Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: Lambert will want to jam a spiteful stick in Norwich City's quick spinning spokes
PUBLISHED: 12:40 03 February 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town lost 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. STUART WATSON gives his verdict ahead of Sunday’s top versus bottom East Anglian derby clash at Norwich City.
It feels like we should be publishing a redacted version of the league table this week.
A big black line through the teams at the top and bottom.
Let’s just say the censorship is for security purposes. It would probably do more to calm a potentially tinderbox atmosphere than the ridiculously early kick-off time and excessive measures imposed on supporters heading to Carrow Road on Sunday.
How is it that a Sheffield derby can be played on a Friday night, but here in supposedly sleepy East Anglian we get this? Anyway, I digress.
Opposite ends of the standings. A 39 point chasm between the teams. Their leading goalscorer, Teemu Pukki, has scored almost as many (19) as the entire Town squad has managed all season (23).
Urgh. Wake me up when the season ends.
How did it come to this?
Rewind seven months. Ipswich had won the rather sad battle for ‘bragging rights’ by pipping Norwich to 12th spot on goal difference. ‘Our season was ever-so-slightly less disappointing than yours’ was never going to catch on as a terrace put down.
Now rewind just five months. Ipswich Town 1 Norwich City 1. A point apiece at Portman Road. The wait for an East Anglian derby win went on. But it felt like the tide was turning.
The whispers at that time were that Daniel Farke’s job was on the line. The Canaries’ parachute payments had stopped. They had sold off their crown jewels. Town, who probably should have killed that game off at 1-0, seemed to be a club at the start of an exciting project. Norwich, or so it felt, were coming to the end of theirs.
How very wrong. Football, just like life, has a way of biting you on the bum.
Fast forward to the current day.
Paul Lambert’s name is now being sung with gusto by Ipswich fans. The very suggestion of that would have been laughable not so long ago. No chance. Nope. No way. It’s happened though.
He’s a blue and, as the chant goes, he hates Norwich. ‘Hate’ is a strong word, but the fiery Scot is sure keen to show his ex that he is very much happy again. After a string of short-term relationships around the country he’s back and ready to settle down. To quote Rihanna, he’s found love in a hopeless place.
The wheels of his promotion-chasing former employers are beginning to pick up speed. Lambert will be desperate to jam a spiteful stick in the spokes to cause a derailment. The plan will be to pass on some of the pain, just for a few days at least.
That’s about all that’s left to salvage from this car wreck of a campaign; the worst, by whichever metric you wish to use, in the club’s 83-year professional history.
The Norwich game will come and go. Whatever happens, the bigger picture will remain. This is not about them. This is about Ipswich.
The fun of those early draws against Preston and Reading under Lambert already seems a long time ago.
That’s now 11 defeats in 14 games. The two wins have both come in very edgy fashion against relegation-rivals Wigan and Rotherham. It’s possession football without a punch.
Is it fair to have expected more progress by now? Lambert inherited what he did and is trying to impose a new style of play on a squad accustomed to losing.
It was never going to flip 180 overnight. Lambert needs a pre-season and a summer transfer window before we can truly judge. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some questions about the recent recruitment and regression in performances.
Seven new signings and yet the displays, worryingly, have got worse in 2019. The year started so well with the scintillating first half against Millwall, then came that second half implosion, followed by Accrington, Rotherham, Blackburn, Villa and Sheffield Wednesday.
Is Collin Quaner that much better than Ellis Harrison for the lone striker role? Of what we’ve seen of both so far, you’d have to say no.
The Quaner deal will cost Ipswich somewhere in the region of £300k. That sort of money could have subsidised season tickets by £30 per person, for example.
Is James Bree going to be that much better than Josh Emmanuel or Janoi Donacien for the next few weeks? Time will tell. His arrival has quickly rendered the addition of Callum Elder (the unfortunate sixth loanee to sit out) rather pointless though.
Has Lambert handled the Jonas Knudsen situation well? Some of his strong comments about the Dane have rather backed the Blues boss into a corner when, with both James Collins and Luke Chambers injured, he could rather do with an experienced defender coming back into the fold.
Yes, Knudsen won’t be an Ipswich player next season. But he’s far from alone in that respect. It should, as Lambert keeps reminding us, be ‘all hands to the pump’.
Will the new signings keep Ipswich up? No. Are many of them likely to stay on in League One? We shall see. Are they currently denying contracted players game time? Yes.
The turnover of players and staff over the last 10 months has been insane. Lambert is saying all the right things about the need to build something of substance going forwards and loans being akin to ‘throwing your money in the street’, but actions are not matching words at present.
Hands up who’s looking forward to Sunday?... No, thought as much. As discussed earlier though, feelings in football can change very quickly. Columns like these are just an emotional snapshot in time.
Expect the unexpected. That’s all we’ve got right now.