicised and modest resources created an underdog mentality that the terraces quickly warmed to. The team cared and it felt good to be winning again.
It feels like that is no longer enough. Mick is charming and honest, witty and intelligent. These characteristics have at times masked the methods that underpin his success, methods that have not been questioned as the club recovered from the turbulent years of Keane and Jewell.
I cannot deny that I am irked at plenty of Mick’s decisions. Citing a fabulous attitude, Frazer Richardson was selected on the right wing for a must win game on the final day of the season at Ewood Park. Fox-in-the-box Brett Pitman and last season’s 20-goal man Freddie Sears are regularly deployed as contingent full-backs away from home. More topically, the midfield threesome of sideways passers Skuse, Douglas and Hyam were selected at home against a side occupying a place in the bottom three. All puzzle and enrage in equal measure.
The loyalty shown to the back four is commendable, their desire to throw themselves in front of anything that moves is too, but it has been apparent since the departure of Tyrone Mings that it requires an injection of pace. I shiver at the thought of watching another Knusden long throw, Tommy Smith taking his nine-iron out of the bag to send a free-kick down the line in the vague vicinity of Chambers’ head, or our talented forwards chasing aimless balls like gun dogs.
The caveat to all of this though, is that the club’s most technical footballers have been unavailable for selection for the majority of the season.
Financial resources are going to continue to be strained and the renegotiated Premier League television deal is going to make it even more difficult to succeed in the Championship. It is also unlikely that we are going to sell a left-back for millions of pounds every year.
Mick recently signed a new deal. He is Marcus Evans’ only successful appointment and has earned the right to continue. I just don’t want to watch it.
DAN HURN, COLCHESTER
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Whilst not condoning the booing at Saturday’s match against Rotherham I think this was firmly aimed out of frustration at the manager’s team selection and negative tactics.
I have no doubt that he is a very good man manager and is very loyal to the players, but surely questions need to be asked. Why does Mick McCarthy always set up his side to counter the opposition irrespective of the team we are playing? Why not play to our strengths and let the opponents worry about us for a change? Why play such a negative midfield?
If he based his team selection on the previous result against Blackburn then I’m afraid his loyalty is sadly misguided. OK, we got the win, but the football was once again woeful with little or no creativity in midfield.
On Saturday we had the players on the bench to do the job. Two weeks ago Kevin Foley was man-of-the-match, providing energy and creativity in the midfield and now he cannot get into the team.
Continually playing territorial rather than possession football provides limited success and generally results in the defence being put under pressure more quickly. All this talk about players ‘doing one for the team’ and playing out of position is so counter productive and unnecessary. Why not play to the players’ strengths?
Yes, we all thank Mick for stabilising the club at a very vulnerable time, but surely we are well past that point now? We all had high expectations in August that this was going to be an exciting season, but sadly the reverse has been the case and the entertainment value has been very poor.
Driving to the match on Saturday I was listening to Radio Suffolk and they mentioned that the Rotherham game was going to be the first ever Ipswich fixture watched by a young girl called Emily. I can well remember my first ever Ipswich match when we beat the double winners Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 on the 21st October 1961 on our way to winning the old First Division. Sadly for the young lady on Saturday her first ever experience will be one to forget.
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Normally I stew on a bad performance, but this was more than that. With a chance of still being able to get into the play-offs we showed no steel about our performance and no real commitment to get back in the match after conceding.
With the exception of a couple of players (Sears and Feeney) we lacked a team spirit and a fight to get into the game. We have no midfield and hence we play a long ball game which is so frustrating. As for Knudsen and his throws what do we gain? Surely the management should be able to sort this out and get them motivated?
With season ticket renewals on our doorsteps and a decision to make as to whether to renew or not it makes it extremely difficult to keep faith with what’s happening. It’s bad enough renewing when you don’t know what your team will be next year, but currently this lack of performance is putting more strain on renewing.
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A couple of weeks ago you kindly printed my views in the fans’ letters special your paper carried. Since then things have deteriorated even more for my beloved club. I’m writing this to let you know how a genuine long standing (and I like to think fair-minded) Town fan is now feeling.
I have genuine respect for Mick McCarthy. Hhis record as a manager in the game is rightly held in the highest regard and I feel we were lucky to get him when we did. He certainly saved Town from relegation and I will always be thankful for that.
But now as this oh-so-disappointing season slowly dies out it MUST be time for a change of manager come the end of it. Mick McCarthy is not going to change his approach to tactics/systems or types of players he brings in. If Marcus Evans gives him, let’s say £5m or (laughably) even £10m this summer, does anyone really imagine he will go out and buy a Jim Magilton type playmaker? Of course not! He will just spend good money on like-for-like players in the same mould of Hyam or Douglas AND still play Skuse alongside him. His loyalty to certain players is also his biggest weakness.
He will not change that back four and I fear a repeat of the Rhodes fiasco under a previous manager where players leave who never got a chance, simply because they will never be picked over his favourites who are untouchable. Players like Matt Clarke and Josh Yorwerth should be our way forward. But they will probably be let go.
And if Mick is still here in 12 months time, we will still be mid-table with the same back four and setting up at home not to lose first and foremost.
My last point is probably at the heart of the matter. Entertainment – or lack of it. What we now watch is truly awful. I want to come and watch a good game of footie, hopefully win but overall walk out of the ground after a game thinking I really enjoyed that. I don’t expect Barcelona style football, or a return to Sir Bobby’s style or even a George Burley style team. But crowds will never come back to Portman Road while Mick McCarthy stays with his approach.
I’m not demanding or even expecting promotion, I just want some half-decent football to watch!
After last Tuesday’s dour win over Blackburn I gave my season ticket for Saturday’s game to my friend Chris who hadn’t been for over a year simply because I couldn’t face more of the same. Sadly I was proved right. It’s not the first time this season I’ve done it either. And, of course, my mate wont be returning anytime soon either.
Thirty-one years a season ticket holder, although That doesn’t make me any more important then any other Town fan. I’ve seen a few good teams in all those seasons and a fair few bad ones too! But never one that’s made me question whether to actually bother going to Portman Road. Until now.
The club ignores its fans views at its peril. So for me it’s time for change, sadly. The club is more important then any one manager, managing director or owner.
We need a young hungry manager, someone like Gary Monk perhaps. But definitely not one of the old guard so often trotted out as candidates.