North Stander: We need a miracle to get out of this
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North Stander Terry Hunt gives his take on the challenge facing new boss Paul Lambert at Ipswich Town...
When I was a young trainee journalist (some years ago now), I was repeatedly told never to use the word “miracle” in my stories.
“Miracles only happen in the Bible,” was the sage-like instruction from my elders and betters.
Well, looking at the mess Ipswich Town are in right now, it seems as though that golden rule has to be broken, because we need a miracle at Portman Road. Or, to be precise, a miracle in two parts.
Part one demands that Paul Lambert keeps us in touch with the rest of the strugglers between now and January. Some challenge, when you consider the only players he can sign are those euphemistically described as “free agents.” No-one wants them, in other words. Also quite a challenge given that we’re already five points adrift of safety.
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Assuming that our new manager somehow manages that, then for part two of the miracle to be possible we need the owner to open the purse strings come the beginning of 2019. Marcus Evans has already gone against type by getting rid of Paul Hurst without delay. Now he needs to act out of character again - by giving Lambert plenty of money to spend in the January transfer window.
His swift removal of Hurst shows how much he wants to avoid relegation. Will he now provide serious funds to back up that desire?
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Only if both parts of the miracle happen do we stand a realistic chance of avoiding the drop to the third tier for the first time in more than 60 years.
The display at Millwall demonstrated starkly just how big a mess we’re in.
Honestly, quite what Paul Lambert made of it, goodness only knows. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d run for the hills, and then, having found a safe hideaway, sent Marcus Evans a text along the lines of: “Sorry, Marcus, I’ve just remembered - I have an urgent appointment in Ulan Bator. Back in three years.”
After Hurst’s departure, the naive, ridiculously optimistic part of me was expecting a really good performance at Millwall.
You see, I’d convinced myself that the players couldn’t or wouldn’t perform for Paul Hurst, and changing the manager would solve the problem instantaneously.
Err...wrong. What the shambles at the Den demonstrated, wretchedly, was that our biggest problem is an appalling lack of quality.
We concede soft, sloppy goals – often from set-pieces – and we create little or nothing up front. It doesn’t take a footballing genius to work out where that will take us.
So, coming back to the need for something approaching a miracle - can Paul Lambert save us?
Six years ago, almost to the day, Mick McCarthy arrived in a similar situation. Rock-bottom of the Championship, and a side desperately short of confidence. But the players McCarthy inherited had a great deal more about them than the current crop. They just needed moulding and pointing in the right direction.
With the current squad, it’s difficult to know where Lambert should start. I guess that’s the challenge which I’m sure he is relishing, although I think even he will have been taken aback by just how bad we were at Millwall.
Lambert somehow has to transform what is currently an utter shambles into an effective squad. I have to be honest - how he’s going to do that is simply beyond me. But then, that’s why he’s an experienced football manager, and I’m a mere fan.
Talking of fans, I felt for the 2,000 or so Blues supporters who gave up their day, and a lot of hard-earned cash, to make the trip to Millwall and were “rewarded” by an utterly abysmal performance. They deserve so much better.
As for Lambert’s Norwich past, frankly, who cares? At times like this, we have to be focused and forget the past. He’s our manager now.
So, Mr. Evans and Mr. Lambert, it’s over to you. A miracle in two parts, please. Not too much to ask, surely?