‘Massive, massive achievement if Ipswich Town get anywhere near the play-offs’, says Alex Mathie
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
‘It would be a massive, massive achievement if Ipswich Town get anywhere near the play-offs’.
That’s the opinion of former Blues striker turned pundit Alex Mathie after the Championship fixtures for the 2016/17 season were announced yesterday.
Town – who have finished ninth, sixth and seventh in Mick McCarthy’s three full seasons in charge – are preparing for their 15th successive campaign in English football’s second-tier.
They start with a home game against newly-promoted Barnsley on August 6 and don’t have to wait long for the return of the East Anglian derby, with relegated rivals Norwich City at Portman Road on August 20.
It doesn’t look like owner Marcus Evans is going to drastically loosen the purse strings this summer, meaning Town will once again have to punch above their weight if they are to mix it with the big-spenders at the top end of the table.
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Newcastle and Aston Villa, both relegated from the Premier League, will have former Champions League-winning managers in the form of Rafa Benitez and Roberto di Matteo respectively. Brighton, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday will all look to kick on after play-off losses too.
“This is probably Mick McCarthy’s toughest task yet,” said Mathie. “It will be a massive, massive achievement if they can get anywhere near the play-offs this season.”
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He continued: “Our start doesn’t look too bad – we’ve had worse starts,” said Mathie. “The Norwich game is a big one and I think it’s good to have them early at home (August 20). If we can beat them then that will give everyone a huge amount of confidence going forwards.
“I can see this being a very, very tough season though. Newcastle and Aston Villa have Champions League winning managers – that’s just ridiculous!
“I know that morale at Villa hit rock-bottom, but I think they will be a different team under Roberto di Matteo. He’s a quality manager and he will turn them around.
“Newcastle are clearly going to be up there with the squad and the manager (Rafa Benitez) they have.
“I think Wigan could be competing at the top end of the table after promotion. Then there’s the three teams that missed out in the play-offs – Derby, Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday.
“And that’s not even mentioning clubs like Fulham, QPR, Leeds and Wolves, all big clubs who could all come good.
“It’s a tough ask for Mick to keep Ipswich competitive at the top end of the table if he’s going to be working on such a limited budget again.”
Mathie added: “I’m sure the Ipswich players will be up for the challenge of going to places like St James’ Park and Villa Park, not to mention the derby matches.
“I just think the division is looking the strongest it’s been in a long time and that it’s going to be a tough, tough ask for us.”