Record, signings, crowds and relationships - looking back on McCarthy’s time at Town
- Credit: Archant
The Mick McCarthy era at Ipswich Town is officially over, as he walked out of the club on Tuesday night. Andy Warren looks back at his time at Portman Road
In the fullness of time, Mick McCarthy’s tenure as Ipswich Town boss may well be looked back on fondly.
But the messy divorce which has followed a breakdown in a once blissful relationship sadly overshadows the undoubted happy times which came before.
McCarthy exited stage left following Tuesday night’s victory over Barnsley – a pre-planned move following talks with owner Marcus Evans in the days prior – bringing an end to an eventful 13 days since it was first revealed he would be departing at the end of the season.
It quickly became clear the parting of ways should have been immediate, with McCarthy admitting his fire had gone out as he acted as a caretaker in his own job.
That fire had once shone oh-so-brightly, as the outgoing boss revived a squad seemingly destined for League One after arriving in 2012, kept them in the Championship and transformed them into unlikely promotion contenders in 2014/15 as he battled the financial restraints placed upon him.
There is no doubt he leaves the squad in a better state than he found it, with a core of good players and characters in the dressing room, but he also leaves at a time when crowds have dipped to a near 20-year low, with his relationship with the club’s support seemingly broken beyond repair.
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His replacement will need to begin the mission to win back hearts and minds of those lapsed fans, but how McCarthy’s reign is truly remembered will be closely tied to how events unfold without him over the coming months.
McCarthy departs after 1,987 days in charge, having played 279 games, winning 105 of those, drawing 76 and losing 98 at a win percentage of 37.6%. His Ipswich side scored 342 and conceded 335.
His five completed seasons yielded finishes of 14th, 9th, 6th, 7th and 16th, with the last of those the club’s lowest in 58 years, while he leaves a team sat 12th in the Championship with four matches to play.
There was no victory over rivals Norwich in any of McCarthy’s eight battles with the Canaries, including two games in the 2014/15 play-off semi-finals, while his cup record includes just two wins inside 90 minutes over 18 ties. He leaves without an FA Cup win in 10 matches and six cup exits to lower-league sides.
McCarthy signed a total of 81 playes during his reign at Portman Road, made up of 39 free transfers, 29 loans and nine players costing in excess of £100,000. 56% of his signings have made less than 10 starts, while only eight have scored 10 goals or more.
He has spent an estimated £3.3million along the way, on the likes of Adam Webster, Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn, Jonas Knudsen and Emyr Huws, but has brought in in excess of £14million over that time with the sales of Tyrone Mings, Daryl Murphy, Aaron Cresswell and Kieffer Moore.
Success stories include the acquisitions of Cole Skuse, David McGoldrick, Bartosz Bialkowski and Christophe Berra - all key members of the side which reached the play-offs - while the signings of Cameron Stewart, Leon Best and Piotr Malarczyk, among others, will go down as misses in the transfer market.
While many aspects of McCarthy’s reign is subjective, one thing written in stone is the declining crowd levels at Portman Road.
He averaged 17.526 during his first season in charge, reached a peak average attendance of 19.603 during the play-off season before slumping to near 20-year lows during the current campaign. On four occasions in the last two months, against Burton, Cardiff, Hull and Barnsley, the announced attendance of a little over 13,000 was considerably higher than the estimated crowd as season ticket holders opted not to attend.
Relationship with the fans
At its best, McCarthy’s bond with the club’s supporters created an ‘us against the world’ feeling as the Blues’ band of brothers battled budget constraints to challenge for promotion. But as the years rolled on and things got tougher on the pitch, that bond disappeared.
His comments suggesting he and his players were ‘inside the tent peeing out’ and that it was his mission to block out those on the outside, highlights just how attitudes had shifted.
His comments suggesting fans’ clamouring for Bersant Celina at Burton only lessened his desire to introduce the Kosovan can be seen as the beginning of the end in that respect, while his gesture towards the Ipswich fans at Norwich in February was the final nail in the coffin for many.
Even since news of his planned summer departure broke, McCarthy has referred to sections of the support as ‘numbskulls’ while he described the boos that greeted Barry Cotter’s substitution on Tuesday night as a ‘disgraceful’.
Some of the personal insults he has suffered along that road perhaps justified that response, but a man of his position and experience should surely be able to rise above that.
Sadly, as he departs, it is these memories of McCarthy that are strongest in the minds of many. Whether that changes or not may depend on how the future pans out.