|From Saturdays of Feeling Sick, Mick Has Been Quick in Making Us Tick|
written by Edmunds5 Tuesday, 11th Dec 2012 12:08
Just over six weeks ago, Ipswich plummeted to the foot of the Championship table following a 2-1 defeat against Derby at Portman Road.
The result left the Blues without a win in 11 league games with the unwanted record of failing to win at home stretching to six months. The loss proved to be the final straw and subsequently spelt the end of Paul Jewell’s somewhat disappointing tenure after 21 months in charge.
Let's not try and paper over the cracks, there were problems at the club, stemming from the suggested incompetence of the owner Marcus Evans and CEO Simon Clegg to accusations that the players were displaying a sheer lack of passion and heart when wearing the shirt, topped off by rumours of a dressing room split and spats on social networking sites, involving players and fans.
Some fans were angry, some disenchanted, others simply uninterested, whilst many had already given up on a well-respected club that had played European football within the last decade.
And were of the opinion that after years of descending mediocrity the club was either on its last legs, or just not anything like the force it was under the eras of George Burley or even Joe Royle, never mind the days of Sir Bobby and that special FA Cup final against Arsenal.
After two very questionable managerial appointments, Marcus Evans and Simon Clegg faced probably there most important decision, so who was to be handed the baton and be tasked with catching those a considerable distance in front.
Over to you Mick McCarthy, an appointment generally well received by supporters despite the minority questioning his hiring, criticising the Irishman’s playing style and feeling a more youthful manager was the direction to take.
Fast forward less than two months and Town are a whole 16 points better off, have won three of four home games under McCarthy and have not only erased the seven-point deficit previous to his appointment but have surpassed this and are five points clear of the relegation zone and up to 20th place. Why? What’s changed?
One of the most noticeable factors is Mick’s man-management abilities; he was inheriting a group clearly low in confidence but hasn’t come in all guns blazing, but looks to have fine tuned the squad.
By this I mean McCarthy has understood that the players needed affection at a difficult time but would not have been hesitant in assertively letting them know that they have to give more for the cause.
For me Paul Jewell was not a strong enough character to do this and was seen somewhat as a walkover, and Roy Keane was too stubborn, too much of a disciplinarian and so players struggled to take to him.
McCarthy has also shown this skill on an individual level, recently praising Michael Chopra, labelling him as “one of the best players at the club” making Chopra feel loved and appreciated, upping his confidence and inevitably performance.
McCarthy has also illustrated a competence in terms of formation, tactics and personnel. The most obvious one pushing Carlos Edwards to his natural position of right midfield as opposed to right-back, with Bradley Orr being bought in to fill that void, round pegs in round holes.
Further more, Daryl Murphy has also formed an impressive partnership with DJ Campbell up front not on the left side where he lacks the pace and imagination to influence matches. We have also seen the partnership of Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith start to blossom and Guirane N’Daw and Luke Hyam are vast becoming integral team members.
Despite two thrashings, we’ve generally looked much tougher to beat, reflected by Mick’s debut win at Birmingham and the narrow win over Burnley.
We have also showed a growing sense of calmness and purpose, and have recently presented more potency in an attacking sense, scoring three goals against Nottingham Forest and three against an in-form Millwall.
The contrast from the players seemingly nervous playing in front of their own fans to entertaining them and showing a desire for the shirt highlights how McCarthy has helped the players psychologically, motivating them and giving them a new-found belief that has meant they are able to perform.
The recent win against Bolton shows Mick has the ability to be tactically astute, changing from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 midway through the second half, pushing Bradley Orr into central midfield, pushing subs Murphy, Chopra and Emmanuel-Thomas up front which paid dividends as Town came from behind to win 2-1, with Chopra netting the winner.
I have also been impressed with Mick’s handling of the media. He speaks directly and with common-sense. For example, his comments about the positive effect that comes about through coming together as a football club may sound obvious, but is something that mustn’t be taken lightly.
It is all too easy to give players abuse during negative times and I’m sure I speak on behalf of many fans when I say that the player’s and also the staff’s recent efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Mick has also spoke of how the club has to look to the future and not dwell too much on the past. It is natural that when we’re at the wrong end of the table people start to reminisce, I have done this, in fact it was only a week or two ago that I stuck Road to Europe on and had a watch!
Bitter-sweet viewing let me tell you. But whilst appreciating our past we need to focus and feel upbeat because we’re starting to turn a corner.
The fact Mick and Terry Connor are both frequently present at U21 and U18 games and have been impressed shows that the management team are keen to keep an eye on the potential future as well as the present, for me this is something that has been disregarded for a number of seasons and improves the club's well being as a whole.
We all know we’re not out of the woods with regards to relegation and that there is still more than half the season remaining and we all know how quickly things can turn sour for clubs and managers particularly in the modern era.
But there is a sense that this club is getting back on its feet and is making strides. Just as crucially we as fans seem to have a renewed belief and vibrancy amongst these cold and dark nights.
I’m sure there will be many tests of Mick’s managerial credentials ahead, for example, does he try and sign DJ Campbell? Who will Mick recruit in January? Will he put faith in Scott Loach once Stephen Henderson’s loan expires or look at other options?
Can he get the best out of JET (don’t tell Mick I called him that!)? Can he help turn Michael Chopra into that striker we all know he has the potential to be? Big decisions but I for one have confidence that Mick will come up with the answers that will push us forward.
Thanks for reading, comments welcome.
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