|Never-Ending Mediocrity, But Why?|
written by Edmunds5 Monday, 17th Sep 2012 14:55
Hello, I’m Aaron Edmunds and I am 19 years old. Sports journalism has always interested me and this is my first blog. The current 2012/2013 season is Ipswich Town’s 11th consecutive season in the Championship, a statistic all Blues fans are all but too aware of.
This screams one word to me ‘MEDIOCRE’. I intend to discuss the issues inside and outside the club which I believe have led to the mediocrity surrounding us. Those being, attitudes, the influence of the modern game, the managers, rounded of by a brief conclusion.
My first issue is the attitudes of certain footballers. Many conduct themselves well on and off the pitch, showing an appreciation of fans and a day to day dedication to their profession. I would also add that footballers are human beings like you and I, many I’m sure have had difficult upbringings, financial difficulties and have been bought up from deprived areas, grinding their way too the top.
It strikes me, however, that there are too many footballers whose attitudes and agendas are in question. A point that brings me to our club and I would like too say that these are not cheap shots or a negative view, just an opinion from a fans perspective.
I think there are possibly a couple of examples at Ipswich in recent times, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas possibly being one. Occasionally criticising fans on social networking sites and using foul language whilst doing it. Don’t get me wrong, the lad has all the talent in the world and has masses of potential and whilst unprovoked abuse from fans is not on, it’s the reaction, a reaction of petulance as if to say, ‘I’m a footballer, I have power’.
They’re not slaves and they have their own lives outside of football I’m aware of this. The recently departed, enigmatic Jimmy Bullard could possibly be another who could be criticised with regards to his application.
A fantastic character no doubt, but nights out in Newcastle before morning training for example just makes you think how much players care. It saddens me when you know that many fans would give both arms too put on a Town shirt (keep the legs though, you’ll need them). I find it somewhat ludicrous how talented players who have made the grade do not seem to appreciate their talents and realise the opportunities in front of them.
There are opposites too this of course, advancing on what I touched on at the beginning. I’m thinking Matt Holland, a terrific leader, a battler, a player who wore the shirt with pride and itched for success. I’m thinking James Scowcroft, a local boy who relished playing for Town, Jim Magilton another.
Even others such as Shefki Kuqi, not the most technically gifted player but a player with passion and drive who treated every game as if it would be his last. I just sometimes think to myself where the love for the shirt has gone, who wants to be an Ipswich hero? Who genuinely has a passion to succeed at the club?
It’s just as if some footballers are immersed in the way football has evolved and though naturally things will always change, you can look at many negative aspects of the ‘beautiful game’ that have affected some players.
For example social networking or rich owners, who are feeding players, many young and unproven, with lucrative weekly salaries. Of course there are upsides to both, instant success for clubs who were previously trophy-less for many seasons and so more excitement for fans, or interaction quickly with fans, and making their day with a message.
Even saving clubs from liquidation, which is obviously a huge positive of club ownership. But some things just aren’t real any more, What about diving or the hard but fair tackle. Do players have so little respect for each other now that they fail to even shake hands prior to a match? What has happened? Where is the blooded Terry Butcher shirt? Well and truly in the wash.
The next issue I would raise is less generalised, and is the direction or lack of that has surrounded our club. There seems to be no real blueprint, no foundations. Which brings me to our managers: Jim Magilton, a legend in his playing days at the Blues, could he achieve similar success as a manager than he did as a player?
Well, to be honest we will never really know. OK finishing 14th in his first full season in charge was not the best and there was talk of an unsettled camp, but something inside me thinks Magilton’s fluid approach could have been the start of a successful reign. He clearly believed in passing football and the majority of players seemed to have a high regard for him.
Magilton improved Town's position by six places, however failure to get the club in the Premier League despite a final home win against Hull, led to the Northern Irishman inevitably losing his job as Town finished just outside the play-offs in eith position, a season that looking back, could have been built upon.
Roy Keane was next, many fans were pleased by the appointment, his legendary status as a player and impressive promotion at Sunderland had many fans feeling upbeat for the future. I personally believe the footballing culture of the North-East and the firm character that Keane portrays filtered to the players who as a result had no excuse but to try and meet expectations. Although there are no better fans than ours, perhaps certain players have seen us as a soft touch, accepting our false plight as a mid-table side.
Not helped by Keane’s fierce nature, leaving players unable to express themselves and play football the right way. I recall Keane’s captain Jon Walters saying the squad felt like they were ‘treading on eggshells’ whenever they were around the manager, an indication of the tension and dismissing the fun-factor associated with football clubs. Ultimately, Roy Keane’s approach failed with Town finishing in a lowly 15th.
Current manager Paul Jewell was next in line, in many ways the manager with the most difficult task. Jewell was asked to galvanise the club following the disappointment of the Keane era and the fragmentation of the squad Roy Keane had assembled, so could Jewell galvanise us? His motive was clear - promotion.
High profile, experienced players came in, Bowyer, Bullard, and Sonko to name a few but only to once again finish in 15th place. Paul Jewell in my opinion underestimated the Championship and perhaps didn’t appreciate the key components needed to get out of the league, having been out of the game for a long spell. Spirit, energy, passion, hunger and stamina being those key attributes. Jewell put together a group of experienced players with big reputations and undoubted quality, but only left us with phrases such as ‘over the hill’ and ‘consistently inconsistent’.
What strikes me most about the three managers' reigns is that there has not really been a blueprint, no real foundations. I compare us to sides such as Wigan, Stoke, Swansea and Reading, sides who are playing Premier League football but are no bigger than us in terms of history or stature.
Roberto Martinez, a youthful manager who has a clear style in which he wants his team to play, every player understands their roles and are clearly benefiting from the system. Eight consecutive seasons in the top flight their reward.
Stoke under Tony Pulis work on discipline and workrate, yes not the most attractive, but again they all give 100%, are difficult to beat and understand the demands of their manager.
Swansea’s philosophy has been built over Paulo Sousa, Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup. Whilst managers have changed quite swiftly, the style hasn’t and everybody is very comfortable with it. Reading’s rise under the guidance Brian McDermott, a man who knows the club inside out, having been associated with it for many years.
Though I fully appreciate the dire financial state we were in before Marcus Evans arrived, I have barely seen him and would hope that he understands how much Ipswich means to the fans. I know every club is different and has its ups and downs, I could mention a few big clubs who are in a worse state than us, and I also know we cannot suddenly play like Brazil.
However, all our recent managers have had different approaches which just confuse me as to how this club can move forward. Roy Keane, too strict, no connection with players, playing players who we all know shouldn’t be in the side, no appreciation of Ipswich’s traditional passing game.
What have we built? What are we building? Where are we going? Do I really believe our current regime is playing attention to extremely detailed tactics and player roles? Do I believe that our defensive frailties have been worked on relentlessly and that Paul Jewell and his staff have lost sleep over finding new ways in which our defenders can defend? Do I really believe Paul Jewell has the ability to think of a wide range of targets who can improve the Ipswich side?
We cannot only rely on our own talent. Ian Holloway has done this at Blackpool, youth team players, players from Scotland, Portugal, youngsters from the Premier League. We have brought in Cheick Kourouma who was recommended by Ibrahima Sonko and countless trialists who fail to sign, So many questions, so many unanswered.
In my opinion we have been made to look mediocre because of the issues I’ve mentioned that surround our football club, If some of those had been flipped, imagine where we could be now. No club should naturally deserve success regardless of previous achievements, but we have had managerial reigns that have not improved or built the club. The reality is the football club has been on a downward spiral since George Burley left. This somewhat damning assessment is one that pains me to write and I hope it isn't generally viewed as downbeat, I want to see the Tractor Boys back on track.
Thank you for listening, I hope you have enjoyed the read and would welcome any comments.
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