The Verdict: Ipswich fans know the Sir Bobby era is long gone... but that feeling of togetherness must return
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The answer to the question Mick McCarthy posed after his side’s 1-1 draw at Bolton is undoubtedly ‘no’.
The answer to the question Mick McCarthy posed after his side’s 1-1 draw at the Macron Stadium is undoubtedly ‘no’.
“Do people think this is Ipswich Town with Sir Bobby Robson still involved and all those players and that we’re a top, top team who should come to Bolton and beat them?” – the Blues boss pondered.
Ipswich fans know their side’s place in the modern game – 16 consecutive seasons in the Championship (with a 17th almost a certainty) makes that very clear – but the hope which once saw the Suffolk side widely regarded as one of the best in Europe still burns for a group of supporters starved of moments to shout about.
By referring to eras past, McCarthy wasn’t trying to suggest he is leading a club with a fanbase expecting to hit the heights of the 1970s and 80s – he was correctly highlighting where the club stands in the modern game.
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But his post-match comments did once again highlight the breakdown of a relationship between touchline and terrace.
The Blues boss spoke of Town fans being ‘underwhelmed’ by the signing of Stephen Gleeson on a free transfer from Birmingham before adding “that’s why they are the fans and that’s why I’m the manager.”
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Sure, there are certainly those less than impressed by the acquisition of a 29-year-old who struggled to get in a relegation-battling side, while more are frustrated by the implementation of a patchwork, short-term, recruitment strategy telegraphed by McCarthy at the start of the month.
But there were others who regarded him as a steady Championship performer who could improve the side, while many more were willing to give the new man a chance.
Ipswich fans long for success, a return to the glory years, of course they do. Every fallen club does. But there are many who don’t follow football simply for success, they follow it for a sense of being part of something, for belonging and working as one to achieve a goal.
There is a quote at the back of the Sir Bobby Robson stand which sums up the legendary boss’s thoughts on that subject. ‘What is a club in any case’ it reads. ‘It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging’. That is a sense missing at Ipswich right now.
By unnecessarily and wrongly tarring Ipswich fans with the same brush in regard to Gleeson, McCarthy once again showed just why the feeling of apathy is as strong as ever among sections of the fanbase.
Supporters aren’t stupid. They see their club is battling against the odds once again in their quest for relevance in an era of the game dominated by money the Blues simply don’t have.
A siege mentality, ‘us against the world’ was a key factor in an unlikely run to the play-offs in 2014-15. Fans loved their club again.
That is something that, somehow, someway, must be rediscovered if any kind of success is to return to Portman Road.