The myths surrounding Ipswich Town’s season

Paul Jewell’s ‘Dad’s Army’ paid the price for collapsing in the second half of matches, but at least they showed signs of real promise after Christmas. As STUART WATSON found out, some of the much-repeated views surrounding Ipswich Town’s season were not quite as clear-cut as you might think.

TOWN WERE AN AGEING SIDE

Half of the 16 players Paul Jewell signed last season – either permanently or on loan – were in their 30s, while a further three were 28 or older. The ‘Dad’s Army’ nickname that was bestowed upon his Bradford City side was therefore quickly applied to his experienced Blues outfit, with the team which won 3-0 down at Bristol City on the opening day of the season including a 35-year-old Mark Kennedy and 34-year-old Ivar Ingimarsson.

Youngsters such as Luke Hyam, Josh Carson and Jack Ainsley have found game time extremely limited, with Jewell handing just four players aged 21 or younger their Town debuts during his season-and-a-half in charge (five fewer than predecessor Roy Keane).

It’s a surprise, therefore, that the average age of Town’s starting line-up across the 48 games was as low as 27.72. That’s not far off the average age of the Norwich and QPR sides which won promotion from the Championship in 2010/11. Aaron Cresswell (pictured), Tommy Smith and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, all aged between 21 and 22, made a whopping 100 starts between them, while 22-year-old keeper Alex McCarthy started 10 games during a loan spell.


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HIGH TURNOVER OF PLAYERS DIDN’T AID CONSISTENCY

Jewell saw key men in Connor Wickham, Gareth McAuley and David Norris leave last summer, signed 10 players permanently, brought in a further six on loan and paid off the likes of Ivar Ingimarsson, Shane O’Connor, Colin Healy and Tamas Priskin.

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There were no fewer than nine different centre-back partnerships by January, with there being only two times when the Blues boss named the same starting XI for at least three games in a row.

Richard Wright, Healy, Jack Ainsley, Nathan Ellington, Jaime Peters, Reece Wabara and Tamas Priskin made just 14 starts between them.

You’d think, therefore, that Town were at the top end of the table for the most number of players used over the campaign. Wrong.

Only six teams used fewer players than Town’s 31 in the Championship – Middlesbrough (30), Hull (29), Birmingham (29), Cardiff (28), Peterborough (28) and Southampton (28).

IF ONLY THE BLUES COULD FINISH GAMES WELL...

It’s easy to look back on certain times in the season and think ‘what if?’ One major regret will have been the 29 points which were dropped from winning positions, with a number of dramatic late collapses coming either side of Christmas.

Surprisingly, therefore, the Blues actually had a far better record in the second half of games than they did the first.

If results were based on first halves only, then Town would have finished 16th – a place lower in the Championship table. If only second half results had counted they would have finished seventh and would have only been kept out of the play-offs on goal difference by West Ham.

Eighteen points were secured from losing positions, with second-half comeback points secured against the likes of Southampton, Hull and Crystal Palace. The biggest regret, arguably, should therefore be the number of games where Town failed to take advantage when on top in the opening 45 minutes.

LEE BOWYER BARELY PLAYED

When Paul Jewell revealed he was going to be releasing Lee Bowyer, 88% of our readers voted it to be the right decision via an internet poll.

The 35-year-old, right, comes across as a quiet family man now, but his controversial past meant a number of supporters weren’t sure about his acquisition. To them, the ageing midfielder had been a complete waste of money.

It may therefore come as surprise to some that, despite a string of injuries, the former Leeds man still made 24 starts over the course of the season, coming off the bench a further five times. That makes him the club’s joint-10th highest appearance maker for 2011/12, equal with Damien Delaney.

And few will forget that last gasp winner at former employers West Ham last September.

THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON WAS MUCH BETTER

That 5-1 home win over West Ham (main picture) at the end of January kick-started a run which saw Town claim an impressive 23 points from a possible 30. From that point on, it was constantly reiterated how much better the second half of the campaign had been compared to the first.

In actual fact, though, the Blues only claimed seven more points from their final 23 league games than did in their opening 23, winning just one more game and picking up four additional draws.

In the second half of the season, Town scored just three more goals, but – cutting out the individual errors which cost them so dearly – conceded 11 less times.

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