Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Befuddled Bolton’s off-field woes put Town’s own situation into perspective
Ipswich Town won 2-1 at Bolton Wanderers yesterday afternoon. STUART WATSON reflects on a rare victory for the rock-bottom Blues.
Bolton fans sat there, silent, looking emotionally drained.
Meanwhile, in stark contrast, an array of inflatables bounced around the packed away end with more than 1,400 Ipswich Town fans in party mood.
And that was before a ball was kicked on Saturday.
Town went on to comfortably win the game 2-1. They’ve played better and lost. This time they added some clinicality to their spells of neat play at both ends of the field.
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The Lancashire hosts, whose players spent the first part of last week on strike over late pay, looked broken and befuddled on and off the pitch.
Both teams are heading for League One - but one feeling is a whole lot better about themselves.
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That horrible sense of uncertainty is palpable at Bolton.
Last Wednesday’s High Court case over an unpaid tax bill was once again adjourned. A Trotters takeover continues to drag. The threat of liquidation or administration hangs over them still. This a club that was in the Premier League as recently as 2012.
It’s a reminder that, whatever you think about Blues owner Marcus Evans, he has provided a consistent level of investment over a sustained period of time.
There’s a fine line between ambition and recklessness. Stability may not be sexy, but it shouldn’t be sniffed at either.
For Ipswich fans there’s long been a sense of acceptance. It’s like something in the air has been lifted as this miserable season has gone on.
It is what it is. We are where we are.
The perpetual struggle to stay relevant in the Championship is over. That, in a different way, had become emotionally draining. It had dulled the senses.
Sometimes you have to take one step back in order to move two steps forwards. That’s the hope anyway. Hit the reset button. The fight back starts now.
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Ipswich Town could (though it looks unlikely) be relegated on Wednesday exactly a year to the day Mick McCarthy announced his departure with a dramatic thump of the desk.
It would come at the ground which set up that pre-planned premature walk away, the Yorkshireman having faced some pretty unsavoury chants at Griffin Park just a few days earlier.
Town’s league record since his departure reads: W5 D16 L23, plus two cup exits to lower league opposition.
Would the Blues be heading for relegation with him still at the helm? Probably not.
Would there be the same feeling of hope regarding meaningful long-term progress? Probably not.
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Sometimes two people meet at an opportune moment in life.
Sometimes the most unlikely of relationships can blossom.
Ipswich Town need Paul Lambert as much as Paul Lambert needs Ipswich Town.
It has the potential to be a powerful thing.
Both are sick of short-termism.
The constant use of sticking plasters has seen the Blues sleepwalk towards their current situation. They need a builder not a fire-fighter.
Lambert’s career has stalled after spending less than a year at Blackburn, Wolves and Stoke. He’s not had a summer transfer window or pre-season in five years. He’s desperate to build again.
This is not a manager who thinks he is too big for a long stagnating provincial club in Suffolk. It’s also not a manager trying to justify a step up the ladder to a club steeped in history either.
There’s no sense of self preservation putting the brakes on.
Experienced players will form the spine of the side, with homegrown rather than borrowed talent allowed to develop around them.
They are being encouraged to take risks on the ball and express themselves. Win, draw or lose they have, more often than not, been fun to watch. It’s easy to feel invested in such a plan. It’s easy to be forgiving on the days it doesn’t come off.
That’s why there’s so much latitude for Lambert. That’s where much of this perverse feelgood factor comes from.