Keane set to face music

ROY Keane can expect an uncomfortable evening, facing up to Ipswich Town supporters at tonight’s shareholders’ annual general meeting, but he has never been one to shirk a challenge.

ROY Keane can expect an uncomfortable evening, facing up to Ipswich Town supporters at tonight’s shareholders’ annual general meeting, but he has never been one to shirk a challenge.

Shareholders will congregate at Portman Road’s Legends Bar from 7pm, for what promises to be a fiery debate about the club’s current plight, with Keane set to be in the hot-seat.

There is no obligation for the manager to attend, but Keane is expected to turn up and face the music, alongside chief executive Simon Clegg.

Keane’s position has become more precarious over the last month, due to a dreadful run of results that his seen his side nose-dive down the table.

Just over a month ago, Town were in the top six and celebrating back-to-back wins over Millwall and Sheffield United.

But since then, Keane’s men have crashed to five successive league defeats, their worst run for 15 years, harping back to the Premier League relegation season of 1994-95 under fledgling manager George Burley.

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Looking at the slightly bigger picture, Town have actually lost eight of their last 10 league games, a terrible record and easily the worst in the Championship, while dropping attendances are compounding the problem.

Saturday’s crowd of 16,978 was the lowest Portman Road gate, for a league fixture, for 11 years, which ironically coincided with the club’s promotion back to the Premier League, also under Burley.

Crowds of 14,000 to 16,000 were a regular occurrence during the middle of that 1999-2000 season, leading up to the turn of the year.

Back to the present and Town’s current disastrous string of results, coupled with an uninspiring style of play, has seen more and more fans turn their back on the club over the last month.

There is a two-legged Carling Cup semi-final on the horizon, against Arsenal, and an equally glamorous FA Cup third round trip to Chelsea, all within the space of a fortnight in January.

But these cup successes have only been papering over the cracks, as Keane himself has admitted.

That should prompt some strongly-worded questions, from the floor, at this evening’s AGM, questions that Keane will not be ducking. The Irishman is no shrinking violet.

Town’s woeful run of results, the non-impact of many of his signings, some strange team selections and falling attendances could be high on the agenda, as of course will Keane’s plans for the short-term, and the club’s own take on the situation.

Yesterday’s sacking of Chris Hughton, after a successful stint as manager of Newcastle United, again brings Keane’s position into sharp focus.

Hughton guided the Magpies to promotion to the Premier League last season, as champions of the Championship, and has established them in mid-table this term, hardly the track-record of a failed manager.

Fortunately, the powers-that-be at Portman Road, throughout the course of history, have never been so trigger-happy with regards the firing of their managers.

But while Keane, through a culture of silence, still seems to have the support of owner and chairman, Marcus Evans, he will have to face up to some of his fiercest critics tonight.

- Check this site tonight for the first report from the AGM.

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