North Stander: It's tough to stomach, but Town need to learn lessons from Norwich

Paul Lambert appeals to the referee during Ipswich Town's loss to Portsmouth

Paul Lambert must get Ipswich Town promoted this season, says Terry Hunt - Credit: Steve Waller

A very happy and healthy new year to all Ipswich Town fans. I wish I had £1 for every time I’ve heard someone say that 2021 must surely be a huge improvement on 2020 - in every respect.

Most importantly, let’s hope we manage to kick this dreadful virus into touch and all aspects of life start to return to something resembling normal during the next year.

But this column is about our beloved Ipswich Town Football Club - and there hasn’t been a great deal there to lighten the gloom, has there?

So, what are my hopes for our club in 2021?

Well, first and foremost, I hope this season is able to finish properly. By that, I mean all League One teams play 46 games and the big issues in the division are settled in the usual way.

I really hope Covid doesn’t cause so many postponements that the footballing authorities call a halt with lots of games still not played, and we end up with arguments about how to finalise League placings.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans is facing up the club losing as much as �10m in revenue due to the

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans has taken the club into League One - can he help get them out? - Credit: Archant

As for Ipswich, all supporters will have their sights set on one clear priority - promotion out of this dreadful, dull as ditchwater division. Everything about League One is awful. The quality of football is utterly appalling.

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If we can’t escape at our second attempt, I fear for the future. Look at Sunderland, another so-called big club. They’re beginning to look like permanent fixtures. We can’t let the same happen to us.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, how frustrating we found all those years in the Championship, and were always looking towards the Premier League. Now the Championship looks like the promised land!

Despite all the frustrations of this season - poor performances, our continued inability to beat promotion rivals, a ridiculously long injury list, and more strange tactical decisions from our manager - we’re still well placed.

If we can get some of the injured army back in action in the next few weeks, then there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t mount a decent promotion challenge. Honestly - there’s absolutely no quality in this dreadful division.

If we fail to go up again, it will be so poor from the manager and the players. Let’s make no mistake - for League One, we have a very strong squad of players, despite all the injuries.

Another failure to gain promotion should mean the end at Ipswich for Paul Lambert. Yes, I know he has a ridiculously long contract, but Marcus Evans would have to pay up, get rid, and move on.

The players would have to look at themselves too. I still believe the squad should be good enough, but when it comes to the big games, they always fall short. Why? Lack of self belief, lack of motivation, lack of leaders on the pitch? A combination of all three?

So, if we are still in this appalling division at the end of the season, I believe there should be a clear-out and a rebuilding process, focusing on the group of really promising youngsters we have on our books.

Doing that would also help in another crucial aspect - restoring the relationship between club and fans. In 2021, I really hope to feel like a valued supporter once again. For the last few years, I certainly haven’t. I know I’m not alone by any means.

Fans back inside Portman Road.
Picture: Steve Waller

Terry fears fans will walk away from Town unless the club does more to make them feel involved - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Watching a team featuring lots of home-produced youngsters would be really exciting, and in the finest, and proudest, Ipswich Town tradition.

Ipswich Town has been guilty of letting a distance develop between the club and its loyal supporters. During the recent hiatus caused by Covid, so many fans have said they haven’t missed their football one little bit. That is very dangerous for the club, and they will have to work hard to make us feel part of it all again.

To be fair, they’ve made a decent start, by announcing that next Saturday’s home game against Swindon will be the inaugural memorial match day, paying tribute to ex-players and fans who have died in the last year. Nice gesture. Let’s see more ideas like that.

Finally - and this one is really tough to stomach - I think we should look up the A140 and learn lessons from the way our biggest rivals are running their football club.

I know, I know, whisper it, but every sensible Town fan knows that Norwich are currently light years ahead of us in just about every respect: Decent, entertaining football, healthy finances, and a good relationship with their fans.

Oh, how we laughed at Delia’s “Let’s be having you” moment. But I would love to have an owner (or majority shareholder) who wears his or her heart on their sleeve. And Delia doesn’t have hundreds of millions in the bank to spend on the club, either.

I know it’s a bitter pill, but we need to learn from the yellow and green brigade if we want to see local derbies again any time soon.

So...happy new year! Let’s hope it’s a much better one for everyone - including Ipswich supporters.