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[Blog] Team Spirit Holds the Key
Written by clive_baker on Wednesday, 11th Jul 2012 23:28

This is my first blog, and was prompted by criticisms on the forum and social networks surrounding the size of our playing squad and how it might be to the detriment of a successful season.

Well, forever the optimist, I would like to take a few minutes to consider the benefits of having a smaller squad. Make no mistake, come January when legs are heavy, yellow cards are racking up and games are coming thick and fast, there’s a requirement for quality replacements at our disposal in order to remain competitive, I get that.

But what we've lacked in recent seasons, particularly under Roy Keane’s ‘leadership’ (and I use the term loosely) and its aftermath is a sense of team spirit. It was clear for all to see, there was a black cloud hanging over Ipswich Town Football Club and, without naming names, conversations with both playing and non-playing staff tell you just how bad it was. It wasn't healthy. Fortunately, that dark cloud finally feels like it might be lifting, with a sense of resurrection emphasised by the recent return of Bryan Klug.

I don't think you can underestimate the value of having a sense of togetherness within the squad and I think a small, tight-knit group could lend itself to this. It’s easy to criticise, but I think Paul Jewell deserves a lot of credit for lifting the club off its backside, clearing some deadwood and reinstating a sense of pride in the badge.

If you want to see these changes personified then look no further than Lee Martin. A player who was signed by Roy Keane, given little chance to make a spot his own before being farmed out on loan to Charlton. Since Jewell inherited Martin we’ve seen a player who is never afraid to make a tackle (admittedly sometimes when he perhaps shouldn’t), a player who works tirelessly week in, week out and gives the Town fans exactly what they ask of a player representing our proud club; 100% commitment.

Team spirit, togetherness, camaraderie, call it what you like but it’s quite clearly something which Paul Jewell values, this much is obvious from his success at Bradford and Wigan. Who can forget a drunken Stuart McCall celebrating Bradford’s promotion by falling off a car? Lee Sharpe, who played under Jewell at Bradford, recalls in his (I must say fascinating) book My idea of Fun how Bradford were affectionately known as the Dog & Duck, such was their likeness to a pub side.

This was in part down to their (lack of) facilities and poor standard of training ground, but also due to the team spirit Jewell instilled in the squad. This is more easily implemented into a smaller squad, and also into a squad which Jewell has built himself, with the characters he’s selected.

I’m not suggesting Paul Jewell's one and a bit seasons in charge should be immune from scrutiny, far from it. Mistakes have most certainly been made. What I would say in Jewell’s defence. however, is that lifting the club was always going to take time, especially given the state in which he found it.

There is every likelihood our starting XI for the Blackburn game will feature at least seven Jewell signings, with more I’m sure on the bench. This is every bit his squad now. While other squads in this division might have more quality in depth than us, I think we might surprise a few people next season as a ‘crazy gang’ spirit emerges on, and hopefully off the pitch.

We can all play our part! COYB!

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Guthrum added 23:55 - Jul 11
A settled, regular squad will become more tight-knit, more intuitive, more efficient, knowing each others' strengths and weaknesses.

I look forward to seeing what you've described emerging over the coming season.

BillBlue added 08:04 - Jul 12
A good blog, well written and straight to the point and, IMO, absolutely right. Well said. COYB

itfcptc added 09:28 - Jul 12
Very good well written blog. We are starting to get back to the things we are good at and the traditions of the club, something we lost under Keane and therefore we had nothing to fall back on. It was always going to take time.

I believe Jewell is a decent manager, he's not the best but he's decent, where we have punched above our weight in the past we've had a decent manager and the continuity and how we do things at the club has been our strength. I believe this is important now more than ever as many clubs are continuously changing managers, owners, players and many have big backers. I believe if we evolve and have patience as a club, this is how we will get one over on the other clubs!!

algarvefan added 09:45 - Jul 12
We all recall that Sir Bobby Robsons squad was a small one in the glory years, but that didn't stop us achieving well beyond expectations. It did however stop us winning the league due to injuries at least once. I'd also caution about the 'pub' mentality too, you could get away with it in the Bradford & Wimbledon days, but you'd get 'found out' now!!

Blandford added 10:43 - Jul 12
Really enjoyed reading this blog - Thank you. Personally I believe that 'a sense of pride in the badge' is something that far too few players have shown over the last decade. Over the last 6 to 12 months I honestly believe that this problem has been identified by the management and can see a brighter future for this club. At the end of the day the squad size needs to be sustainable and competitive (not an easy balancing act) but more importantly every member of that squad must want to play for our great club.

Marshalls_Mullet added 10:56 - Jul 12
Good blog and very sensible, the youngsters all call for two players for each position, as if we have inlimited funds.

Garv added 12:39 - Jul 12
Good blog, well done.

theblueginger added 08:33 - Jul 13
I hope your right, and have a feeling you will be. COYB

BuckieBlue added 21:12 - Jul 13
Good first blog, you raise an interesting and vital issue. The level of continuity from last season (assuming we have about 7 of last year's side still in first team this season) wil stand us in good stead compared to sides who have chopped and changed lots (e.g Leeds).It always takes time to mould a side as we found last season after all our new signings.
On a related point, PJ said towards end of last season, when our scoring rate began to drop, that he felt the players weren't willing to 'get a cut eye' for the sake of getting on the end of chances. That is a big problem, but if there is a better team spirit then everyone should be more ready to 'fight' for the cause surely. like you I think we are going to have a good season (and I think the
-lack of- quality of the promoted and relegated sides makes it a weaker division).

Pique added 11:04 - Jul 14
Very good blog, and well written too.

While there's always a delicate balance to be struck between strength in depth and commitment to a settled team, you're right to highlight the importance of camaraderie, which can take you a long way.

The key is to create a squad with depth, but one in which everyone feels they have a part to play, even if they're not on the pitch every week. It's not easy, but it can be done.

jas0999 added 13:33 - Jul 14
We need to build a squad which is capable of challenging for promotion - even if it doesn't happen this coming the season - the key is to have the same players available and together for the season after that. PJ freely admits that his recruitment strategy was completely wrong last May-Aug and as a result, many older signings are not at the club this year - which means it was on the whole a wasted season and we find ourselves generally (Cresswell/JET apart), back to square one this year.

Currently we are at least 5 players short from having any type of squad at all. The GK situation is bordering on the embarrassing, whilst although Chambers is an excellent signing - we still only have three CB's (one is away on International duty) - by any stretch of the imagination that's not enough.

Looking at the midfield - three regular starters last season are no longer with us. None have been replaced. Arguably we need to replace at least Leadbitter and Murphy, whilst Stevenson is ample replacement for the poor signing of Bowyer.

Strikers: Oh dear! Really only two to note: Scotland and the disruptive Chopra. Much will depend on them, but decent sides have at least FOUR strikers to call on - strikers change games, and currently we don't have anyone to sit on the bench of any note (I don't count Ellington!). Of course, PJ will probably play with his favoured one up front - but still we are lacking.

The real key though is team spirit - and it's PJ's job to manage this. He needs to get a grip of Bullard and Chopra though - as there can be little doubt that their antics last year didn't help matters.

Still much for PJ to do. We can't spend silly money - or have a really big squad - but looking at how many players left since the end of last season (saving wages) - we need at least 4 or 5 more in to be competitive.

DurhamTownFan added 14:07 - Jul 15
Instead of going through the same old requirements that get posted below almost every story on here (the 'we need a keeper' and the catch-all need for a 'young hungry signing', I'd like to agree with the sentiment of this above-featured story (if you care about it so much, write your own blog, posters!)

I realy think that Jewell can create a good team spirit. But will it be enough? It will certainly be start, but PJ's demeanour is not of somebody who is at the forefront of footballing development or tactical nous, like a younger Brendan Rodgers or a lower-league AVB. I personally do not think a pub mentality is enough for a top-half finish, especially when you want to be confident of dominating teams, not just nicking a luck result. Also, can anybody name me a famous player that PJ has been responsible for developing and bringing on when he was young? I'm genuinely interested because I don't know.

My opinion is that ME gives Jewell until Christmas to impress, and then either gives him an extension, or starts looking at other options. As usual we won't be asked, so we might as well get behind him!

warwickblue added 16:53 - Jul 15
DurhamTownFan - No, I can't name a famous player that Jewell developed as a youngster.

clive_baker added 17:34 - Jul 15
DurhamTownFan - Leighton Baines?

brian_a_mul added 09:23 - Jul 16
Great blog, well done clive!

Team spirit has greatly improved and I for one feel much more amoured with the club since PJ has taken the reigns. Like him or not, he brings a positivity to the club and is not afraid to admit mistakes and crucially learn from his mistakes.

Also I would like to point out that its the clubs that develop the youngsters not necessarily the manager. Managers come and go but its the respective clubs philsophy towards their academy/ youth set up that plays a massive part in bringing through young players.

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