by Amy Downes
Today a new era is set to begin at Portman Road… again.
Former Wolves manager Mick McCarthy has been unveiled as the new manager of Ipswich Town; he replaces Paul Jewell who left last week following The Blues third straight defeat in a season where they have so far won just one game.
But is he the answer to the long list of problems at ITFC? Can he succeed where Paul Jewell failed in the club’s ultimate goal of reaching the Premier League? Or is he set to be the next casualty on the managerial merry-go-round which Town appear to have become?
During the first 18 years of my life I saw two men in charge of The Blues: John Lyall and George Burley. The latter provided me with the treasured memories of promotion to the Premier League, a fifth place finish the following season and a trip to Europe. These are distant memories now.
But, in the ten years since he left, Town have employed (if you include our latest appointment) 5 managers; 3 of those in the last six years since new owner Marcus Evans took charge. The point I’m attempting to raise is that promotion takes time and hard work and I fear the club have become too ‘short sighted’ to demonstrate the patience to allow this.
That said, of course, Jewell did have to go. He has twice taken a team with the potential to do well into inconsistent form, the inability to play for more than 45 minutes and – the straw that broke the camel’s back – the habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Our last five games have ended in defeat, four of those after going a goal ahead.
It’s worth noting that I, personally, don’t hold Jewell entirely responsible for our falling league position. He has been both unlucky and very restricted in the transfer market (due to Chief Executive Simon Clegg’s decision to reduce our wage bill in preparation for the Financial Fair Play rules).
But our form has been too inconsistent, something which goes back to the days of Roy Keane too, and the confidence levels of both the fans and the players is at an all time low. In terms of results, last season was a cliché of a rollercoaster ride: whilst we managed the double over local rivals West Ham and an incredible 5:3 win over Barnsley (after being 2:0 down at half time), there were some truly dire defeats to content with too: including 7:1 at Peterborough, 4:0 at Burnley and 4:1 at Leeds, not to mention our final home match of last season which was a 3:0 defeat to Millwall. Under Paul Jewell’s guidance we conceded 3 or more goals in 21 games – that’s a quarter of the matches he was in charge for! He was unable to settle the side or turn around our diabolical start to this season, but his preference for loan players over home grown talent and use of negative defensive tactics when we went a goal ahead was what lost him the crowd in the end.
The last few weeks as an Ipswich fan have been very difficult and as such it’s difficult to see any positives from the Scouse man’s reign, but there are some.
His signings Aaron Cresswell and Jay Emmanuel Thomas could bring some hope for our future. Cressie (who joined us from Tranmere Rovers last summer) was widely tipped as the best left back in the Championship last year and reportedly attracted interest from Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa over the summer. While former Arsenal youngster JET is, on his day, the kind of player who you simply can’t take your eyes off when he’s on the ball. In recent weeks he has angered some fans through Twitter rows and being pictured out clubbing, but it is hoped he will reach his full potential under a more forceful manager who perhaps commands a little more respect. (Mick McCarthy anyone?)
Meanwhile, with his gambling debts aside, Michael Chopra was a bargain and remains one of our best assets. Despite a self confessed quiet campaign last year, he still scored 14 goals and from talking to fans of the opposition I notice it’s his name they fear the most. The revelation of his gambling addiction and recent accusations of race fixing are clearly having an effect on him, but I feel the biggest factor in his current poor form was Jewell’s insistence on playing him as a lone strike. The new manager of course can fix this.
Last season also saw a number of players improve their game vastly and I think it’s fair to credit Jewell and his coaching staff with that. Players we all thought long past it, like Jason Scotland, Tommy Smith and Lee Martin, became regulars in the side and received compliments for many of their performances in the middle part of last year. Sadly, this hasn’t continued: Jason has been used as a sub, Tommy has been dropped altogether and Lee’s lack of end product when going forward is worrying.
So you see, unlike Paul Jewell, McCarthy won’t come into a club completely destroyed by the last regime. They are merely wounded from a horrible start to the season. But with the change in management we can now draw a line under that and move on.
There is enough talent in the squad to remove ourselves from this relegation battle, we just need the right man to harness that.
Welcome to our club Mick, the weight on our shoulders is now shared with you and we truly hope you can handle it.