The Verdict: Big decisions could shape Ipswich Town’s 2018
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
The turn of the year is both a time for reflection and a chance to look forward to the 12 months ahead.
In 2017 we leave behind a year in which Ipswich Town were humiliated in the FA Cup by a non-league side, recorded their worst finish in 58 years and produced a string of performances memorable only for their tedium.
But we also leave behind a first half of a 2017/18 season which brought a stunning start, improved displays, exciting new signings and the emergence of a new crop of young players.
All that, though, has left the Blues 11th in the table - a region of the second tier the club is all too familiar with. And that’s the problem, as they bid to find a way to break a cycle which has seen them stuck in the second tier for so long and has seen crowds shrink year-on-year.
Their current position is certainly a fair reflection of the Blues’ first 25 games, where they have taken just nine points out of a possible 36 against teams in the top half of the table, while 27 have come against sides in the bottom half. Not good enough to consistently challenge at the top end of the table, but improved and able to dominate the division’s lesser-lights.
Injuries have ravaged McCarthy’s side throughout the campaign – first in defence and latterly in midfield – and that certainly needs to be taken into account, while Saturday’s defeat to Derby once again highlights the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ when it comes to the finances of the Championship.
Any serious promotion push will need McCarthy’s Blues to find a new level of consistency against the leading sides and for them to beat financial odds which become more and more stacked against them as the years go on.
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So what does 2018 hold?
Well, McCarthy is certainly not expecting to spend big in the January transfer window, instead once again relying on free transfers and loans to patch up a squad looking thin in certain areas.
Given the gap to the play-off places is only five points, the Blues are by no-means out of the promotion race but, while any kind of relegation battle is seemingly out of the question, the more likely outcome is a mid-table finish which would lead to a 17th consecutive Championship season.
There are big decisions to make, too, with options yet to be taken on the expiring contracts of key players such as Bartosz Bialkowski and Cole Skuse, while the question of McCarthy’s contract also needs to be addressed given it too is currently due to run out in the summer.
Does Town owner Marcus Evans stick or twist on his manager of five years? Having hinted in October that he could move on in the summer, does McCarthy feel he has more to give at Portman Road despite restrictions imposed on him?
The answers to those questions are likely to shape any review of 2018 at Portman Road.