There is something wrong, somewhere in the bones of this club - the fans deserve so much better
- Credit: Archant
East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star sports editor Mark Heath gives his take on Ipswich Town’s underwhelming 2019/20 season - and calls for action, rather than words, from the club, as it continues to sink...
In sport as in life, truth really is stranger than fiction.
No writer or film maker would ever have penned this reality in which we’re all living - a country paralysed by a pandemic, thousands of lives lost and yet the trivial drama of what happens in League One, the third tier of English football, is stretched out over more days, weeks and months than any other professional league.
But finally, we have a decision. Finally, the credits can roll on Ipswich Town’s 2019/20 season.
In truth though – and it’s an uncomfortable truth – no-one who wore blue and white this season emerges with much credit. There were individual success stories, sure - Flynn Downes’ emergence, Kane Vincent-Young’s electrifying play, Luke Woolfenden growing in stature – but on the whole, in a world engulfed by turmoil and change, one constant remains at Portman Road. Ipswich Town aren’t very good.
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Another uncomfortable truth, one which Town fans have had to swallow for way too long.
This season – or last now, more accurately – things were surely going to be different. Town had been relegated on an unprecedented tide of goodwill and support from fans. Paul Lambert’s record was dreadful, yet his embracing of the supporters had rekindled the bond between touchline and terrace that Big Mick had worked so successfuly to torch.
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The Blues were going to be, for one season only, a big fish in a small pond as they tore through the minnows of League One like a great white shark through a shoal of salmon.
It started out that way too. Town began the campaign looking like Mike Tyson circa 1986 – though with fewer knockouts - as they raced to the top of the league and had only mighty Liverpool for company as the two remaining unbeaten sides in the land as late as October.
Phrases like HMS Piss the League and #100points100goals were regularly being trotted out by giddy, success-starved fans - and yours truly!
Then, just like Tyson, Town ran out of steam and crumbled when sides starting firing back. And thus the season dissolved into a big mess of squad rotation, games postponed for international breaks and injuries.
Who’s to blame? The finger will, inevitably, be jabbed most at Lambert - and understandably so. His record is appalling, and to not even reach the play-offs in the third tier of English football, with his squad and resources, having been top of the league in January, is unacceptable.
Many will call for him to go. Time for another uncomfortable truth though - he won’t be going anywhere.
The players, too, must accept much of the failure falls on them. The likeable Cole Skuse admitted as much this week, when he said Town’s slide down the league had been ‘outrageous’.
The problem is, of course, that Town fans are used to empty words coming out of the club. Marcus Evans, Lambert and the players all say the right things - but, to quote the great Martin Luther King, what we actually get is a high blood pressure of creeds, and an anaemia of deeds.
Town fans have supported this club through thick, thin and even thinner. They’ve travelled in their thousands to League One grounds, packed into Portman Road for third tier games and even now, when they have no idea when they might be able to return and watch games, many are still paying for season tickets.
They deserve better. Town can, surely, do so much better. Fans have given so much to this great club - now, the club has to start giving back.
A football club is a living, breathing thing - and the fans are its beating heart. But there is something wrong, somewhere in the bones of this club.
A losing mentality, an acceptance of mediocrity, a malaise which can’t be shaken - it’s hard to put your finger on, but we all know it’s there.
You feel, once more, that we’re at a critical juncture, another rock bottom in an apparently bottomless descent.
The time for talking has stopped. Excuses and wordy explanations aren’t going to cut it anymore.
The buck stops at the top. Your move, Marcus.