Good times ahead – 74% of Ipswich Town fans polled say next season will bring a top six finish

PAUL Jewell is slowly winning over Ipswich Town supporters, with many now optimistic that a serious promotion-challenge can be mounted next season.

Those were the findings of a live webchat held by this newspaper yesterday lunchtime, during which more than 1,200 people – the biggest audience this season – had their say via a series of polls .

Following a rollercoaster few months, Town look destined for yet another underwhelming mid-table Championship finish and an 11th consecutive campaign in English football’s second tier.

However, the introduction of youth to the team, improvement in defensive organisation and evidence of far greater spirit and resolve has got previously disgruntled fans starting to believe that good times are just around the corner.

On January 4 – a day after Town had crashed to a 3-1 home defeat to Nottingham Forest to make it nine defeats from 12 – 79% of fans polled by this newspaper said it was time for Jewell to go, with 95% saying the team was destined for a relegation battle.

Fast-forward 12 games and, with comeback draws at table-topping Southampton and usually watertight Hull following impressive home wins over high-flying West Ham and Cardiff, 13% of those polled said that Jewell has won them over in recent weeks. Meanwhile, 39% insisted they had always supported him, with only 9% maintaining he is still not the man for the job.

A resounding 88% believe that the rejuvenated Blues will avenge earlier thrashings at Peterborough and Burnley by claiming at least four points from their next two home games (Saturday and next Wednesday).

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The majority want Jewell to go for quality, not quantity, when delving into the transfer market this summer, with just 9% of fans wanting more than six new signings this summer.

And such is the growing feelgood factor at Portman Road that 74% of Blues fans polled said they thought their side would finish in the top six next year – something they haven’t done since 2005.

A further 3% went as far as saying automatic promotion could be achieved, with not a single person believing the club will finish any lower than mid-table in 2012/13.

– Read the whole webchat here: