The verdict: Mick McCarthy’s relationship with Ipswich Town fans looks beyond repair now
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town are well and truly in the doldrums.
Definition: A state or period of stagnation or depression. Synonyms: Gloom, despondency, despair, pessimism and hopelessness.
In sailing terms it describes the moment a boat is left drifting at sea thanks to long periods without wind to generate momentum. Nine draws from 12 has left the Blues bobbing towards a 16th successive season in the Championship and the rations are starting to run out. The fact some fans are willing a storm to capsize the club and force some sort of rescue mission shows you just how desperate things have become.
Saturday’s 1-1 home stalemate with fellow strugglers Birmingham City was predictably scrappy, dull and short on quality. A fluke Grant Ward equaliser and some more heroics from keeper Bartosz Bialkowski just about contained the toxic atmosphere to the vocal North Standers. Discontent has been bubbling for quite some time now though and is beginning to reach boiling point. This stage would have been reached a long time ago at plenty of other clubs in the land.
The writing looks very much on the wall for manager Mick McCarthy. How rapidly his relationship with fans has soured. It’s beyond repair now, you sense. Limp to safety and then the amicable divorce proceedings can start.
You desperately want to feel sympathy for the Yorkshireman, who has continually worked with one-arm tied behind his back, but time-and-time again he does not help himself. There is a time for belligerence and conviction and there is also a time for PR and appeasement. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you can at least attempt to keep the majority behind you when mutiny is brewing.
How easy it would have been to keep everyone on his side. Play a few more of the kids now and again, set up his teams to be positive and dynamic from the start and, whatever the results, all criticism surrounding the club treading water would have been aimed solely at owner Marcus Evans.
Picking veteran midfielder Jonathan Douglas was not a wise move. McCarthy must have been savvy enough to know many would interpret it as some kind of two-fingered gesture just days after his call for unity.
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He’s wrong to call fans a ‘disgrace’ for booing Douglas. For a start, it was hardly a cacophony of catcalls. Secondly, the groans aren’t a personal attack, rather an outlet for the frustration regarding continued safety-first tactics that poor old Dougie’s inclusion has become synonymous with.
In the 43 home league games played since the start of the 2015/16 season Town have scored just 16 first half goals.
Be it the hike in season ticket prices and subsequent refusal to back down in face of a backlash or McCarthy’s dismissive rhetoric when it comes to the slightest hint of questioning regarding team selection, Blues fans, on so many levels, feel like they are being treated with contempt. They feel like, rightly or wrongly, Mick cares far more about his own reputation than that of their beloved club.
Maybe the chants and frustrations more and more are beginning to show is just what’s needed to escape the doldrums.