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[Blog] Why the Burley Blueprint Won't Work, But We Must Stick With PJ
Written by Superfrans on Tuesday, 3rd Jan 2012 20:01

Before the home match against Nottingham Forest, I simply couldn't imagine a defeat against a team which had failed to score for 10 hours. It seemed unthinkable. Sadly, it wasn't. A 3-1 home defeat. I am sure I'm not the only Town fan who has rarely felt as low about the fate of our club.

The hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over the past 24 hours has had plenty of our fans calling for a return to the good old days. For a lot of Tractor Boys and girls, certainly anyone in their early thirties or below, the good old days mean the days of George Burley's promotion team of the late Nineties. 

Surely, it's logical, isn't it? The blueprint Paul Jewell should be adopting is the one which launched Burley's team from the Championship into the Premiership just 13 years ago. Surely we still have a few bottles of Burley's Promotion Elixir hidden away in the boot room? 

Sadly, even if we did, it wouldn't work. Times have changed, the world of football is different - for goodness sake, Josh Carson was barely a year old when Burley took the reigns at Portman Road. And, there are fundamental differences between the job which was seen through by GB and that which faces PJ. 

Burley's promotion team was built over five years in the Championship. There was no gun at his head demanding immediate results. And, even if Marcus Evans isn't demanding instant results (and there is strong evidence that he isn't), many of our supporters are. 

When Burley entered the second tier, he also did so with a group of players who could fundamentally compete at that level, a team which he had been able to work with and assess without any significant pressure. He took over when we were already doomed to relegation. 

This all meant he was in a position to evolve his team - he did not inherit a team which was falling apart, he certainly didn't arrive to find he was about to lose (arguably) his two most important players, his captain and vice-captain. 

As a result, the Burley blueprint could never apply to PJ, who was dealt a terrible hand of cards when he took over just under a year ago. He had no choice but to build a team from scratch. He hasn't been able to add the odd player here and there - he lost around 10 players within four months of taking the reigns and was forced to source and acquire replacements quickly. 

Without doubt, mistakes were made as a result. It is hard to understand why Márton Fülöp was allowed to leave without any sign of a permanent replacement. And Gareth McAuley, in particular, should have been offered whatever was necessary to stay - assuming, of course, that there was a deal which could have persuaded him from joining WBA in the Premier League. 

Of our newcomers, too many have been either older players, past their best, whose ambition was arguably lost a long time ago - or loanees with priority was as much to do with impressing their parent clubs or potential future clubs than it was driving Ipswich to the Premiership.

On top of all of this, the huge turnover of staff has meant that there simply isn't enough stability within the playing staff to allow us the luxury of throwing in the occasional youngster and help bring them through. In fact there is precious little room for experimentation or invention, because you need strong team foundations to do that. 

Successive years of turmoil among our playing and backroom staff has also wrought a more fundamental impact on our club. Few (if any) of the squad have any feeling for the club - because so few have been here for very long.

We talk a lot about their being lack of leadership within the teams which have been built both by Keane and now by Jewell. Some of this should come from their inherent professionalism, some of it should come from the loyalty to their manager and some of it from their understanding of (and commitment to) the club they a playing for. 

Even aside from the first two, the third is clearly lacking. There are also no senior players at the club able to rally the team, for the good of a great, auspicious footballing institution - which is what Ipswich Town is. Quite simply, nobody on the playing staff has any feeling for our club, its history and what it stands for. 

Arguably, this also applies to the back room and management team too. Could Simon Clegg reel off the 12 men who turned out in blue at Wembley in 1978? Let alone the players who won the title in 1962, or the UEFA Cup in 1981? Could Jewell? Evans?

Maybe it isn't relevant - there are plenty of chairmen and owners whose love for their club has seen hearts rule heads. But somewhere, deep in the halls of Portman Road, there is a danger that the soul of the club (and its connection to the supporters who make it) is being lost. Some will say it has already disappeared down the Orwell. 

Where this leaves us, I don't know. For me, sacking Jewell just sets the clock back to the start again - another manager will mean more changes, further rebuilding, the loss of those players who came to play for Jewell and the influx of another new lot of signings, this time loyal to the new manager. That would feel like a step back to me. I want us to give a manager three-to-five years to be here long term, build a team from the bottom up. The question, of course, is this - is Jewell the man? 

I am more certain that he is than I was about Keane, by the end of his reign. The way we played last spring gave me some hope that Jewell has something Keane didn't. It is also clear that he has got good work out of some of our existing players (Lee Martin and Jason Scotland for a start) and has brought in some good permanent players (JET, Aaron Cresswell, Ibrahima Sonko and Michael Chopra) and some excellent loanees (Danny Collins, Keith Andrews and David Stockdale) which at least indicates that he knows where our weaknesses are. 

Yes, we have been too reliant on loanees and ageing players, but it seems to me that this is borne of necessity. As I've already said, we HAD to ship in a large number of players in the summer. We clearly couldn't get the permanent players we wanted. 

None of this answers the question of the club's 'soul'. Personally, I think we overstate such things. Just two years ago, Delia Smith was being castigated by her club's fans for not selling up, as they plummeted down to League One. It is amazing what a couple of promotions can do for the popularity of a club's manager and chairman.

Our willingness to support players such as Michael Chopra through his problems are perfectly in line with any (perceived or real) sense of honour, or spirit which the club may or may not have held historically. 

So, what next? Personally, I think we HAVE to stick with PJ - I am also sure that we will do just that. I don't think we will be relegated this season, although we have a lot of work to do to secure a Championship place next season. First job - a new permanent keeper and centre-half in the January window, so we can start building a spine for our team. 

Jewell must then have time to build something for next season and the season after. We may see season tickets fall again, regular home attendances back around 15,000/16,000, as they often were in the early years of Burley. We should be aiming, by 2014, for the likes of Cresswell, Martin, JET and Carson to be established first-teamers, accompanied by three or four more young signings and some key defensive experience. 

That is a recipe for success, not successive periods of fear and panic, changing the manager every 12 months for the next flavour of the month. 

We have to have patience. And prepare for slings, arrows, highs, lows, peaks, troughs and that sick feeling you get in your stomach when you reach the bottom of a big dipper free-fall. After all, that's what being a football supporter is all about, isn't it? 

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

IvorFeeling added 20:44 - Jan 3
Being a better choice than Keane is irrelevant. Is he the best man for the job. The performances and results say no. If we were losing by 0-1 or 1-2 with a young team then we would probably be more inclined to accept the situation. But poor buys, not bringing in cover when so obvious even to my 6yo and lack of tactical knowledge means we are far better looking elsewhere.

If it was your £5m plus wages you were giving up would you really give it to PJ?

Agree that Burley has had his time but a great youth policy is where we should head back to.

treemikey added 20:56 - Jan 3
Very well written, it takes time to build a squad but with the intense competition in the Championship and the ridiculous sums of money being spent, there is no time to for an effective youth policy anymore, sad though this is. I would love to see the youngsters get their chance to establish themselves but the Championship does not allow teams that luxury anymore. The game is not what it was back in the day when you could name every team member with ease....a huge shame.

rosseden added 21:00 - Jan 3
good blog, agree with it in the main, i think PJ needs another year to get the contracts run down for the people who just arent up to the standard and get them moved on and really set something up for the next few years, this has to be based on a tier 1 academy, youth and long term goals though..... anything less and we're doomed!

jas1972 added 21:04 - Jan 3
Although those who demand constant success will disagree, for me this is spot on in so many ways

davekl12 added 21:11 - Jan 3
Very carefully thought out blog, I can relate to pretty much all of that.... Jewell's transfer policy seemed right at the time, but performances on the pitch have dug him into a succumbing hole. People can disagree all they like, but I still believe Jewell is a good manager in spite of events that have unfolded. We have to keep the faith! There's something about Jewell, perhaps just the lingering memory of the Wigan and Bradford days.

Jewell_do added 21:20 - Jan 3
The best blog that has been put on here and has restored my faith in ITFC fans. Well done mate.

Superfrans added 21:21 - Jan 3
Ivor - I think the reason we don't have a team full of youngsters is because you can only risk them in a stable team. And we have never had that under PJ. Although, it's true, I would like to have seen more of O'Connor, Carson and others. It ultimately has to be the aim, to blood these kinds of youngsters. we must remember that PJ did uncover Cresswell and JET too, and brought the best out of Martin. His great failing is not sorting out our defensive frailties, which are becoming an embarrassment...


jutty added 21:23 - Jan 3
I would be incline to agree with you if PJ has the team well organised and playing a system, but let's be honest he hasn't. We look totally clueless and devoid of any ideas on the pitch and that IS Paul Jewells job, to make the best of what we have.

Give pretty much any other championship manager our squad and we would be top half of the table. This is the lowest this club has ever been spiralling debt, players without desire, in the process of slowly choking our youth system... Need I go on?

There has never been a worse time to be a town fan and I include the Duncan years in that statement.

BillBlue added 21:28 - Jan 3
A good blog and your points are well made. However, you mention young players in the build up to the future but, unfortunately, you make no mention of where they are coming from. In my humble opinion if the Town is not given a First Class Academy to provide them then I think that all loyal Town supporters (young or old, buying season tickets or not buying season tickets) will have been sold down the river by the current management team and that will spell disaster. COYB

smokester added 21:33 - Jan 3
Town haven't defended well since Burley. We shipped loads under Royle but scored more. Jewell is continuing the recent tradition with bells on.

For me, it's a question of him (PJ) figuring out where he's got it wrong (seems obvious enough, mainly lack of quality coverage at the back) and building on what he's got right. We've played some unbelievable football going forward.

I'm living in Norwich at the moment, working for that Big Insurance Company so I'm feeling that much more footballing misery most weeks. And add to that the fact that I live in the same building as this Paul Lambert guy, who seems to be able to make Ryman's Leaguers play out of their skins very week. I see him from time to time and that's enough to further rub my nose in it, as if my work colleagues weren't doing enough.

It's tempting to think a new manager will quickly turn it around, but we thought that after Magilton and Keane. It seems like most fans want to see Jewell out but, if so, how can they avoid the conclusion that there's something wrong with judgment of the person who hired Keane and now Jewell?

Give Jewell a chance to work it out. No manager, including the great Sir Bob, got through his Town career without some spells of vociferous fans calling for his head. It all depresses the hell out of me but I don't think getting rid of Jewell right now is the answer.

Somersetractor added 21:35 - Jan 3
A very refreshing and honest blog in amongst so many desperate angry voices. Good work superfranz! up the town!!!

jas0999 added 21:54 - Jan 3
terrible blog - any idiot who thinks we should stick with PJ is deluded. We are going backwards and will be relegated under his inept management. What sort of numpty plays just one up front to Forest at HOME? This is idiotic. PJ should be sacked and NOW. A 5 year old could do better than him.

bluearmy4life added 22:12 - Jan 3
If we stick with PJ we will be playing in league one. In the main it was a good blog but where is the evidence of why we should stick with PJ? He is a nice bloke blah blah blah good person for the club but results have been way below par. Before the season started I would of taken finishing 10 or 9 or as close to the top six as possible but we have to be realistic then continue to build each year. When Burley was at the reign he built a very talented squad of which we were one of the best sides in the league each year. We played great football, made the play-offs every year except for 1996 we faced heartbreak in the play-offs against Bolton, west ham, but we knew one day we would crack it and we did in style.Time for change Alan Curbishley for manager.

Superfrans added 22:26 - Jan 3
Thanks Jas for your considered comments.
Bluearmy - I tried to deal with the advantages Burley had when he took charge, compared to the cards dealt to PJ. I think he is struggling to construct a coherent team, but I think that's because of the enforced number of changes, the underperformance of Bullard and Ingimarsson, and the fact that we have struggled to persuade the players we have wanted to come to Suffolk - so have had to settle with short-term expensive salaries and short term expensive loanees. It will take time.
Btw, the were plenty of fans around in Burley's time who would have offloaded him after the second and third failure in the play-offs. It wasn't always as rosy as you suggest.

brittaniaman added 22:51 - Jan 3
They say once the players cross that line on to the pitch it is down to them ??
I do not think so,, after watching Cotterill from the bench guiding his players yesterday, he might as well have been on the pitch with them, organising the set pieces,, corner marking etc. you name it he was there,, it was more interesting watching him !!!
Something has got to happen here sooner than later, because Jewell does not seem to have the motivation or the tactical skills to carry us forward !!!!!!

DalianAtkinson added 22:56 - Jan 3
Thanks SuperFranz things are pretty desparate right now because we are scared stiff of being relegated to the old Division 3. I've been angry, frustrated and searching for anwers and actions but you're read was a refreshing change to what's going on in my head at the moment, a moment of calm amongst the madness perhaps. I like your take on things at the moment and i am coming round to the view that Jewell is cobbling a team together and it's not working but given more time. Remember Lyall kept signing all his old WHU hasbeens but slowly he got things working and took us to a new level. ok Mcgiven took over and the decline started again but when people harp on about the young players that Burley brought through, remember who signed them at 13, 14 15 years of age....Lyall. Dyer, Wright and players like Tanner (remember him before he went off the rails?) were all ready to step up at the time Burley came in. If we had a crystal ball we would know what to do but we don't so perhaps time is the answer who knows? another sacking another influx of players won't guarantee anything as we are seeing at the moment.

rosseden added 23:54 - Jan 3
lets be real guys, Burley inherited a handful of very good players and a decent set up at the club, players who went on to other clubs and held their own...... PJ doesnt really honestly have any of them..... he had one in Wickham, and he got sold..... the games very different now and i think this blog hits the nail on the head.......

dannysigma added 00:11 - Jan 4
Excellent blog Superfranz and a perfect antidote to much of the whinging which has sadly come to characterise many of the 'fans' of the team I love.

andsav04 added 03:55 - Jan 4
Thankyou for your calming comment Superfranz, but when Ipswich played at Peterborough in the first two weeks of the season and then Burnley just recently, they were shocking. Quite Simply!
Keane has always been a competitive man and hence brought out a competitive unit week in/week out, though had incredible trouble in creating goals. He had 2-1 and 1 nil wins. Yet as many and even more loses.
Although, PJ has brought embarrassing loses and weeks of loses without even a single point.
I am sorry to remind you Superfranz, but you can state he picked up a team ill equiped for this division but the loss of Wickham, Norris and McCauley could of been replaced with a a competitive right side and central defense. All that was organised here was loan players after the second week of the season (except for Sonko). Main pickup in midfield was Bowyer, but what was he doing playing out of position. He is a 34 year old ex-England international. Build the team around him. Should have sold Leadbitter (and replaced with another) when there was the Pompey interest, instead he played him. Did not even need Bullard, but got him. Who asked PJ to sign him, the fans. So what did he do even after Hull's bad experience, just that bring him to Portman Road. Is he a fighter no. Then why sign him, for the fans. And where are those same fans now. Not attending because Ipswich is losing and Bullard is on the bench.
There was no excuse not to sign an Alex Pearce in the centre of defence at the start. Good, young, strong up and coming centre half, even St. Ledger. Instead everything was temporary, especially our Best Player Andrews. And why was this, because of money. Well PJ needed experience and decided to loan this, but what about the younger players that have not seen ANY ACTION in the first team. Would they have not been inspired by Bowyer/Fulops/Sonko and Scotland all great professionals. I think so. Would have been a quicker team in the process with a couple of younger players, experience as noted above and other players in their natural positions backing up these solid pros.
Hyam simply has been forgotten, Carson, not given the chance earlier as PJ had to justify his loan players and others signings and maybe one or two others. Why do Ipswich have a youth team now (last six months) if nothing is allowed to come through and yet they are still going through these incredible losing runs.
One time or another the club has to sign players for problem areas, this has not been done only for left back. Are you kidding.
I will always be an Ipswich fan. I love my club, but like Magilton and Keane, PJ you will best leave. We want consistency and to win on Portman Road for the fans and yet Ipswich lose here as well.
More important the appointments as Manager are outdated and problematic, especially when the Manager signs the players and then CANNOT take the rap for their appointments as Jewell constantly rubishes their performances.
Yes I am reminding all that the problem starts at the top and Clegg (you non-footballing person) must go once a replacement is found for you also.
I must finally remind everyone that I do not think anyone though Ipswich was going to be a top two team. Rather top ten and higher was expected, considering Bowyer came to replace Norris, Wickham was not a regular scorer and McCauley could of been replaced. Instead we go back to the past to compare the present team with the more incapable past team and draw light.
Well there is no light in when we continue to do this and the manager is not held accountable for his teams plight. Sven has gone, why are you still here PJ.


Len_Brennan added 06:51 - Jan 4
Excellent well thought out blog and also some very well reasoned counter points made by posters in response. I would tend to agree with what is said in the op as to the difficulties inherited by the manager which are to do with the structure of the club. I would also agree as to the confidence I would have in him as opposed to the actions of the man he replaced, however the current situation is getting perilous and some of his tactics and formations have raised genuine questions about his abilities.
Good and neccessary debate here with well reasoned contributions, in the main.


Len_Brennan added 06:54 - Jan 4
Excellent well thought out blog and also some very well reasoned counter points made by posters in response. I would tend to agree with what is said in the op as to the difficulties inherited by the manager which are to do with the structure of the club. I would also agree as to the confidence I would have in him as opposed to the actions of the man he replaced, however the current situation is getting perilous and some of his tactics and formations have raised genuine questions about his abilities.
Good and neccessary debate here with well reasoned contributions, in the main.


stinkiusminkius added 07:27 - Jan 4
Yeah, good blog with some good food for thought, and good counter debate from some (although not jas0999 of course, who just rants on in his usual pathetic style).

StortfordBlue added 08:14 - Jan 4
Excellently written blog, with some great points made - thanks Superfranz. I too would like to see PJ given more time, but I'd also like to see him sign up some hungry younger lower-league players and give some of our youngsters a chance, which would maybe endear him to us fans a little more...

SammyT added 09:55 - Jan 4
Somes up exactly how i feel. 100%

eaii added 10:03 - Jan 4
Give PJ time? (if the football had some sort of future then so be it).
God help us.
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