What now for Jim?

AS one of the dullest Ipswich Town seasons in living memory meanders to a meaningless conclusion, DEREK DAVIS again poses the controversial question: Is it time for change?

Derek Davis

AS one of the dullest Ipswich Town seasons in living memory meanders to a meaningless conclusion, DEREK DAVIS again poses the controversial question: Is it time for change?

REMEMBER way back to last August.

Another football season started with fans up and down the land full of hope and expectation.


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It was no different at Portman Road, where 22,037 expectant supporters turned up to see them try and demolish Preston after being fed on a summer diet of promotion promises from a bullish manager Jim Magilton and even more full of bullishness chief executive Derek Bowden.

'Champions' League football for Town in a few years' promised Bowden, 'we won't be satisfied with the play-offs - it is automatic promotion for us' to paraphrase Magilton.

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We, the media, peddled this in all innocence and when I tipped Town to finish in fifth place I was accused of being negative even then.

Perhaps we should have known, when it was the 640 that had travelled down from Lancashire, more in hope and loyalty than conviction, who went home happy.

Magilton glossed over it and a 3-0 win at Burnley, the game where a parachutist dropped in, Richard Wright made a number of stunning saves before an own goal turned the tide Town's way, meant happy days once more.

A defeat at lowly Watford got the fans grumbling again and it was this paper that stood up for Magilton saying 'give him a chance' - 'give him more time'.

And so the season meandered along and the natives got particularly restless just before Christmas with rumours abounding that if Town didn't win at Coventry Magilton would be gone.

Good old Kevin Lisbie put paid to that and the way Magilton celebrated each goal suggested there may have been something in the speculation.

Lisbie is a player that many Town fans have not taken to, not because he kept Magilton in a job, but because, like the team in general, he seems to have saved his best performances for away games.

There was some behind the scenes excitement when John Gorman came in as Magilton's number two with Bryan Klug, who had been appointed with the former player to take over from Joe Royle, being given a new role in charge of player development

Results never really improved. A win at Derby County, whose manager honourably decided he could take them no further and quit straight after the game, made it a happy New Year and a rather fortunate 4-1 win at Crystal Palace, meant the old line about the play-offs being achievable was still being bought.

Not everyone was convinced though and after being spanked 3-0 at Swansea, along with drab home draws against no-hopers Blackpool and Plymouth, a clarion call for the manager's head was succinctly made.

A wave of support was followed by a message from owner Marcus Evans that Magilton would be given until the end of the season and judged then.

An uneasy truce followed and Magilton supporters and those unhappy at the way he was being treated, made it clear that was the way ahead.

Well the time has surely come for Magilton to be judged.

Technically it is not the end of the season and with 18 points to play for the blue-tinted spectacle wearers will cling to Magilton's message that it is still mathematically possible to make the top six. Mathematically Town could finish second and go up automatically as promised last summer but anyone with half a brain knows that won't happen.

If that failure can be excused - after all, Birmingham and Reading had all that parachute money and Mick McCarthy has had two years in charge at Wolves - then not making the top six can not.

Make no mistake, Magilton has failed.

The probability is Town will finish in 10th place where they have pretty much been stuck since Norwich humiliated them at Carrow Road in December.

The only real thing to look forward to between now and May when Town's season will be all over, is taking revenge against the Canaries at Portman Road, complete with the probable return of Alan Lee and the possibility it could sink City into the relegation mire.

Before that is a chance to turn the tables on Doncaster. How can we forget that humbling on live television by Rovers who at the time were in the bottom three and seriously struggling?

The finale of a humdrum season will be Coventry and the question is - will Magilton be shown the door before that?

Is there any point in keeping him on beyond today?

Nothing personal but the man best remembered for his hat-trick against Bolton to take Town into the play-offs has shown no signs of being a success as a Blues manager.

The goalless draw against Watford was not good enough and it had the hallmarks of a side led by someone who has taken them as far as he can go.

By his own admission he couldn't have asked more from his players but they just fell short - yet again.

This is Magilton's squad, all have been given contracts by Magilton whose buying decisions are suspect. He doesn't even think players he paid good money for are good enough to get in his 16.

We have seen changes over the past three years, even more in the 18 months since Evans took over, but we have seen no tangible improvement.

If anything Town have gone backwards, certainly a 10th place finish and anything less than the 69 points gleaned last year underlines that.

After all the table does not lie.

Of course Evans is the man who will decide and it could be he keeps to his word and waits until May.

The other scenario is an unpalatable one for a large section of Town fans and that is he keeps him on for next season.

If that happens, it is doubtful Town fans will look forward to new campaign in the way they did this one. It is doubtful many will fall for all that rhetoric again.

It is time for change because no one wants another year of mediocrity.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

SO what do you think? Let us know, either e-mail us: sport@eadt.co.uk or go to www.eadt.co.uk and leave your answer to our poll: 'Should Jim go now?', yes or no.

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