North Stander: We must keep the faith and be the 12th man for Town

Town manager Paul Lambert. Picture: STEVE WALLER WWW.STEPHENWALLER.COM

Town manager Paul Lambert. Picture: STEVE WALLER WWW.STEPHENWALLER.COM - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Glass half-full or half-empty? Encouraged by the performance in Paul Lambert’s first game, or frustrated by the result and can’t stop looking at the league table?

Cole Skuse with his head in his hands after slicing a shot wide. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Cole Skuse with his head in his hands after slicing a shot wide. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Let’s get that last, depressing bit out of the way, shall we? Yes, we’re five points adrift and, yes, that lot who play in yellow and green are perched at the top. Has that awful ‘top and tail’ scenario ever happened before? I can’t remember it.

This far into a season, our situation is clearly serious. Especially as we still can’t keep a clean sheet and we’re still looking short of a goal threat. Just look at the goals for column.

Let’s move on to the positives. Paul Lambert had had a huge impact – right from day one.

Last Sunday, he brought every member of staff into the Playford Road training ground – the players, back room staff, security guards, people who wash the kit – everybody.

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He then delivered an impressive motivational speech. The following day, he wowed the assembled media, and on Thursday he charmed a group of fans with his wit and humour.

This is clearly a manager with something about him.

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He talks about bringing back the fun factor – and I hear on the grapevine that’s already happening. There’s a really good atmosphere about the place, I’m being told.

All good...but here’s the big, all-important question: can he turn it round on the pitch?

Fans watch the Ipswich Town v Preston North End match. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Fans watch the Ipswich Town v Preston North End match. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

I said when he was appointed that he needed to perform a miracle, and nothing has happened in the last week to make me change my mind.

I have to confess that I wasn’t at Portman Road on Saturday. I was starting my 60-mile coastal walk to raise money for life-saving defibrillators for Suffolk, so hopefully I’m forgiven for my shocking absence.

Everything I hear and read about the game is encouraging, both on the pitch and in the stands. From Lambert’s animated, positive presence on the touch line, to the performance, to the buzzing atmosphere created by the fans – it all sounds really good, and light years from the utter dross we’ve been suffering under Paul Hurst.

But – and it’s a big but – we still didn’t get the three points. We still couldn’t register a win, even though the opposition weren’t up to much, and they played a big chunk of the second half with ten men, and with an outfield player in goal.

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Which brings me to the big issue: how much difference can Lambert’s positivity, man-management skills and the ‘fun factor’ make? Can it make the huge difference we need to pull off a great escape?

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m hoping those qualities can bring about a transformation in our form and our results. But it really is a big ask.

Up to now, we have seemed terribly short of quality. Hence the way the league table looks right now.

Can inspiration from the manager transform players who are struggling in the Championship into true competitors at this level? I really hope so. Because that’s the task in hand, at least until the January transfer window opens. The other really key aspect is us – the supporters. We have a huge part to play.

I hear the atmosphere was great on Saturday. I’m delighted, because it has to be that way for the rest of this season. The old ‘12th man’ cliche has never been more relevant. I suspect it won’t all be plain sailing, but we must keep the faith.

So, to answer my own question, my glass is definitely half-full. Let’s hope it gets topped up even more with a much-needed win at Reading next Saturday.

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