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[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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TractorRoyNo1 added 09:18 - Jan 14

ldnj added 09:40 - Jan 14
I may be wrong but I can't imagine Keane putting an arm round a shoulder and in my view that's his downfall. One thing we know about Bobby Robson was he recognised different players need to be treated in different ways to get the best and I'm not sure Keane always has enough patience. New broom and a new style of man management ? Let's hope so, time will tell ...

Surco72 added 09:54 - Jan 14
Good Blog these players can easily challenge in this league they just need confidence and not to live in fear that every mistake could end up in a public slating .Confidence and a united team will undoubtedly lead to a change in fortunes as the ability i believe is already there .Better tactics ,substituations,continuity and selecting players in form which i have no doubt Jewell will provide will also help no end .The season starts here

FrankfurtBlue added 10:47 - Jan 14
Not sure about any of that, Guth.

I think Tuesday's result was more a case of good tactics from Town versus poor tactics from Arse, mixed with a bit of professional pride from the Town players and positive support from the crowd.

Tactics. Arse threw too many men forwards too often in search of a goal, especially i the second half, similar to England v Germany in the World Cup, and Ipswich used the counter (or as Fabregas prefers, the long ball forward) to punish them. I suspect that Wenger will be ready for us in the second leg and we will not have such an easy ride.

It would not surprise me in the slightest if we lose against Millwall because Millwall will play more cautiously than Arse, but more fundamentally, it is unlikely that Jewell will be able to quickly overcome some of the problems that Keane left him with, such as weak full backs, a lack of attacking midfield options, and a goal scorer. He can try to improve what we have got, and get Civelli playing again soon. Hopefully, he and McCarthy can bring the best out of the numerous forwards at the club, but the quicker fix would be to buy what we are missing.

One of the other major issues that I had with Keane was his constant team selection tinkering. To get the best out of a group of players, a manager needs to pick his best 11 and stick with them for the majority of games, limiting changes as much as possible.

Of course, Jewell will be able to lift morale, but there is far more to it, IMHO.

Back_The_Boss added 07:17 - Jan 16
Interesting read, lets wait and see what Jewell has to offer!

Vexorg added 21:04 - Jan 16
Spot on Frankfurt. After the party, the hangover. A mere 5 scoring attempts against Millwall. This is how we find the current ITFC squad. Bereft of attacking ideas and vulnerable at the back. Staying up should be Jewell's only goal this season.

Martus added 13:48 - Jan 18
The lack of creativity was one major factor to his downfall, we brought Priskin who is a player who needs the ball at his feet, and i didnt see one creative player who could create chances for him or any other striker Keane decided to play regardless if they were MOM for the previous game. Which really suprised me as Keane was part of a very excting Manchester United side where he was the brick wall which allowed Scholes etc to create chances.
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