|[Blog] A Question Of Morale|
Written by Guthrum on Friday, 14th Jan 2011 01:41
The last days of Keane, Chelsea, Arsenal and beyond...
Since the Cardiff City game on Saturday 18th September, Ipswich Town's League record was: Won 4, Drawn 2, Lost 11. Fourteen points from a possible 51, including a six-game run of losses, dire football and a fall from second to 19th in the table.
Roy Keane had assembled his team, but something about the system wasn't working. We don't know exactly what was wrong - people can speculate about tactics, injuries, man-management skills, team selection, bad luck - we may never know for sure. But something was awry and Ipswich kept on losing. Even an opportunistic win in the snow against Leicester failed to spark a revival. Things were beginning to look bleak.
So how does this affect the team, the staff, the players? Lord Moran, in The Anatomy Of Courage, his groundbreaking study of morale in wartime, describes an individual's bravery as a limited resource, eroded by each successive shock until, if there is no let-up, the man will break.
Terms such as 'shell shock', 'combat fatigue' or, in boxing, being 'punch drunk' were created to describe the listless, uninterested mental state of one whose resources of morale had been used up. Certainly, some of the performances in the last weeks of Roy Keane's reign demonstrated those kind of symptoms. The team couldn't win, couldn't see how they were going to get a win, appeared to have lost heart.
Then Keane is sacked. Another blow. Yes, they maybe should have seen it coming, but it's the man who's been their boss for over a year and a half, maybe even their friend. Their futures are now uncertain. Will they lose their jobs, be forced to transfer to another club, is this the end of their football careers? Who will the new manager be? What will happen?
And now they have to face Chelsea. A team lying fifth in the Premier League. McParland has just two days to sort things out. Everyone is reeling, and it's a disaster - after half-an-hour of defiance, smashed for seven goals without reply. Crashing out of the FA Cup at (for Town) the first round. Where does Ipswich go from there? The next team to face is Arsenal - on the face of things even stronger than Chelsea. Another shambles? Cricket score? Taking the demoralisation across into the League?
So what actually happened?
The club quickly appointed a manager. A positive choice. Jewell came in and made all the right noises. All players would have a fresh start, a "clean slate" and be judged on their merits.
The Arsenal game went from being a fearful prospect to an unpressured chance to impress the new boss. McParland took the Keane team and, to some extent, the Keane system and got it working as it should have all along. Kiwomya's arm round Priskin's shoulder leads directly to a goal. The result? A famous victory, against the odds. No freak weather conditions for the loser to blame, Premiership opposition outplayed in front of a packed crowd on fire.
If, as it seems, the 'spell' has been broken, it remains for Paul Jewell to build upon this, develop and impose his own system - hopefully a winning one - and keep rebuilding the collective and individual Ipswich team morale. Can he do this? Only time will tell. But I certainly feel that, at this stage, morale is a far more important asset than team tactics or skilful players. Build that up and the other elements will have a chance to flourish.
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