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Never-Ending Mediocrity, But Why?
Written by Edmunds5 on Monday, 17th Sep 2012 14:55

Hello, I’m Aaron Edmunds and I am 19 years old. Sports journalism has always interested me and this is my first blog. The current 2012/2013 season is Ipswich Town’s 11th consecutive season in the Championship, a statistic all Blues fans are all but too aware of.

This screams one word to me ‘MEDIOCRE’. I intend to discuss the issues inside and outside the club which I believe have led to the mediocrity surrounding us. Those being, attitudes, the influence of the modern game, the managers, rounded of by a brief conclusion.

My first issue is the attitudes of certain footballers. Many conduct themselves well on and off the pitch, showing an appreciation of fans and a day to day dedication to their profession. I would also add that footballers are human beings like you and I, many I’m sure have had difficult upbringings, financial difficulties and have been bought up from deprived areas, grinding their way too the top.

It strikes me, however, that there are too many footballers whose attitudes and agendas are in question. A point that brings me to our club and I would like too say that these are not cheap shots or a negative view, just an opinion from a fans perspective.

I think there are possibly a couple of examples at Ipswich in recent times, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas possibly being one. Occasionally criticising fans on social networking sites and using foul language whilst doing it. Don’t get me wrong, the lad has all the talent in the world and has masses of potential and whilst unprovoked abuse from fans is not on, it’s the reaction, a reaction of petulance as if to say, ‘I’m a footballer, I have power’.

They’re not slaves and they have their own lives outside of football I’m aware of this. The recently departed, enigmatic Jimmy Bullard could possibly be another who could be criticised with regards to his application.

A fantastic character no doubt, but nights out in Newcastle before morning training for example just makes you think how much players care. It saddens me when you know that many fans would give both arms too put on a Town shirt (keep the legs though, you’ll need them). I find it somewhat ludicrous how talented players who have made the grade do not seem to appreciate their talents and realise the opportunities in front of them.

There are opposites too this of course, advancing on what I touched on at the beginning. I’m thinking Matt Holland, a terrific leader, a battler, a player who wore the shirt with pride and itched for success. I’m thinking James Scowcroft, a local boy who relished playing for Town, Jim Magilton another.

Even others such as Shefki Kuqi, not the most technically gifted player but a player with passion and drive who treated every game as if it would be his last. I just sometimes think to myself where the love for the shirt has gone, who wants to be an Ipswich hero? Who genuinely has a passion to succeed at the club?

It’s just as if some footballers are immersed in the way football has evolved and though naturally things will always change, you can look at many negative aspects of the ‘beautiful game’ that have affected some players.

For example social networking or rich owners, who are feeding players, many young and unproven, with lucrative weekly salaries. Of course there are upsides to both, instant success for clubs who were previously trophy-less for many seasons and so more excitement for fans, or interaction quickly with fans, and making their day with a message.

Even saving clubs from liquidation, which is obviously a huge positive of club ownership. But some things just aren’t real any more, What about diving or the hard but fair tackle. Do players have so little respect for each other now that they fail to even shake hands prior to a match? What has happened? Where is the blooded Terry Butcher shirt? Well and truly in the wash.

The next issue I would raise is less generalised, and is the direction or lack of that has surrounded our club. There seems to be no real blueprint, no foundations. Which brings me to our managers: Jim Magilton, a legend in his playing days at the Blues, could he achieve similar success as a manager than he did as a player?

Well, to be honest we will never really know. OK finishing 14th in his first full season in charge was not the best and there was talk of an unsettled camp, but something inside me thinks Magilton’s fluid approach could have been the start of a successful reign. He clearly believed in passing football and the majority of players seemed to have a high regard for him.

Magilton improved Town's position by six places, however failure to get the club in the Premier League despite a final home win against Hull, led to the Northern Irishman inevitably losing his job as Town finished just outside the play-offs in eith position, a season that looking back, could have been built upon.

Roy Keane was next, many fans were pleased by the appointment, his legendary status as a player and impressive promotion at Sunderland had many fans feeling upbeat for the future. I personally believe the footballing culture of the North-East and the firm character that Keane portrays filtered to the players who as a result had no excuse but to try and meet expectations. Although there are no better fans than ours, perhaps certain players have seen us as a soft touch, accepting our false plight as a mid-table side.

Not helped by Keane’s fierce nature, leaving players unable to express themselves and play football the right way. I recall Keane’s captain Jon Walters saying the squad felt like they were ‘treading on eggshells’ whenever they were around the manager, an indication of the tension and dismissing the fun-factor associated with football clubs. Ultimately, Roy Keane’s approach failed with Town finishing in a lowly 15th.

Current manager Paul Jewell was next in line, in many ways the manager with the most difficult task. Jewell was asked to galvanise the club following the disappointment of the Keane era and the fragmentation of the squad Roy Keane had assembled, so could Jewell galvanise us? His motive was clear - promotion.

High profile, experienced players came in, Bowyer, Bullard, and Sonko to name a few but only to once again finish in 15th place. Paul Jewell in my opinion underestimated the Championship and perhaps didn’t appreciate the key components needed to get out of the league, having been out of the game for a long spell. Spirit, energy, passion, hunger and stamina being those key attributes. Jewell put together a group of experienced players with big reputations and undoubted quality, but only left us with phrases such as ‘over the hill’ and ‘consistently inconsistent’.

What strikes me most about the three managers' reigns is that there has not really been a blueprint, no real foundations. I compare us to sides such as Wigan, Stoke, Swansea and Reading, sides who are playing Premier League football but are no bigger than us in terms of history or stature.

Roberto Martinez, a youthful manager who has a clear style in which he wants his team to play, every player understands their roles and are clearly benefiting from the system. Eight consecutive seasons in the top flight their reward.

Stoke under Tony Pulis work on discipline and workrate, yes not the most attractive, but again they all give 100%, are difficult to beat and understand the demands of their manager.

Swansea’s philosophy has been built over Paulo Sousa, Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup. Whilst managers have changed quite swiftly, the style hasn’t and everybody is very comfortable with it. Reading’s rise under the guidance Brian McDermott, a man who knows the club inside out, having been associated with it for many years.

Though I fully appreciate the dire financial state we were in before Marcus Evans arrived, I have barely seen him and would hope that he understands how much Ipswich means to the fans. I know every club is different and has its ups and downs, I could mention a few big clubs who are in a worse state than us, and I also know we cannot suddenly play like Brazil.

However, all our recent managers have had different approaches which just confuse me as to how this club can move forward. Roy Keane, too strict, no connection with players, playing players who we all know shouldn’t be in the side, no appreciation of Ipswich’s traditional passing game.

What have we built? What are we building? Where are we going? Do I really believe our current regime is playing attention to extremely detailed tactics and player roles? Do I believe that our defensive frailties have been worked on relentlessly and that Paul Jewell and his staff have lost sleep over finding new ways in which our defenders can defend? Do I really believe Paul Jewell has the ability to think of a wide range of targets who can improve the Ipswich side?

We cannot only rely on our own talent. Ian Holloway has done this at Blackpool, youth team players, players from Scotland, Portugal, youngsters from the Premier League. We have brought in Cheick Kourouma who was recommended by Ibrahima Sonko and countless trialists who fail to sign, So many questions, so many unanswered.

In my opinion we have been made to look mediocre because of the issues I’ve mentioned that surround our football club, If some of those had been flipped, imagine where we could be now. No club should naturally deserve success regardless of previous achievements, but we have had managerial reigns that have not improved or built the club. The reality is the football club has been on a downward spiral since George Burley left. This somewhat damning assessment is one that pains me to write and I hope it isn't generally viewed as downbeat, I want to see the Tractor Boys back on track.

Thank you for listening, I hope you have enjoyed the read and would welcome any comments.

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

irishtim added 15:37 - Sep 17
Well wrtten mate. Wish i had the answers. I think we need to change manager as we dont seem to have players with passion ie mattie holland character. Personally Mick Mccarthy would for me get the players playing for town.

MattinLondon added 15:59 - Sep 17
Aaron, a good blog and I agree with some of your thoughts. As a club it does seem that we are going nowhere very quickly and that we appear to be directionless. But I do think that you have a very rosey view of the past.

Some footballers conduct themselves with the upmost pride both on-and-off the pitch others don't. Its just like any other profession - at the end of the day they are just people.

I don't really agree with people who state that diving has only happened in recent years. In the 1970s Frannie Lee was nicknamed 'The China Man' as in Lee-one-pen. By all accounts he went down rather easily. Cheating has always happened be it in politics, in war and eben in football. Its human nature for people to seek an advantage over someone else. We think the footballers of the 1950s were all gentleman - they were exactly the same as what footballers are now -just paid a lot lot less.

Personally I see no problem if Jay Emmanuel-Thomas chooses Twitter to criticise fans behaviour. How many times have we heard swearing directed towards players? If fans can't take it, don't dish it out in the first place.

You mention the pride that Jamie Scowcroft felt playing for the club - this didn't stop some fans from booing him a fairly routine basis. If as fans we demand loyality then surely we must be loyal to players who are not firing with all guns blazing.

I do agree with you that clubs cannot be effective without some sort of long-term strategy. Despite the introduction of the Academies I have not seen an increase in the technique of younger players, I have not seen a greater tactical understanding of the game and this has been disappointing.


Garv added 16:36 - Sep 17
Very good blog. Lots of interesting points, some I agreed with, some I didn't.

Well done for not turning it into a Jewell in/out debate, but it looks like the first comment might do that. Shame.

dan_itfc added 17:07 - Sep 17
Well done mate, a very good read all round. IMO I really don't see the point in sacking Paul Jewell. He's spent all summer building a young squad that will peaking any time soon, what I can't believe is that only 5 games in and the young squad we all wanted is now not what we needed after all and Jewell should be sacked because of this!

Yes we need a centre back and we eventually get one, all we need to do as fans for the time being as fans is just be patient with the team and management. It can't be a bad thing that Jewell wants to be 100% sure he's getting the right player for his squad and for whatever reason it's taking a little longer than we all hoped.

And let's face it, we could of had slot less points than 5 with a first 5 of Blackburn, Watford, Blackpool, Huddersfield and Boro!

dan_itfc added 17:09 - Sep 17
Appolgies for the horribly written response, couldn't tell it was done in a about 20 seconds could you?

canveyblue added 17:45 - Sep 17
Well written, good blog. A career beckons,good luck mate.

brendanh added 18:01 - Sep 17
We're mediocre because successive managers from Burley onwards, thought they could buy the finished product. If you're financially secure for life, you only come to sleepy Suffolk to coast and pick up a salary. The only way we have and will ever be succesful is through our kids and taking punts on unknowns. Look at our best signings in the past 5-6 years: Aaron Cresswell and Jon Walters, both from the lower leagues. Not enough of them.

Also we are mediocre because we give our afformentioned mediocre signings a chance instead our kids: N'daw and Louongo keeping Hyam out, Priskin instead of Rhodes, Marcus Bent instead of Jamie Scowcroft, Makin instead of Fab. It's been happening ever since we became medocre 11 years ago.

kozmik added 18:56 - Sep 17
Maybe relegation is the answer? Didn't do Nobwich and Southampton any harm did it?

Edmunds5 added 19:33 - Sep 17
MattinLondon thanks for that feedback, I think there has been a few incidents that make me question the game, eg. Suarez, Terry racism cases, betting scandals, inflated price tags ect, perhaps I should have been more balanced, being 19 I have limited knowledge of the 70's ect so I dont have quite as broad an opinion compared to the last decade. but very good point made.

Thanks Garv,dan itfc, canveyblue, brendanh and kozmik for your replys. appreciate them.

MattinLondon added 20:15 - Sep 17
Hope you don't think that I was being overly critical. I do think that your blog was very well articulated. In terms of your racism point....I bet it was a lot worse in the 70s/80s.

I only know about 1970s football as my dad likes to go on and on about it.

Look forward to reading more of your stuff

RegencyBlue added 20:59 - Sep 17
Good blog and sums up the clubs problems very well.

Struggling for answers though, as are we all!

alfromcol added 21:03 - Sep 17
Interesting and well written blog.

Sibelius8 added 21:31 - Sep 17
Dear Aaron,

Congratulations on a most promising essay, especially from one so young. I'm sure you wish to improve your work, so please allow me, as one with much writing to do at an academic and professional level, offer a few, positive, critical comments.

You make many interesting points, though your use of grammar does need more care and precision. Your longer sentences, in particular, do need more clarity of expression. Your punctuation is often unclear and some attention to this would help your train of thought communicate itself far more readily.

Your "Blog" is nonetheless full of confident writing. You are not afraid of raising some quite complex issues and you have real flair. Bravo! We wish you well.

Marshalls_Mullet added 10:03 - Sep 18
I would argue that football is one sport where being from a deprived background does not hinder your chances of making it as a pro.

Edmunds5 added 11:16 - Sep 18
Fair opinion, but if you have to train three four times a week for academy sides and your family is financially insecure then they have to dedicate themselves to your training for many years when your growing up, which is not easy. Though in a way I have actually agreed with you in the Blog because I have said many have had came from deprived areas, I haven't said they haven't made it as footballers. So I've noticed how many have become pro. All about opinions though mate and I understand what you mean, Messi being seen on the streets of Argentina for example. I'm neither right or wrong, all about opinions.

JimmyJazz added 13:54 - Sep 18
i think the problem stems from the owner. Let's say for arguments sake that Jewell is let go sometime this coming winter. What then? Well history tells us this is a quite likely scenario
1. New manager comes in on 2 and a half year contract, told first job is to save us from relegation. Honeymoon period thus occurs and first objective is achieved.
2. Lee Martin's contract ends and he leaves for nothing. Doesn't allude to such but 'Ipswich going nowhere' likely to be high on list of reasons why. New manager says he had no chance to change this scenario as he's only been on board a few months. Everyone says lessons will be learned and it won't happen again
3. ME gives new manager some fair backing financially in the summer, new players arrive.
4. Team fails to gel, honeymoon period is a distant memory. Give the manager more time etc. Team eventually get going but a mid table finish is disappointing to say the least.
5. ME not impressed, not much financial backing this summer
6. last year of contract the new manager has no money to spend and really has no chance of succeeding.
7. Go back to step 1 and repeat all over again

ME says there is no pressure on when (!!!) we get promoted, so why then does he only hand out 2 year contacts to his managers and seemingly lose faith so quickly?

This doesn't happen at the clubs you mentioned who are doing well Wigan, Blackpool, Stoke, Reading etc

daniel9624 added 15:22 - Sep 18
What we should now be doing is giving PJ a New contract, and the same with Martin...... show the players ( and the fans) that we do have a long term plan and also give any potential new signings confidence that the manager they sign for is not going to be sacked in 3-6months. Some good talk about development and direction in the blog, and something I'd like to hear your further thoughts on.

johnwarkstache added 15:45 - Sep 18
I agree with many of your sentiments and put the never ending influx of loan players and players on 1 and 2 year contracts at the heart of a lot of it. Modern football is horrible in general. Could rant for a while but won't as will be hard to stop

On another note Aaron, if you really are interested in pursuing journalism, you need to step up a bit in the grammar stakes. The many errors didn't help with the flow when reading your article. I found the constant confusion of "to" and "too" particularly irritiating

Maybe that's why they're getting rid of GCSEs

Edmunds5 added 16:51 - Sep 18
Thanks for the comments everyone,
johnwwarkstache, you're completely right to pull me back on that, I actually thought about the 'too' and 'too' thing when I was writing it because I wasn't entirely sure which was for which, and was so busy writing and I didn't really hezitate to think. Lazy on my part but I understand the meanings now and it is something I will improve on in future as well as the other grammar errors.

johnwarkstache added 17:07 - Sep 18
Apologies if I appeared a bit harsh Aaron and good luck with any future writing career

Edmunds5 added 17:10 - Sep 18
nah, good to know where you can improve and cheers

Juggsy added 12:33 - Sep 19
Good blog Aaron,

Personally I would be happy wait a couple of years for any success if I believed we actually have a plan. Unfortunately I think our plan looks something like JimmyJazz posted and we'll end up in an endless cycle which will only be broken when we 'accidentally' appoint a manager who can actually motivate our players.

Bluesaway added 22:38 - Sep 19
I think Joe Royle did a good job on no budget, having to sell throughout his tenure, trying to get promotion on a shoestring and almost achieving it. It was a simple blueprint - get us up so we can balance the books.

I also believe Magilton/Klug had a blueprint, invest in young talent balanced with the solid experience already within the squad, given the limited funds still available. The arrival of ME changed all this in Jim's second season, as the transfer window was closing, and this was disruptive - balancing the books and controlling salaries went out of the window as we told Jim to rip up his plan and buy success. He was deemed to have failed, despite the turbulence of changing part way through, yet we've not achieved a top half finish since.

Many seasons on since ME arrived, we've spent a fortune, recouped little (setting aside Whickham, as he was already part of the youth set up and therefore not part of the spending spree), paid some of the highest salaries in the Championship in the meantime and are now trying to balance the books again.

There isn't an instant recipe for success, otherwise we'd all be following the same blueprint, but we do seem to have floundered under the last couple of managers. Keane bought much of a team on inflated salaries paying over the odds, then lacked the means to galvanise the team he'd created. Jewell sought to gain promotion via a Dad's Army, dropping younger players but discovered a mix of these veterans were injury prone, lacking in motivation or not up for the challenging nature of a 46 game season in the Championship. Now we've changed tack again, looking for younger talent on which to build for the future.

I think ME would be pleased to feel a manager was taking us forwards, building successfully each season, yet the evidence is that neither Keane nor Jewell have demonstrated this. I can understand his reticence to offer longer contracts if there is no sign of progress being made, much the same line as Jewell offers to justify why young talent should get limited contracts and encouraged to demonstrate a hunger and deliver week in, week out. I feel he has shown commitment to both Keane and Jewell, but the evidence suggests this isn't realising the outcome he has in mind.

Fans get more disenchanted, attendances keep dropping, ME must wonder what he's got to do to get ITFC moving forwards again. Sack the manager, and half the fans say we didn't give enough time, keep him and results stay the same and the other half are up in arms about a lack of direction/ambition. Either way, this cannot be the glorious journey ME had in mind when he bought into ITFC.
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