Don’t write off Town’s season - give them a chance
What a contrast to last year. Blues fans are a bedraggled lot right now, but my message today is “Don’t write off your team yet - give them a chance.”
IPSWICH TOWN: What a contrast to last year. Blues fans are a bedraggled lot right now, but my message today is: ‘Don’t write off your team yet.
‘Give them a chance’
Twelve months ago the hype surrounding Town’s hopes of doing well in the Championship matched the huge expectations that England carried into this summer’s World Cup finals.
This summer it could hardly be more opposite with depressing forecasts of a scrap to avoid a drop down to League One and the fear of finishing below Norwich City.
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In July 2009 Town were fourth favourites to gain promotion to the Premier League – behind the three clubs relegated the previous campaign – and Roy Keane’s arrival and victories in the final two matches of 2008/09 had put Ipswich fans into a near frenzy.
What followed was the worst ever start in the club’s history with no league wins until the very last game of October as Town were soon found to be ill-equipped to mount any sort of promotion challenge – as inept as England in their quest for glory in South Africa.
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And there were similarities with England’s dreary one one-dimensional football – and lack of plan B or any quality on the bench – matching the majority of Ipswich’s displays.
But how will 2010/11 turn out?
Will it be as dreadful and as dull at last term or can manager Keane re-find the touch that led to him taking Sunderland from bottom to top of the Championship in his first season in charge at the Stadium of Light?
The signs are not good I have to admit with the manager stressing last spring that this summer was going to be vital as he needed to strengthen his squad.
He has hit a brick wall with this with owner Marcus Evans steadfastly refusing to pour in any more money other than the �millions it costs him each year to offset the heavy losses that playing in the Championship invariably produce.
Two or three of the players Keane circulated as being available will no doubt leave opening up a financial window that will enable the manager to bring in some permanent reinforcements.
And there will be loan recruits once Premier League managers get themselves sorted for the season and find that some youngsters will be better off playing first team football rather than being on the outside fringe of their top flight squads.
So it will be basically the same Ipswich squad that struggled to make their way out of the bottom half of the table last term.
Here is the rub. It’s not that bad a squad – it’s one that looks equipped in what is expected to be a non-vintage campaign to make an impact if they can reach their full potential.
Brian Murphy backed up by Arran Lee-Barrett are certainly not the worse final line of defence in the division by any means, while Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney have already proved themselves an efficient and reliable central defensive pair.
And this time they have Tommy Smith as back-up; no doubt bolstered by his New Zealand World Cup experience.
Grant Leadbitter, David Norris and Jon Walters are quality midfielders with Luca Civelli hopefully proving left-sided width that was sadly lacking last season.
Up front I think we can safely assume that Connor Wickham will make an impact, and that goals will flow more freely this time around.
There are doubts and inexperience at full back and a lack of a proven partner for Wickham up front, but surely one of the players who disappointed so badly in 2009/10 – Tamas Priskin, Lee Martin, Jon Stead, Pablo Counago etc – can step up to the plate with the aid of able man management.
It is a fact that from November onwards, Ipswich’s record was good enough to have seen them compete for a top six place if it had been achieved from the word go.
So a continuation of that would see a much better return.
On the outside looking in there is the recurring thought that it could all implode at any time after the number of mistakes that have been made over the last 15 months.
And of course the opening eight weeks or so of the season will be vital to the manager’s long term Portman Road prospects.
But there are enough hints – and the manager looks to me as though he is purposely down-playing the situation after such high expectations a year ago – to suggest that if the manager gets it right the team will get it right.
I’m forecasting a much better few months ahead for Ipswich Town and all that sails in her.
Over to you Mr Keane. You’ve done it once now show us you can do it again.