North Stander: We won't make the play-offs under Lambert - but we might with another manager
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Ipswich Town fan and journalist Terry Hunt gives his take on the Blues in his latest weekly column....
If you’re old enough to remember what was happening exactly 40 years ago, then the current appalling malaise surrounding Ipswich Town is especially cruel.
Because it is precisely four decades since our football club enjoyed what was arguably its greatest season, with its best team, led by one of the sport’s most successful and admired managers.
As Ipswich fans, we held our heads high, so proud of our team, which was packed with international superstars who played thrilling, entertaining and successful football. The best in Europe? Without a doubt.
It is, of course, a kind of self-torture to make comparisons between those wonderful days and the toxicity and sheer awfulness of what is happening today.
The sport has changed almost beyond recognition - and not for the better, in my view. Gone are the days when clubs like Ipswich Town could genuinely compete for the top prizes, both domestically and across Europe.
Back then, the brilliance of a manager like Bobby Robson, or Brian Clough, could transform so-called smaller clubs into trophy-winning major forces in the game, competing and often beating traditional giants like Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.
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Whenever I talk to my sons, who are in their 20s, about the day in 1980 when Ipswich beat Manchester United 6-0 at Portman Road, they look at me as though I have taken leave of my senses!
I will be fascinated to see how the club marks the 40th anniversary of the UEFA Cup victory. I get the impression that the hierarchy view our past glories as something of a millstone around their necks.
We played 66 games that season. Russell Osman played every single one, Arnold Muhren 65, and John Wark and Terry Butcher 64 each.
Of course it was too many, and in the end injuries cost us the treble of league, FA Cup and UEFA Cup. We had to make do with the European trophy!
Fast forward to today, and there are only two things I still recognise about the club I have followed for so long. One is that they still play at Portman Road, and the other is they still play in a blue kit. That’s it. Nothing else.
Saturday’s slightly farcical events summed it up for me. When the game was called off at about 2.15pm, what was my reaction? Disappointment that I would miss an afternoon following the fortunes of my team?
Nope. Not a bit of it. I was just relieved that my weekend was freed of the frustration and disappointment that being an Ipswich fan these days invariably brings. A very sad state of affairs.
I mentioned the word toxicity, and Saturday afternoon exemplified it. When the match at Shrewsbury was postponed, lots of supporters took to social media channels to blame Paul Lambert.
Now, I know the manager is pretty much universally unpopular with Ipswich fans at the moment - and deservedly so after more than two years of desperately poor performances and results - but I don’t think it’s fair for him to be blamed for a frozen pitch at Shrewsbury!
However, the last week has brought us yet another ridiculous Lambert decision. The win over Blackpool brought us just a glimpse of hope and encouragement. Two young full-backs, Luke Matheson and Myles Kenlock, performed with energy.
So what does our wonderful manager do? Drops them both for the next game, away at Peterborough, and picks the 35–year-old Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward, apparently on the basis that we needed big, strong experienced full-backs because Posh would launch an aerial assault on their dreadful pitch.
What utter, utter nonsense. As it turned out, of course, the home side did their best to play proper football despite the surface. Chambers and Ward looked exactly what they are - past their best.
What on earth must young Matheson be thinking? He arrived at Ipswich bubbling with enthusiasm, made a really impressive debut, and then was instantly dropped. It sucks the life out of you, if you’re not careful.
So we stumble hopelessly on. We won’t make the play-offs. We’re not good enough under Lambert. With another manager, we might have a chance.
And yet Marcus Evans won’t sack him - not until the end of the season, anyway. We’ll be playing football in this appalling division for at least another year, probably in front of crowds of less than 10,000, such is the level of apathy among previously diehard fans.
As I said earlier, comparisons with 40 years ago are unhelpful, probably unfair, and certainly painful. But I just can’t help wondering what Sir Bobby would have made of this awful mess?