‘Two limp displays could be really damaging’ - North Stander expects better in Town’s final home games
The current feelgood factor at Portman Road is an extraordinary phenomenon which has been created purely and simply by Paul Lambert’s seemingly unstoppable positivity, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.
But it’s also extremely fragile, and it won’t take too many hard knocks and crushing disappointments for it to start to dissipate.
The first few cracks started to appear on Friday, as hapless Town were played off the park by an ever-so-average Preston team.
The make-or-break time, though, will be the beginning of next season. If we get off to a winning start, and we’re near the top after the first few games, then everything will be right in Town’s world.
The flip side is a poor start. Then Paul Lambert’s honeymoon would be well and truly over and supporters would start questioning his management. Lambert is old enough and wise enough to know how the land lies.
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So far, he hasn’t put a foot wrong when it comes to building good relations with the supporters. So much so that he’s been forgiven an absolutely shocking set of results. It’s not his fault, is the commonly held view.
Fair enough – although his harshest critics would point out that he invested heavily in the loan market in January and results haven’t improved, although the football is easier on the eye.
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Anyway, ignoring Lambert’s score lines, he’s certainly endeared himself to the supporters.
But push really will come to shove in August. The teams he puts out then will be HIS teams, the performances HIS performances, and the results HIS results. No hiding place.
So there’s a heck of a lot of work to do in the next few months. Who stays? Who goes? Who comes in? Which young players are good enough to trust with starts? Above all, how to create a quality League One team? Decisions, decisions...
The club does seem to be making sensible moves at the moment. The season ticket prices are fair enough, in my opinion. Hopefully, enough fans will pay up to ensure a decent atmosphere at Portman Road next season.
The apology letter from Marcus Evans was a smart move as well and, once again, the strategy of building around young players makes sense.
But will it actually be delivered? It wasn’t under McCarthy, so I hope Lambert sticks to it. I have to say he hasn’t made a great start, hauling Josh Emmanuel off at half-time because he was “struggling.” I don’t think he was the only one, so why replace one of our own young players with a loanee in James Bree? Strange decision, I thought.
Friday’s performance was an absolute stinker – so bad, in fact, that even Lambert couldn’t find anything positive to say about it. And that really is saying something!
Everyone will be hoping for much, much better in the two home games we have remaining. The hierarchy at Portman Road will be desperate for a vast improvement as they try to convince long-suffering fans to buy season tickets. Two limp displays really could be damaging.
Looking ahead to the final game of the season, against Leeds, that really could be a cracker. The visitors will probably still be in the hunt for second place, along with Yorkshire rivals, Sheffield United. I’m pretty certain our friends from north of the border will be up by then.
Finally, I’ve been asked many times whether this is Town’s worst-ever season. Well, I don’t remember them all, but it’s certainly worse than the awful 1994-95 relegation campaign, purely because we were playing at a higher level then.
In terms of league placings, this is the worst since the mid-1950s. But back then we didn’t have a rich heritage as a club. We were minnows and knew nothing better.
Now we have six decades of being a big club, always in the top two divisions, and with some glorious periods of success. That’s why this is such a crushing disappointment, and that’s why this is certainly the club’s worst season on record.
Let’s hope Mr. Lambert and his players can end our pain at the first opportunity. It certainly won’t be easy.