Mark Heath: Why it's time to pump the brakes on the Ipswich Town hype train

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook says he 'loves signing players'. - Credit: PA

The game has changed. True.

A summer like no other. Also true.

Like many of you, I've been trotting out the above statements with wanton abandon in connection with Ipswich Town over the past few weeks, giddy at all the exciting, previously unthinkable things going on at this great club.

I've even slapped 'The game has changed' all over the front of our Kick-Off supplement. That's out today, by the way.

Town have got new owners - Gamechanger 20 - with big bucks and big ideas, plus a fan-friendly approach which is the polar opposite of all that we endured under Marcus Evans.

The men involved in Ipswich Town Football Club's takeover

Ipswich Town's new owners have big ideas and a fan-friendly approach - Credit: NA

In Mark Ashton and Mike O'Leary, the club have got proper football men at the helm, both incredibly impressive individuals in different ways.

Ed bloody Sheeran, the biggest pop star on the planet, is sponsoring this season's shirts. The core of the side which failed over and over again has gone, replaced by ten new signings who all look to be more than capable at this level and above. More new faces are on the way too.

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We've even got players dropping down from the Championship to be part of this star-spangled revolution. It's remarkable in many ways.

Those who know me, have ever had the misfortune to meet me or who have listened to me on the Kings of Anglia podcast would expect me to pen a column dripping in hyperbole, breathlessly proclaiming Town to have already won the league and be up by Christmas.

To be honest, it's what I thought I was going to write. It's certainly the easiest line to take. But just because it's easy, doesn't make it right, as Skunk Anansie once told us. Words to that effect, anyway.

Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran has posted a throwback picture of him in an Ipswich Town shirt after to

Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran posted a throwback picture of him in an Ipswich Town shirt after the announcement that he will be sponsoring the club's shirts next season. Photos: Ed Sheeran/Archant - Credit: Ed Sheeran/Archant

Because here's the nagging thought I can't escape. We've been here before.

Not here, precisely - Marcus has never sold the club before - but rough approximations of where we stand now.

Mick McCarthy, the ghost of Christmas past, took Town to the play-offs against the odds. We had high hopes for more, but then stubborn old Mick talked his way out of a job by inviting his own fans to go forth and multiply rather than celebrate a goal against Town's oldest and biggest rivals.

In came Paul Hurst, a young, ambitious manager from the lower leagues. Exactly what we wanted. 'A Blue era' was trumpeted on the front of our Kick-Off supplement that season.

Former boss Paul Hurst was not a fan of the 'Hollywood' nickname - given to him because of his brill

Paul Hurst took the nuclear option too early on - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Hurst had the right ideas too, but went about it in the wrong way. He realised that the old guard of players needed to change, but took the nuclear option too soon, eviscerating his troops at Exeter.

Unlike Paul Cook's similarly straightforward approach to player relations, he'd gone too early. The season had barely started, and he couldn't do anything about the fuming players he'd just pushed under the bus.

Off he went in short order. In came Paul Lambert. He'd played for big clubs you know, and won big trophies. He didn't like to talk about it.

He, too, had the right idea. He nurtured the bond between touchline and terrace (trademark Stuart Watson) and got fans back on side.

They even clapped as Town were relegated. Lambo told us things would turn, and surely they would, starting with a victory lap of League One. HMS Piss the League, 100 points, 100 goals, all of that. I am as guilty as anyone for pushing that narrative.

Town manager Paul Lambert acknowledges fans ahead of the Ipswich Town v Preston North End game. P

Paul Lambert had the right idea with fans, but didn't fare so well on the pitch - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

As it turned out, Lambert just wasn't that good of a manager. Off he went, probably a few months after he'd worn out his welcome.

So here we are. Once again, it feels like Town are on the brink of something massive. The malaise surrounding the club, that pungent miasma, the source of which was never really established, is starting to lift.

But, and here's the point. It's not going to clear overnight.

Yes, for all the reasons above, Town are in a better state than they have been in years. A decade or more. It's really exciting.

These things take time though. The playing squad has been ripped apart and rebuilt. It's stronger on paper, but there are still holes to fill and settled roles to define.

Just because they're good players doesn't mean they'll gel straight away. I hope I'm wrong, but I can see Town starting slowly, perhaps even labouring in the bottom half of the table at times.

Fans at Portman Road ranked low for both banning orders and arrests Picture: MARK HEATH

The dark skies are starting to clear at Portman Road - but it's going to take time - Credit: Archant

That's where we'll need to be brave and trust the process. For all the reasons above, Town are in a good place. Paul Cook's won three promotions at his last three clubs, remember. It will, surely, come good.

So, let's just pump the brakes on the hype train a bit. I can't believe I'm writing that!

You know what they say about good things and people who wait. Patience doesn't exist in football, of course, but we've waited a long time for all of this.

We might need to wait a few months longer for it to all come together, but keep the faith.

The game, finally, has changed. And this time, hopefully, it's changed for good.

Paul Cook will lead Ipswich Town at Portman Road for the first time this evening

Paul Cook has three promotions with his last three clubs on his CV - Credit: Pagepix


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