Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: This was never going to be a quick fix – focus on the bigger picture
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Ipswich Town are bottom of the Championship table following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. STUART WATSON gives his considered verdict ahead of Sunday’s East Anglian derby at Portman Road.
Good things come to those who wait.
If those words come back to haunt me a few months down the line then so be it.
Yes, this could all go horribly wrong. But I honestly don’t think it will.
I was among those calling for this calculated risk after years of steady stagnation. Maybe I am too emotionally invested now to not recognise the dangers. Taking a step back and assessing the last few weeks objectively though, I’ve seen more than enough signs that this project will come good.
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Ipswich Town are bottom of the Championship table and have exited the Carabao Cup to lower league opposition. Those are the cold, hard facts.
However, just as no-one was expecting the Blues to romp the league after winning their first five games in all competitions last season, no-one should be fearing the worst after a winless six-game start to this campaign.
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It’s a new manager, a new style of play and completely new squad. Eight of the starting XI on Saturday were summer signings. Paul Hurst’s first transfer window is not even over yet. Up to three more fresh faces could arrive before Friday’s loan deadline.
This was never going to be a quick fix.
Have Town been outplayed on any occasion? No. Are they easier on the eye? Undoubtedly. They are starting with more positive intent, enjoying some bright spells of possession and more often than not producing more shots than the opposition.
Have any of the new boys recruited from the lower leagues looked completely out of their depth? No. Will they get better, both individually and as a unit, with games? Undoubtedly.
Are there things they need to work on? Absolutely – conceding at set-pieces and having a better end product in the final third being the two big ones.
Have Hurst and his staff really had that much time on the training pitch to implement their ideas during a hectic opening month (six games in 22 days including 1,640 miles of travel)? No.
Will a focus on sports science and fitness mean Town will get better as the season goes on? Hopefully. Maybe this is the year Town finish strongly rather than fading.
Have the Blues been unlucky in the opening weeks? That’s debatable.
Tayo Edun and Toto Nsiala have both been issued harsh red cards, while Derby scored with two deflected goals. Then again, of the five goals scored, three have owed to some good fortune (Edun v Blackburn, Kayden Jackson v Exeter and an argument for offside at Sheffield Wednesday).
Town have to start making their own luck. And surely they will. Results are the by-product of performances. Yes, aesthetically pleasing teams have gone down in this most punishing of leagues. This doesn’t feel like a style over substance situation though.
This holistic approach – a manager connected with fans, hungry players, a positive style of play etc – gives Town a far better long-term chance of progress, on a budget, rather than grinding out binary results and simply treading water.
That’s the bigger picture.
So get behind the boys on Sunday and be the 12th man. They say things come in threes. Long-standing unbeaten runs at Pride Park and Hillsborough have ended in recent days, so maybe it’s time for that winless run against that lot up to the road to end now too.
Good things come to those who wait... Goodness me we’ve waited long enough for those bragging rights to return south of the border. Victory at the weekend would be the spark needed for the new era to well and truly lift off.