Monday verdict: From unity to discord in 18 months – what a sad state of affairs for Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy at Portman Road for the FA Cup match with Lincoln City. Photo: PA

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy at Portman Road for the FA Cup match with Lincoln City. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD

Ipswich Town have got a serious case of the blues and it’s hard to see what’s going to snap them out of it.

The Blues were minutes away from suffering an embarrassing FA Cup Third Round defeat to non-league side Lincoln City on Saturday.

Leicester City loanee Tom Lawrence – the only real bright spot at present – got them out of jail with two fine equalising goals to set up a replay at Sincil Bank a week tomorrow.

Could we have an upset on our hands? Perhaps. Town might get through…

We’ve been here before with Preston and Portsmouth, of course. And limp cup displays against lower league opposition, unfortunately, just scratches the surface in terms of worrying recurring themes.

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Getting thrashed at Newcastle last October was hard to take, but understandable given the financial gap. Being comprehensively outplayed on home turf by Fulham on Boxing Day was very difficult to stomach. Being passed off the park by a Lincoln team that plays three divisions lower was simply unacceptable.

In-form and top of the National League table they may be, but Mick McCarthy’s predictable post-match insistence that the opposition ‘are a very good side’ has never seemed more ridiculous.

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Striker Theo Robinson scored for Derby at Portman Road on the fateful evening that led to Paul Jewell leaving his position in 2012. Many, but not all, feel his two goals for the Imps at the weekend should spell the end for McCarthy following four years at the helm.

Fans’ opinions count for nothing though. McCarthy is going nowhere ahead of this Saturday’s Championship visit of Blackburn. Owner Marcus Evans has made it clear that he is standing by his man.

The Yorkshireman cuts an increasingly deflated looking figure though. He is running out of things to say.

He’s right when he says that his players’ confidence is shot. He’s right when he says it was not a great surprise that Lincoln got a result. He’s right when he says that it is now virtually impossible for him to win over numerous supporters who feel they have reached the point of no return with him.

What a sad state of affairs. How have we reached this point just 18 months on from the feelgood factor of that sixth-place finish? Unity and pride has nosedived into fragmentation and apathy.

The root cause of Town’s woes remains hard to put your finger on.

A lack of ambition from Evans? If he really believes McCarthy can turn it around, why is he not delivering the fresh faces that are badly needed? A tough month to do business, yes. But other clubs are getting sensible deals done.

There has to be an element of sympathy for McCarthy. There was always going to be a stage where Town wouldn’t be able to keep punching above their weight.

That doesn’t excuse the current situation though. The Blues are without doubt now badly underperforming. Forget injuries and budget, this squad, on a competitive salary, should be doing a lot better.

Honest Mick’s well-worn mantras, the simple desire for hard-work, good characters and points always taking precedence over performances, were just what the doctor ordered at a difficult juncture for the club.

His honesty and pragmatism made him popular early on but, ironically, are now the things which grate most with supporters. Perhaps his players have grown bored of him too? He’s hinted as much himself.

The players will protest at such claims. They insist they are all fighting for the manager’s cause. Performances like Saturday’s suggests otherwise.

There are precious few leaders out there blocking out the negativity and inspiring others around them. Too many seem frozen into passivity.

The fans are fed up, the manager and players suddenly feel unloved – it’s a vicious cycle.

This is a football club crippled by inaction. Something, patently, needs to be done differently. Mick needs to change or be changed. Marcus needs to back his man or find someone else to deliver his plan. The players, far from unaccountable, need to stand up and be counted.

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