North Stander: I was arrogant to think League One would be easy - I just hope Lambert and Co. have learned from their mistakes
So, is Ipswich Town’s season over? Who knows...the confusion, delays and dithering just go on and on. No-one appears capable of making a decision, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.
We’re now told the big day when everything is made clear will be June 8 - but don’t hold your breath. What I don’t understand is why the EFL can’t just TELL the clubs what to do. Who’s in charge here?
Well, I’m going to assume that the season is over for Ipswich. Even if they manage to get the play-offs organised, we won’t be involved. The only excitement for us is whether we finish tenth or 11th. Thrilling, isn’t it?
Either way, it’s our lowest league placing since way, way back in 1952-53, when we finished 16th in the Third Division South. Yes, that’s 67 years ago - not many Town fans will remember that!
Assuming our season has finished - and surely that’s the only sensible option - how was it for you? I’m afraid I can only describe it as bitterly disappointing, especially given how high our expectations were.
Maybe that was part of the problem. Perhaps, in our heart of hearts, we were all looking forward to a walk in the park. You know, the old 100 points, 100 goals expectation.
I know I was guilty of believing that we would find it easy. The way we started the season simply seemed to confirm that. Ok, we weren’t exactly blowing teams away, but we were winning games and the league table looked fantastic.
I remember after the Tranmere game I got completely carried away and compared Luke Garbutt’s stunning free-kick and Kane Vincent-Young’s brilliant solo effort as worthy of Lionel Messi, the greatest player of all time.
I was ridiculed for that remark, and I probably did get a little over-excited, but I really wasn’t saying our players were as good as Messi...
Then, it all went wrong. We started to stutter and stumble, goals dried up, and we tumbled down the table, firstly from top spot, then out of the top two and finally, out of the play-off places.
What happened? Well, a number of negative factors came into play. There were crucial injuries, notably to Vincent-Young, and James Norwood, who never really seemed to overcome his groin problem.
Then there was Paul Lambert’s ludicrous rotation policy. As soon as we started playing in cup competitions, the main topic of conversation became how many changes we would make. Four? Five? Six?
Players started to look like strangers, we lost momentum, and then our confidence. I will never agree with the rotation policy, and I still firmly believe it cost us greatly. I hope Lambert now accepts it as well.
As always, there was the Marcus Evans factor. I will always feel that back in January 2015, his lack of spending in the transfer window cost us promotion to the Premier League.
With the benefit of hindsight, I believe the same is true of this January. I have to hold my hands up here. I can’t criticise Evans this time, because at the beginning of the year I said our squad was strong enough. How wrong can you be?
For me, that was a symptom of a feeling of entitlement. I was certainly guilty of it. After all, we are Ipswich Town. We’re a big club. We won the League Championship, the FA Cup, and a European trophy. We had Sir Alf and Sir Bobby. We don’t belong down here, although it will be quite fun for one season. That’s certainly how I felt.
I wonder how widespread that rather arrogant attitude has been? I wonder if some of the players felt that way? Whatever the truth is, we have all certainly had an almighty wake-up call.
As Sunderland have found out, being a “big club” is not an automatic passport to escaping from League One. Teams like Ipswich and Sunderland find themselves as targets, and other teams raise their game at stadiums like Portman Road.
So, last season was a mess. Let’s hope everyone - players, manager, and fans - all learn some hard lessons from the bitter disappointment of how the campaign ended (assuming it has).
We are at a very low ebb. The lowest point in our history for a massive 67 years. Maybe I’m being ludicrously optimistic again, but surely the only way is up from here?
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