Northstander: So, what do you think of it so far? I know what I think!
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
A quarter of the way through the season, TERRY HUNT, takes a look at Ipswich Town and Paul Hurst’s current plight
Well, what do you think of it so far?
A quarter of the way through the season, as we draw breath for an international break, it seems a sensible time to ask that question.
I’ll have to start with the negatives, because if you’re second from bottom of the table after 12 games, then inevitably there isn’t going to be much to celebrate.
Firstly, let’s be clear about one thing. It was absolutely the right decision for Mick McCarthy to leave.
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His reign had become incredibly dull, and his increasingly toxic relationship with the supporters meant he had to go.
Yes, I’m sure some of the “be careful what you wish for” brigade will quickly point to the Championship table, but that’s not the point. Not the whole point, anyway.
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Like most people, I was excited by Paul Hurst’s appointment. Just what we need, I thought. A young manager with a decent track record at lower levels and a burning ambition to prove himself further up the ladder.
Oh yes – the negatives.
Hurst has clearly made mistakes. McCarthy’s squad wasn’t packed with world-beaters, but they were good enough to hold their own in this division.
So quite why Hurst felt the need to pretty much change the whole team, I wish I could understand.
Ok, he lost Waghorn, Garner, Webster and McGoldrick, which was obviously a big reduction on the wage bill, but also a big loss of quality.
That being the case, he should have looked at the likes of Freddie Sears, with lots of Championship experience, and Andre Dozzell, with star quality, and inked their names on the team sheet.
Instead, we were watching just about a whole new team, packed with bargain basement purchases with little or no experience at this level.
It was a huge gamble which I suppose could have worked. But it failed spectacularly.
It’s only in the last couple of games that Sears and Dozzell have emerged from the wilderness, and both played a part in our first win of the season at Swansea.
Hurst is also still searching for his best line-up.
I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s made changes at half-time. Surely an admission that the starting line-up wasn’t right. After a dozen games, surely he should know his best team?
Then there’s Bart.
Please don’t try telling me that Gerken is a better keeper than Bart. Yes, Gerken is a good shot-stopper, but for all-round quality then it’s the big Pole every time. You don’t win Player of the Year, and get picked for Poland, unless you’re a top operator. So why isn’t he in our team?
That’s quite a few negatives –- so what are the positives?
Well, for me, the huge improvement is the way Hurst approaches games. We actually go out on to the pitch with a positive mindset, not just to avoid being beaten.
There’s none of the McCarthy mantra about “no such thing as a bad away point” and “every point’s a prisoner.” Yawn...
Swansea was a great example. After Bersant Celina’s equaliser, McCarthy would have done everything possible to cling on to a point. But Hurst’s team kept on attacking and got their reward. So refreshing after all this turgid games under McCarthy.
I also like Hurst’s honesty. He doesn’t hide behind that awful manager-speak.
His words come from the heart, like his no-holds-barred appraisal of the awful performance in the Carabao Cup at Exeter. It was great to hear.
Hurst has things to learn, and he needs to learn quickly if this season is to recover. The next few games will be very telling. Four of the next five are against fellow strugglers. If we’re still in the bottom three after that series of matches then the alarm bells will be ringing very loudly indeed.
Whether that would prompt Marcus Evans to call a halt to the Hurst era is, of course, a matter of conjecture. There has been a lot of gossip saying that, unlike with previous managers, Evans is ready to act quickly this time round. Personally, I find that hard to believe.
Which brings me, finally, to the subject of the owner.
Ultimately, Ipswich Town Football Club is in his hands. He determines the spending policy and, in a sport where money speaks so loudly, that really is the be-all and end-all.
We, the fans, can shout and holler but, at the end of the day, it’s his money to spend – or not – how he likes.
Frustrating, yes, but that’s how it is.