Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Just another game? Come on, let’s give this Wycombe match the narrative it deserves
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town remain second in League One following yesterday’s 2-2 home draw with Blackpool. STUART WATSON reflects on the action and looks ahead to Tuesday night’s visit of table-topping Wycombe.
Saturday's press conference concluded with Paul Lambert asking if I had a wife. When I replied in the affirmative, he offered his sympathy to her for having to live with such a pessimist. Or words to that affect.
All I'd done is raise the fact that Wycombe had scored a stoppage-time winner to open up a five-point gap ahead of Tuesday night's top-of-the-table clash at Portman Road.
"It's a disaster! An absolute unbelievable disaster!" he jokingly declared, before stressing that titles can't be won or lost in November and that this is just the next game in a marathon that doesn't end until May.
He's right, of course. A look back at the last 10 years in this division tells you that.
You may also want to watch:
Wigan, Bristol City, Wolves, Brighton and Leeds all kept hold of their grips on automatic promotion spots from this stage onwards, but more teams ended up blowing it from a position of power at this point of the campaign.
Here's the thing, football is game of emotions. It's the job of managers and players not to get caught up in them. And it's the job of us watching on from the outside in to do exactly the opposite. They stay level, we all ride the rollercoaster.
- 1 Emotional moment as family decides to cease farming in-hand
- 2 'We'll see how we go' - QPR boss Warburton on Bonne recall option
- 3 Suspected drink driver flees scene after car destroyed in crash
- 4 Couple fear they will never sell home after A12 upgrade outside
- 5 Man arrested after car crashes into supermarket sign
- 6 Suffolk man guilty of raping schoolgirl and facing jail sentence
- 8 Ipswich Town players' FIFA 22 ratings revealed
- 9 Exhausted farmers cool off the combines after gruelling harvest
- 10 Man airlifted to hospital after suffering serious leg injuries in crash
One minute we've all been waxing lyrical about the strength in depth of this Town squad, their mental strength to bounce back from relegation and have been getting so carried away that there have been discussions about whether this group is equipped for the Championship.
The next minute, after a minor set back or two, we've concerned ourselves about just how convincing performances have been, the dangers of squad rotation and whether this newfound joy is built on sand.
Such mood swings are ridiculous. Of course they are. But, as the one-size-fits-all cliche goes, 'that's football'. Whatever that means.
Ipswich may go up, they may not. Right now, if I'm honest, the odds on that could be a flip of a coin. If you pushed me to give a prediction, I'd squirm uncomfortably before replying that, yes, they'll do it. I wouldn't be betting my life on it though.
Lambert should take that as a compliment. Turning apathy to angst (the best kind of hopeful angst) is his greatest achievement since taking charge of this club. Call me a pessimist if you like. I prefer the term romantic realist.
Saturday's topsy-turvy 2-2 home draw with Blackpool was enjoyable as a spectacle. It had swings in momentum, jeopardy, goals and moments of controversy. Blues fans might have left a little disappointed it wasn't all three points, but none of them will have felt short-changed.
In many ways, that 90 minutes could end up being a snap-shot of the season. Ups, downs, excitement, disappointment. Will it be enough? Let's just keep enjoying the ride. Let's keep analysing the minutiae of every team selection, every kick and every refereeing decision because, well, otherwise what's the point?
Football fandom is less about the destination, but more about the journey. And I'm enjoying this particular one.
Wycombe 'just another game'? Nah. Let's give it the narrative it deserves. This is top versus second. The favourites versus the surprise package. Medals might not be handed out for the victors, if indeed there is one, but my word it would feel pretty darn big.
Whenever there are two home games in quick succession like this I always think back to 2014. When Mick McCarthy's men beat Wolves and Watford in back-to-back matches at Portman Road in early November it felt like a major moment. Something special was in the air. There was a sense of lift-off. We all began to truly believe.
Ipswich still need that moment this season, I think. And the Chairboys will be looking for that themselves following on from Saturday's last-gasp win versus Doncaster. After Tuesday, their set of fixtures between now and the end of the January reads: Burton, Oxford, Portsmouth, Coventry, Ipswich again, Peterborough, Sunderland, Rochdale, Coventry, Blackpool. Have this season's surprise package got staying power? We'll see.
Lambert's squad rotation will continue. Janoi Donacien's return to form is an example of how that policy can work. He rebuilt his confidence thanks to three successive outings in the cup and now the potential absence of Kane Vincent-Young for a top-of-the-table clash doesn't seem quite as big a disaster.
Mind you, James Norwood's injury set-back could be used as evidence against it. Would he have picked up this niggle had he kept on playing after the win at Rochdale? Maybe, just maybe, the body becomes deconditioned when you have a break so quickly after a return from the treatment room. Us outsiders can only speculate. That's what we do.
Can this be Town's week? Will this be Town's season? Tune in for the next episode of this football soap opera.