ROCK BOTTOM TOWN!

COMMENTRARELY has there been such a spectacular fall from grace as Ipswich Town's – they have plummeted from fifth in the Premiership to 44th out of the 92 league clubs and today face the very real possibility of dropping out of another division.

COMMENT

RARELY has there been such a spectacular fall from grace as Ipswich Town's – they have plummeted from fifth in the Premiership to 44th out of the 92 league clubs and today face the very real possibility of dropping out of another division.

This slide cannot be allowed to continue.

A little more than a year ago, after a catastrophic 3-0 reverse at Grimsby, the Ipswich Town board took drastic action to arrest the Blues' dramatic slide down the table.

For a while it worked.

Joe Royle was appointed and Town soared to seventh place by the end of the season, one place off the play-offs, and optimism reigned supreme that, despite administration, things were on the up.

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Today, after the 4-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, coupled with wins by George Burley's Derby County and Watford, Ipswich have slumped to their worst league position since 1957, when Sir Alf Ramsey's side were playing in the old Division Three (South).

But what can be done now to prevent the very real possibility of relegation?

Already there are calls to change the manager – but is that really the answer?

Depending on what the compensation package would be, the financial implications are also bound to be a consideration.

The continuity factor has also to be looked at. Royle is not even a year into the job, and there was much work to be done when he first got to Portman Road. That task was made harder by administration and the need to sell the best players in the squad.

Royle showed at Manchester City that he can eventually bring success. He was relegated to Division Two so he knows what it is about, but he rebuilt them and they won two successive promotions before Ipswich hammered the final nail in the coffin and they were relegated once more.

Bringing someone new in would mean starting all over again and with an even weaker squad than last season. They would look to bring in new players, unless they were 'advised' to make better use of the youngsters coming through.

But can the board be patient enough, or even brave enough, to take another step back, or even down, just to move forward once more.

The quick fix that Royle and Willie Donachie brought about looks to be coming apart at the seams.

Kelvin Davis looks a very good keeper – his one mistake at Albion can be excused as a blip – while Drissa Diallo also had an off day at The Hawthorns but on the whole looks a good Division One defender.

Georges Santos is undoubtedly a strong and commanding centre half but has been used in midfield, where it was apparent he was not suited. With Thomas Gaardsoe sold for £520,000 no one has been able to fill that gap effectively.

Turning to experienced – that is to say old – players may be okay if a short-term fix is what is required and if it works.

Chris Bart-Williams and Alan Mahon have been brought in and we are told a big target man who has a proven goal-scoring record will shortly follow. Let us hope so and let us hope it brings about the promised success.

With the loss of genuine quality players like Matt Holland, Jamie Clapham, Hermann Hreidarsson, Darren Ambrose and Thomas Gaardsoe, the team looks decidedly weak.

Of course Town are still feeling the painful effects of relegation, in what proved to be the worst possible year to go down.

It is no secret Town have no money to buy quality and every club is borrowing players to get them through.

After guiding the club out of administration the board, along with chief executive Derek Bowden have found ways of fulfilling Royle's wishes.

They have accepted his decisions to put Andy Marshall, Alun Armstrong, now removed, and Martijn Reuser on the free transfer list.

Royle had no place for Thomas Gaardsoe and Marcus Bent so when clubs came calling they were allowed to leave as well so he could bring in the players he wanted.

Nearly half the team which lost on Saturday was made up of players Royle brought in and others he has made clear he wants to keep.

Failure to beat struggling Walsall at home tomorrow would be akin to that loss in Grimsby last October. It doesn't get much worse and the effects will have wide repercussions.

The proposed share issue has now been put back to the end of October in the hope of a better set of results, which would give fans the confidence and desire to dip their hands in their pockets yet again.

But how much longer, and how many, are prepared to wait and how many genuinely believe Town will be promoted this season?

It is no good talking of how good this squad is, there is little solace in opposition managers saying what a good side Town are and then taking three points off them.

There appears little credence in talking about promotion when the reality is getting into the top half of the table would be a major achievement.

Only Town and Chesterfield in the Football League have failed to win a solitary league game this season. Two points from six games is nowhere near good enough. The performance at the Hawthorns lacked passion, and, call it what you will, drive, thrust, oomph, whatever, Town don't have it.

Certainly supporters are weary of the constant struggle and just as the players, strikers especially, are lacking in confidence, you can't help but wonder if some of them are not tired of the constant struggle.

Ipswich's rise to finishing fifth in the Premiership and qualifying for the UEFA Cup to being bottom of Division One is akin to a nightmare game of snakes and ladders.

Falls from grace of this sort of magnitude are rare, but in some cases even more spectacular.

Carlisle, Northampton and Swansea have all tasted life at the very top of Division One but their encounters were brief before going into free-fall and all the way back down to the bottom of the ladder.

Unless something drastic is done or the promised improvement comes soon, and tomorrow is soon enough, then Town will go the way of Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and QPR, who believed they were big clubs with good squads but now sit in Division Two.

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