Fixture computer has provided Ipswich Town with a golden chance to change the negative narrative

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy is preparing for his fifth full season in charge at Portman Road. Ph

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy is preparing for his fifth full season in charge at Portman Road. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD

A fast start is crucial if Ipswich Town are to change the negative narrative.

The Championship fixture list was announced yesterday morning with the Blues handed what, on paper at least, looks a reasonable set of opening matches.

Birmingham City, a club who were embroiled in a relegation battle last season but who have renewed ambition under Harry Redknapp, visit Portman Road on the opening weekend of August 5.

Then, after a midweek League Cup tie at League Two side Luton, it’s trips to Barnsley and Millwall – two of only four teams with shorter odds for relegation than Town at present.

What happens in those 11 days will go a long way to determining the mood surrounding the Blues.

Right now, there is still an over-riding sense of pessimism, cynicism and, most sad of all, sheer apathy among loyal supporters following the club’s lowest finish in 58 years.

The feeling of stagnation surrounding the club goes back longer than just a year. This will be Town’s 16th successive season in the second-tier and a lack of entertainment value on Suffolk soil has been an issue for at least 18 months.

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Debates surrounding manager Mick McCarthy’s style of play and owner Marcus Evans’ limited spending refuse to go away. Around 2,000 season ticket holders have decided not to renew this summer. To say the club is at a major crossroads is an understatement.

The Championship, one of the most competitive leagues in the world, looks stronger than ever. Town have been treading water and sooner rather than later their legs will get tired. To buck this worrying trend, Evans must loosen the purse strings and McCarthy must loosen the tactical shackles.

A start has been made. Joe Garner – a £1m recruit from Rangers – is a pest of a striker. Town certainly need players like him if they are to regain their reputation of being a team that others hate to play.

Skilful Kosovan winger Bersant Cellina, who will join on a season-long loan from Manchester City, can hopefully provide some much-needed X-Factor.

Positive, dynamic, whole-hearted performances from a new-look outfit would see pressure dissipate. More pragmatic words, actions and forgettable footballing fare would see bad feeling fester further. A fast start is crucial.

• See today’s EADT and Ipswich Star for your fixture poster.