Mark Heath: It's now or never for Lambert and Ipswich Town
- Credit: PA
Now or never. Sink or swim. Shape up or ship out.
However you want to phrase it, Paul Lambert HAS to get a tune out of his thus far tone-deaf Ipswich Town squad over the next few games.
Be in no doubt, Lambert’s record as Town boss is dreadful. His players, too, are seriously under-performing. For a club the size and pedigree of Ipswich Town, toiling in League One is unacceptable.
The pressure on him, whether he admits to realising it or not, is there, weighing more heavily with every defeat and underwhelming display.
Understandably, many fans want him sacked, as the poor form of this season grimly echoes the collapse of last campaign.
Yet, remarkably, the Blues are still very much in the play-off mix.
Now, with the likes of Flynn Downes, James Norwood, Gwion Edwards and Teddy Bishop back in action, and exciting new loan signings Josh Harrop and Luke Thomas in harness, the time of reckoning is surely nigh.
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- 10 Town complete Chaplin deal as Barnsley forward becomes signing No.10
Look at Town's squad - it's deeper than Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. Town's second string should be able to mount a promotion push, let alone the first XI. Add the creativity of Harrop and the pace of Thomas into the mix, and Ipswich have more than enough to get out of this league.
Of course, to do that, Lambert has to do something he's so far proved incapable of doing, namely beating promotion rivals.
And thus, we arrive at the next step. Jump in, and let's find out if he'll sink or swim.
Town's next five games read: Peterborough (5th, h), Sunderland (9th, h), Crewe (7th, a), Blackpool (16th, h) and Posh again (a).
There will never be a better chance to turn this becalmed ship around and start to gather some wind in the Blues' billowing but empty sails.
Beat Peterborough and Sunderland - or even just show you can compete in draws - and you can start to change the narrative.
Perhaps Town can live with the League One big boys (a sentence no Ipswich fan ever thought they'd have to utter), the star players are back and we're in a strong position after all.
Remember, the Blues have games in hand on all the sides above them, bar Doncaster. Go on a winning run, and the table quickly starts to look a lot more like we'd all hoped it would.
Now, I know exactly what you're screaming as you read the above. He's never done it yet, we lost to Swindon at home, you're a fool Heath - actually, that last sentiment rings true whatever the argument...
But that's my point. No, Lambert hasn't done it yet. Now, he has to.
Because if the Blues fail to perform over the next few games, very quickly we'll have to drop the term 'beat promotion rivals' from the Town terminology. Mighty Ipswich, once champions of Europe, would no longer be serious promotion contenders in the third tier of English football.
Simply put, that humiliation is untenable for everyone connected to Ipswich Town, in any way.
I wrote back in the summer, after Town's 11th place League One finish had been confirmed, that there was something wrong, somewhere in the bones of the club - a malaise which can neither be seen nor shaken. Sadly, that remains the case.
I also wrote that Lambert wouldn't be going anywhere. The next few games should determine whether that, too, will remain the case.
Now or never. Sink or swim.