The Verdict: Ipswich Town are sleepwalking towards League One after ignoring the warning signs

Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers walks from the pitch after Saturday's defeat at Cardiff. Photo: P

Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers walks from the pitch after Saturday's defeat at Cardiff. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD

Ipswich Town have sleepwalked straight into the perfect storm.

It’s time to start seriously talking about the previously unthinkable – the club’s 60-year stay in English football’s top two tiers is very much under threat.

Here are the stark facts. Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Cardiff City saw the gap to the Championship drop zone cut to just five points with eight games to play.

It’s starting to look like seven teams are battling to avoid finishing in 22nd spot. Town are, without doubt, the most out-of-form side in that pack having claimed just 14 points from a possible 42 since the turn of the year. Rock-bottom Rotherham aside, no-one in the bottom half has won fewer games in their last 10 outings.

There is now a fortnight for fans to fester on last week’s slap-in-the-face news of a season ticket price hike. The atmosphere could be toxic, and the players could be nervy, for high-pressure home games against Birmingham (18th) and Wigan (23rd).

How on earth have we reached this point?

Town failed to strengthen from a position of strength at the end of 2014. They’ve stood still while others around them have kicked on. Owner Marcus Evans wrongly thought manager Mick McCarthy could juggle dust indefinitely when everyone else recognised that the team had been punching above their weight.

McCarthy has been his own worst enemy at times too. He’s allowed his relationship with fans to diminish through belligerent words and actions. The very qualities that have made him so durable in the most cutthroat of industries are working against him at present. He’s hurt. He’s repeatedly said he will consider his future this summer. It’s not the ideal situation for a club now in a relegation scrap.

Then there’s the fact that Luke Chambers – captain fantastic, the glue that keeps the dressing room together – has been left demoralised by delayed and disappointing contract talks. Cole Skuse will not want to see his best mate move on. Christophe Berra also faces an uncertain future. Three senior players unsettled is bound to have a ripple effect around a squad short on leaders.

So much spirit, goodwill and unity has evaporated. The warning signs have been there for at least a year now, but cautious, passive decisions have allowed a slow bleed. It’s simply inexcusable.

Mar 14, 2016: ‘Death by a thousand cuts’

Mar 21, 2016: ‘Take heed of fans’ frustrations’

May 2, 2016: ‘No ambition = bored fans’

Oct 17, 2016: ‘Depressingly predictable’

Nov 7, 2016: ‘Stop the snarky comments Mick’

Nov 21, 2016: ‘Portman Road purgatory plumbs new depths’

Dec 5, 2016: ‘What is the plan?’

Dec 12, 2016: ‘Get out of your bubble’

Jan 9, 2017: ‘From unity to discord’

Jan 23, 2017: ‘Actions not matching words’