North Stander: 'We need to be a bit 'nastier', and the sooner the better'
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Where on earth did that horror show come from? How did we go from the sublime display against Doncaster to what Paul Cook quite rightly described as a “shocking performance” at Accrington?
Cook was spot on. It was shocking - and very worrying. Like most Town fans, I suspect, I’d spent the days after the Doncaster game happily believing that we’d turned a corner and the promotion charge was well and truly on.
It looked as though the much discussed gelling process had at last been completed, and Sam Morsy had arrived as the final piece in Cook’s jigsaw. And then that nightmare at Accrington. It’s the hope that kills you...
I mentioned the word worrying, and I’ll explain. Accrington did a job on us. Their players outfought us, and out-bullied us.
Their fans - small in number, but very noisy in the tiny stadium - played a huge part. It was intimidating.
We were what Mick McCarthy would undoubtedly have called “milky.” So, you can now imagine the word on the League One grapevine is that Ipswich are a bit “nice.” Yes, they’re packed with talent, and will destroy you if you sit back and watch them play. Which is precisely what hopeless Doncaster did.
But every manager in the division will believe this - if you get stuck into them, they don’t like it. That is the way all League One teams will play against us from now on. And we will have to find ways to deal with it.
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It might not be pretty, but we will have to combat those kinds of tactics. Cook and his coaching team will need to work hard to make the players a bit nastier, able to take care of themselves.
It needs to happen pretty sharpish, too. Here we are in October, still in the bottom six, with a point a game from the first ten games. That, I’m afraid, is relegation form.
We started this season believing we could go up automatically. Well, I’m afraid that’s already gone. Looking at the last few completed seasons, we’ll need more than 90 points to finish in the top two.
That means we have to get more than 80 points from our remaining 36 games. Over two points per game, in other words.
Can we really expect that from a team which is currently averaging a single point a game, and hasn’t managed to put together two wins in a row? Come one. Let’s get real.
So, that leaves the play-offs. To finish in the top six, we’ll need more than 70 points. Over 60 points from 36 games. Highly achievable, but we need to start winning back-to-back games pretty soon!
Inevitably, the nightmare at Accrington has given the “Cook out” brigade more ammunition. They point to his record both last season and this campaign, which is desperately disappointing.
They compare the “gelling” process at Ipswich with other clubs who brought in large numbers of players in pre-season, and have started the season much more strongly than under-performing Ipswich.
Yes, they are valid points. Cook, more than anybody, knows that his results at Ipswich have been nowhere good enough. He knows that the American owners won’t be terribly impressed.
But talking about sacking the manager at this stage is utterly ludicrous. Do we want to be known as one of those clubs which changes its managers as often as most people change their socks?
I do think Cook is missing an experienced right-hand man. He needs someone alongside him in the dug-out who can introduce some flexibility into his tactics when things are going awry.
Surely he needed to make changes earlier at Accrington? It’s a common theme this season - subs being introduced far too late to make an impact on games when we’re struggling. Cook urgently needs a second, wise opinion.
Let’s finish on a positive note. A few years ago, I was told that Macauley Bonne was desperate to play for Ipswich Town, the club he supported as a kid, and where he had been on the books at the academy.
I quickly dismissed such romantic notions. That isn’t how the hard-nosed, cynical, ultra-pragmatic sport of professional football works, is it?
Well, it did happen, and Bonne has quickly established himself as a cult hero at Portman Road. He clearly loves the club, and loves wearing the shirt. His performances and goalscoring exploits have been nothing less than sensational.
Can we keep him? I suspect that will depend on whether we can go up to the Championship and that, as I demonstrated earlier, is looking increasingly challenging.
Back to the day job. Shrewsbury visit Portman Road next Saturday and, looking at the league table, it seems like a pretty simple task. Let’s hope we can get back on track - and stay there.