Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Why delay operation win back hearts and minds?
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Deep down, both parties knew it was over for while. Now the break-up has been confirmed, the question is whether it can end on good terms.
The long-term relationship between Ipswich Town and Mick McCarthy got well beyond the honeymoon period. Many good moments were shared and there was genuine love and affection.
Over time people can begin to take each other for granted though. Steady becomes boring without the odd bit of spontaneity. Resentment builds. Cross words are exchanged.
There was more than enough respect there for last week’s split to be adult and amicable. Rightly so. But we’re now at that slightly awkward stage where McCarthy isn’t going to move out until further plans are put in place. And it has the potential, sadly, to turn messy.
The atmosphere before, during and after tomorrow afternoon’s Championship game against Millwall at Portman Road will go a long way to showing whether it will end with a warm hug or a screaming match.
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Will some of the tension have been taken out of the air now there is some much-needed clarity on the future? I hope so. However, McCarthy’s continued sensitive snipes may just prevent that from happening.
He admits that being in charge of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Birmingham City – the first match of his planned eight-game farewell tour – was ‘surreal’ and that ‘something has gone, for sure’. It begs the question as to whether him lingering on as a lame duck manager is healthy for anyone.
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There is no doubt he will remain utterly professional to the bitter end. And there is no doubt that the players, to a man, will continue to give their all for him.
Would a caretaker boss – key academy protagonists Bryan Klug, Gerard Nash and Alan Lee would be prime candidates – get any more out of them over the coming days? Probably not.
They may just kick-start a much-needed new sense of hope though. The focus would be less on squeezing every last point out of the season in order to boost McCarthy’s CV. A few more youngsters may get game-time and the seeds of a new playing philosophy could be planted into the senior pros’ minds. The next few weeks could be utilised as a vital transitional phase.
Let’s not forget that Marcus Evans has made his decision for one main reason – to reinvigorate an increasingly apathetic fan base.
In an ideal world, the next permanent manager would be installed asap. It is beyond question that Evans has to take his time in appointing what will be only the 16th manager in the football club’s history though. It’s a huge decision and there will be more options come the summer.
That’s not to say that operation win back hearts and minds has to be delayed.