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A Glimpse of the Future – Reflections on today’s game at Aston Villa
at 23:13 11 Feb 2017

Early February is a favourite time of the year for me. When I lock my bookshop up at 5.30pm every evening and glance skyward, I can see faint traces of dark blue starting to replace the black of the previous three months and with each passing evening the darkness recedes with gathering pace.

Heading up the M5 this morning, the bitter wind and the snow dusting the hills outside Birmingham suggested that full-blown spring was still some weeks away. It was a proper two-scarf day, as the cheerful West Midlands Constable standing beside the programme-seller’s kiosk noted, and certainly not a day for the faint-hearted.

Nor indeed was Villa Park a stadium for the faint-hearted footballer. Only the most churlish visiting supporter would not concede that this is an impressive stadium, retaining its history and character and keeping its soul. A proper football ground and one which would test the mettle of whatever XI Mick chose to put out.


When the line-ups were confirmed it was comforting to see that there was no Mile Jedinak to anchor the Villa defence, while the absence of Cole Skuse would give us a chance to see what a midfield of Toumani, Huws and Ward might achieve. It was interesting to note that Skuse’s absence was viewed more as an opportunity than a risk in pre-match conversations.


The game set off at a frantic pace and there was a predictable early West Midland storm to negotiate. Villa had not won since Boxing Day and there was a sense of wounded pride as they set up a series of chances which reminded us once again why Bart is such a brilliant goalkeeper.

The hosts were nervous and McGoldrick took advantage of one tentative Alan Hutton pass to set up a decent counter-attack. This was to establish an important pattern to the game, for as often as we were put on the back foot we never stopped looking for opportunities to take the game to Villa.

Josh Emmanuel had an outstanding game. We could gain a sense of his playing style when he cleverly used his physicality to deny the peppery Villa left wing-back Neil Taylor a good early chance. He looks to be clever footballer. All through the game, his strength and clever positioning were used as a bulwark to deny opponents space rather than as a wrecking ball lunging into challenges.

Midway through the first-half Villa won a freekick for a somewhat theatrical dive by the ever-alert Scott Hogan. There was a comical melee in the box before the kick was delivered, the highlight being Berra’s attempt to literally remove an opponent’s shirt. When the silliness subsided, they caught us out, pulling the ball back to Birkir ‘Thor’ Bjarnason who cracked a decent shot against the crossbar.

I was worried when we lost Steven Taylor as he had been a stabilising focus in the defence as well as being an absolute unit. Myles Kenlock played at left wing-back in the rejigged defence and, as with Josh, I was so impressed with the progress he has made. Calm and unflustered, he will become ‘Mr Reliability’ with experience and he was comfortable pushing forward when we attacked on his side.

Villa were careless throughout the game with the limited opportunities they had. Hogan could have given Bart more of a problem with one decent chance he had after half-an-hour, but Jonathan Kodjia was either over-elaborate or tepid on the few occasions he had sight of goal. One acrobatic effort soon after Hogan’s was as risible as it was ineffective.

“You’re not famous anymore!” As the first half drew to a close the sense among our fans was that we were properly in this game. Villa may have had some quality players on parade but much of their play was disjointed. In truth, both teams were still feeling their way and I was hoping that we might have tested their flaky keeper Sam Johnstone a bit more.

Villa also had a knack of taking small bites out of our players, snippy challenges designed to disrupt and sting rather than injure. This escalated before the break when Tommy Elphick flung an arm into Berra and poleaxed the Scot in their penalty area. The Villa back line was robust, albeit fair all afternoon but this was the one time the referee could have intervened.


The first half fizzled out with a whimper and our concerns over the half-time concourse discussion were around what would be a makeshift back line and a lack of bench options. That said, everyone was delighted with a first 45 which was full of positive intent and which saw us taking the game to Villa at every opportunity.


The second half began with the most unlikely back line of Spence, Chambers and Knudsen flanked by Josh and Myles on each wing. It may have been because they had no burden of expectation or it may have been because there was a blend of mobility, technique and Chambers’ experience, but it worked. The defence rode their luck at times but played with personality and comfort on the ball.

Spence was impressive. His positioning and reading of the game were excellent and his mobility and technique were assets in transitioning into attack. He was also good at negotiating his way out of tight spaces. The contrast with the more physical and less technical Berra was palpable, the Scot at one point in the first half drilling a ball full-speed at McGoldrick who was stationed on the wing.

Knudsen was similarly comfortable to the left of Chambers using his mobility to read the danger while also getting in the faces of the opposition. Like Knudsen, Chambers was also in his natural role, and in his element directing operations at the heart of the back five and typically slicing clear one very dangerous cross just after the hour mark. He was at his confident best and it was great to see.

Diagouraga is an ungainly player in his playing style but he was effective, chiefly in offering a forward dimension to our midfield play. In contrast to Skuse he would bring the ball out and draw opponents on to him to create space for a simple pass. Other players need to see this and cover for him when he pushes forward from his post but this greatly enhanced the fluidity of our general play.

Grant Ward was out of his shell today and it was quickly evident that both Diagouraga and Emyr Huws are jigsaw pieces that have added a geometry to his play. The contrast in his movement and involvement with the Lincoln fiasco was as night and day. He could barely get the ball on that grim night, but he always had options to link play and he was constantly making himself available.

The second half started scrappily and this actually suited us. The ball was toing and froing in hallmark Championship style and we were starting to dominate play and create chances. McGoldrick at times was balletic evading Villa challenges, pirouetting out of danger and instinctively changing his centre of gravity to throw opponents off balance and link with Lawrence, Ward and Huws.

“I’m not sure what happened but I’m certain it was a penalty to us.” One Huws corner in this good spell caused a proper old-school goalmouth scramble in their box. You could sense the home crowd getting nervous. Although Lawrence did not find the net his presence distracted Villa players, his link-up play with McGoldrick was instinctive and he worried their fans when bearing down on goal.

Villa still posed a threat as the game drifted into the final quarter but their lack of confidence was betrayed by a habit of appealing for set-pieces instead of going for goal. The referee was wise to this and seemed to get the big calls right, although I have never seen an official be so ridiculously precise when directing the location at which thrown-ins should be taken.

With 10 minutes to go, I was expecting another Villa onslaught to match the one we had hurdled in the first 10 minutes, but then it happened. From a Bart clearance, Lawrence appeared to have been taken out by Elphick on the left of midfield but the ball broke to McGoldrick. He drove into the box and played an exquisite cross for Huws to crash the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box.

Pandemonium. Chaos. Watford. Scenes. The reaction to the goal was as telling as the goal itself. We were collectively giving a season which has mocked us a kick in the nuts. We are bloody good, we know we are and how f***ing dare this season happen to us. It was a f*** you to Derby, to Lincoln and to months of frustration and, by the way, this was as much from the men on the pitch as everyone enjoying the mayhem in the away end.

It was fitting that Emyr Huws rifled home the winner. This was a team with a point to prove and, of all the players on the pitch, here was someone refusing point-blank to let his career fizzle out. His hunger was evident and he was invariably in the thick of the action. The ovation he was given when leaving the field late in the game was not just for his goal.

“One-nil to the Tractor Boys!” The stunned silence from the home fans around the stadium was deafening and this added to the sharpness of our perfectly chorused tune. Villa won a series of set pieces but Bart had done most of his work in the first 10 minutes of the game and a few routine saves was as much as they could bring from him.

“How good is that!” The final whistle was preceded by a game of head-tennis and a limp Kodjia shot, which summed up the game well. This was a win born out of character, determination and self-belief and it had much of the never-say-die DNA of our pulsating draw at Bournemouth a few years ago.


Getting back to my car at 5.20pm, I glanced up at the sky and noticed its pale grey colour as we snatched a couple more minutes back from winter. We are still in the valley of darkness fixture-wise with a nasty trip to Sussex on Tuesday, but today gave reason to hope that this transitional winter of a season just may be coming to a close. We can look forward with some degree of optimism.

Today’s brilliant performance does not give Marcus licence to say that all is tickety-boo. There has been a paradigm shift this season and lottery tickets to remain competitive in the division have gone up in price. It does however give Mick food for thought if he wants to build a new second Town team out of the ashes of the side that reached the play-offs and which in many ways finally died today.

The beauty of today’s display was that it was something different, something new and something to build on. A new cohort of players and a new philosophy and style of play, a young confident side and the death of the sterile football which has driven so many fans away. I hope it’s not just wishful thinking, but spring definitely appears to be on the horizon.
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Terry Butcher Flattening Chris Sutton...
at 19:47 1 Feb 2017

From a Scottish Premiership preview programme on BT Sport. I thought that this might give everyone a laugh...
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Brentford and Leeds Fans’ Thoughts on Toumani Diagouraga…
at 18:31 23 Jan 2017

I thought it might be helpful to gather recent feedback and comments from followers of our newest loan signing’s former clubs in order to paint a picture of how he is perceived. Diagouraga played for six years at Brentford, amassing over 200 appearances before switching to Elland Road last January.

“It’s no great surprise, but Diagouraga joins Ipswich on loan until the end of the season”, “He was well down the pecking order”, “He was surplus to requirements and Monk that decision to take him out of the squad with no ambiguity”, “I have reservations about him and think he is a squad player only. Brentford improved without him last season.”

From Leeds fans' comments, it seems that Diagouraga [Dave] was brought in by then-manager Steve Evans to perform a traditional holding role shielding the back four and breaking up play. Several said that Evans’s successor Garry Monk preferred a player like Liam Bridcutt who they felt would contribute more from a footballing perspective.

“Diagoraga is not the answer. Brentford didn't want him, he's not good enough for Leeds.” He was hammered by Whites and effectively discarded by Monk after an anonymous performance in a 3-0 August defeat at QPR.

“It looks like the Leeds disease has consumed him, second to every tackle it seemed and offered no protection to the back four. He played 15 yards further back than what was needed”, “His efforts with the ball were terrible. He needs to just win it and give it to those who can play.”

“Diagouraga offers very little other than he will try his best”, “He's not a terrible player but he does not do a lot, and that’s not a sudden view based on [the QPR game] yesterday. I didn't think he was great last season. I'm sick of seeing us play an anonymous third midfielder to be honest - it certainly doesn't make us any more solid.”

All that said, Leeds fans do wish him well. “Good lad, I hope he does well except against us. He looked like a poor man's Toure to me but I suspect it's not just form that put him out of the reckoning with Garry Monk. We didn't see that much of him but I always thought he had the makings of a good signing.”


“Toumani was a fantastic player for Brentford FC over many a season. A lot of fans only came around to this, when we started our fantastic run in the Championship”, “He was a powerfully built player with presence who opposition players seemed to stand off from. His attitude during his time with us was spot on.”

He is held in high regard by the majority of Bees, although several felt that he had only one stand-out season when they reached the Championship play-offs. Some also thought that his form declined in the immediate weeks before last year’s move to Yorkshire.

“It is easy to look back and scapegoat a player without any goal scoring record to speak of but he was an excellent breaker up of play, good ball control, good passer and beautiful, yet gangly player to watch. He stood out because of his size and it would have been very easy for a lazy fan to pigeonhole him as rubbish, but I would disagree.”

“Our current defensive midfielders are better footballers but smaller in statue so they do not have the same presence although more consistent with the ball. His best days were with us”, “He's not the 'brick s***house' type but he wasn't easily shoved off the ball, in my memory. An unusual, surprising, committed and entertaining player. Good memories. Good man.”

“Toums had a terrific attitude and worked incredibly hard to make himself possibly our best player for the last year or more of his time here. I was lucky enough to see him in a training session in the Uwe Rosler days and I can tell you that he stood out as being by far the most intensive trainer there. He was busting a gut throughout. That summed him up for me. he was ready to die for the cause whilst he was here.”

“He was a good player for us. He had spells of really good games and sometimes absolute blinders. He did have poor games and he did go missing at times but over his spell with us there was more good than bad and he showed he was good enough to play Championship football.

“Yes, his last couple of games he clearly wasn't putting in 100% but at least he didn't refuse to play or say his head wasn't in the right place (even though it probably wasn't). Add to all that he was a genuinely nice guy, very humble almost shy and very unlike a lot of footballers today”, “He’s going to Ipswich on loan according to Twitter”, “Lucky Ipswich”, “He will more than likely replace Douglas.”

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Watching Tonight's Game With Friends...
at 23:23 17 Jan 2017

I watched tonight's game with MrsHfromB and my Italian (Napoli supporting) mate Vince. I have been obstinately loyal to Mick partly with the Irish connection and also after he built such a great first team which had our play-off run.

I have optimistically tried to see this as a transitional season as Mick builds a second team but getting feedback from people less intensely involved our world is no bad thing. Vince had seen our Bristol City defeat early in Mick's reign and was confident from his Italian perspective that Mick would straighten us out at the time.

Midway through the first half Vince picked up on the lack of intensity from our players. More worrying, he highlighted the futility of playing the ball out on the deck when there was such wide space between the back three and midfield three. This allowed Lincoln to use the gaps to exploit turnovers in possession in our half.

A combination of our lacklustre play and dysfunctional formation allowed Lincoln to control the game. There were two men on every Town player in possession but Vince constantly highlighted our ineffective midfield putting our defence under pressure and leaving the strikers isolated, 'Every Ipswich player is playing on their own while Lincoln are more coordinated.'

As the game wore on, we were the non-league side hoping that Lawrence might come up with something whereas Rhead (in Vince's words, 'My good God, no Italian side would even look at him' - let's just put it down to their different philosophy) ran the show for Lincoln and gave our defence a night to forget.

'They have no personality, mate, he has got to go' were Vince's words as we said our goodbyes. He felt that Mick had taken the team as far as he could and we were out of ideas. The pattern of the game was against us but this was because we had no balance as a side, in complete contrast to Lincoln.

Mrs HfromB puts up with hours of drivel from me rabbiting on about the team but her insights are always brief and often lethal. "It felt like Mick didn't believe in the team he put out. He was like a kind uncle and there was no desire or energy from the Ipswich players. It was as if some of them were going through the motions and didn't want to be there."

You will forgive me desperately wanting Mick to succeed and having stuck with him but tonight hurts. I will spare everyone the tirade but suffice to say that I want footy to be a source of happiness and it just feels nothing like that right now.
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Blackburn Supporters’ Thoughts on Today’s Game….
at 11:31 14 Jan 2017

I have had a look at Rovers’ message boards this morning to assess the mood as they had little to say about us or their game in the build-up during the week…

“This is a big game for us, arguably just as big for Ipswich”, “Ipswich are genuinely one of the most dreadful teams to watch in this division. We are what we are. This match is going to be a mockery of football. A 1-1 draw and nobody wins, especially the fans”, “I can see us getting at least a point.”

“Coyle and the lads are on a roll. An early Rovers' goal will see Ipswich heads drop and the home fans turn”, “Usually I would be happy with a draw but with all the bottom teams playing each other the gap gets wider and with both our and Ipswich’s current form I think a win is essential.”

They don’t run a prediction league, but the vast majority would be happy with a point to keep their unbeaten mini-run going at what is widely seen as a bogey ground. “If we come back with a point I'll be more than happy as Portman Road is a ground that we don't usually do particularly well at.”

“We really need at least a point and a point I would be very pleased with”, “Portman Road is not one of our happier hunting grounds and rarely see us come away with much. However, the last three games have seen us look tighter at the back and I'm hopeful of seeing us pick up a point.”

“I'm just hoping the win over Newcastle last time out isn't followed by the sequence of defeats similar to previous victory over the Geordies. I'd take a point.”

“This is one of our least favourite of least favourite Championship grounds. Wins at Old Trafford and the Emirates come around more often than they do down there.”

“This is very much a bogey ground. I've been down there about five or six times and never seen a win. Some absolute dross witnessed there in recent seasons particularly on a couple of miserable midweek trips.”

Only one Town player has been mentioned, albeit briefly: “Tom Lawrence (a loan signing in Bowyer days) is now on loan there. He blew hot and cold for us but is in form at the moment. You know who's going to get a goal.”


“I think McCarthy will be gone shortly. A poor result tomorrow might see him gone. Ipswich fans don't like his boring game-plan and tactics”, “I would love to swap dour, straight talking Mick McCarthy for odious cretin Coyle”,

Rovers briefly discussed Mick’s season here during the week but they have warmed to the theme since then. “Imagine Mick McCarthy with our squad of a few years ago."

“Big Mick over-achieved a bit at first with nothing but shirt buttons and raised the expectation levels. He would probably do that here if he walked in tomorrow and what we wouldn't give for just one decent season.”

“Rightly or wrongly McCarthy has been getting a lot of stick down there this season for results and performances. A poor result tomorrow could see him get even more aggro off the home fans whilst a comfortable win will lift the gloom.

“He has kept them well clear of trouble every season and will do so again despite having no money to spend and presumably one of the lowest wage bills in the league. Notice to some - look what can be achieved at a club with tiny budget and modest crowds but with a proper setup and a good manager that is trusted to get on with doing the job.”

“A section of Ipswich fans have had it in for McCarthy from the off but he's just one of those kind of managers whose style is often hard to take but most tolerate it when it's doing the job. He's just run out of steam now they all have a shelf life especially when there is no money to keep freshening things up.

“They want to be careful what they wish for though if they are still penniless as hard as it might be to watch that pragmatic style is what keeps poor teams out of danger.”

“Once Mick goes, they are most likely @#/?. Their squad is awful. They keep selling their best players and are given barely anything to reinvest (sound familiar?).

“Right now they're basically us, but with a decent manager. Terrible squad, no money, mountains of debt owed to the owner (who is nowhere to be seen), an unpopular manager and fans who are beginning to walk away rather than waste their lives watching turgid, boring football.”

Prediction Logged by at 14:12:43
Queens Park Rangers v Ipswich Town prediction logged
Loft For Words Preview & QPR Pre-Match Thoughts...
at 11:39 2 Jan 2017

Here's Clive Whittingham's preview piece on this morning's Loft for Words front page. Not a lot to say about us, but he is in characteristically fine form and turns his gaze on Hoops' habit of either deifying or vilifying players in a knee-jerk manner...

Looking around more widely, Rangers' forums have been quiet and they have had little to say about the game. One prediction thread has 48% going for a home win and 29% forecasting a draw and these are pretty pessimistic numbers for a home team.

From their optimists: "Ipswich are just as poor as us, a massive game and chance to get back to back wins. I think the win against Wolves would of lifted everyone enormously", "We need to go into this game with a bit of self belief after beating Wolves", "Ipswich was game I thought would be the change in fortunes and sticking with that. Two wins on the trot."

From their pessimists: "If Idrissa Sylla plays, we will score, but either way I think we will lose this one. A draw at best", "Hope I'm wrong but can see the extra days rest benefitting Ipswich. 1-2."

I reckon most would be happy with a point.

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