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Where Does This Football Club Go From Here?
Written by Steve_M on Sunday, 23rd Sep 2012 09:21

Paul Jewell’s time at this club must now be as good as over but, whether he goes this week, in two months or at the end of the season, the malaise at this club is far deeper than a man who has tried hard but been nowhere near good enough.

Way back on December 21st 2004 Ipswich beat Wigan in an outstandingly good match and no one in the 28,000+ crowd would have bet against the seeing the same fixture in the following season’s Premier League.

Instead each side did their best to throw promotion away with poor run ins before Paul Jewell’s Wigan stumbled over the line behind Sunderland. Despite reaching the play-offs that season, it has been pretty much downhill all the way for Ipswich Town Football Club since that gloriously foggy December evening.

There have been moments of optimism though, not least when Marcus Evans took over the club whilst Jim Magilton’s exciting, entertaining team sat near the top of the table. Some modest sensible investment might have seen the team consolidate, reach the play-offs that season and build on that success in subsequent seasons.

Instead, a preponderance of midfield trundlers ruined the cohesiveness of Magilton’s team in a search for defensive solidity, expectations rose to ludicrous levels and the team were booed off at half-time in the first match of the following season. The warning signs were there though, the hubris of fans singing “we’re f’ing loaded” was obvious at the time to those who wanted to think about it.

What is the relevance of this now? Well, after two home defeats in a week, it is obvious to the most optimistic of Town fans that Paul Jewell’s time here is as good as over. As with his two immediate predecessors, the time Evans has afforded Jewell hasn’t been enough to rectify glaring problems with his team; the lack of confidence and cohesion to Town’s play against Charlton just adds to a dismal run of form since April last season.

Jewell seems to have little ability to alter tactics mid-game, worse he seems to miss major faults that are obvious to large numbers of fans. The constant changing of the front players yesterday, just more evidence to suggest he is just hoping something comes off. At the same time the central pairing got deeper and deeper, leaving little option but a hoof forwards – it needed changing at half-time but that warning wasn’t taken and two mistakes in midfield saw us concede twice within ten minutes.

To hear some fans speak though, sacking Jewell would be a panacea, just as the displacement of both Magilton and Keane before him was going to be. The fact that we are nearly five years and three managers on from the Evans takeover and the state of the club is palpably worse than before should provide ample evidence to the contrary. That’s not a reason for keeping Jewell any longer though, not any more.

There is no evidence that Evans’s third managerial appointment will be any more successful than his previous two. Apparently he sounded out people in football before appointing Jewell which calls into question the judgement of those individuals – Jewell’s failures at Sheffield Wednesday and Derby were very clear and both, like Ipswich, suffered from the weight of expectation. Bradford and Wigan by contrast were well-resourced and had far less expectation.

Evans came to the club with a desire for promotion as soon as possible; someone probably told him it would be easy with a bit of investment. That pressure clearly told on the decision-making of Magilton and Keane and, indeed, Jewell’s disastrous signings for the 2011/12 season stemmed from exactly the same demands. The club have made the right noises since then about building for the future, some signings certainly reflect that but there is little more coherence about the first team squad than there has been in previous seasons.

The next managerial appointment has to be someone who can turn that rhetoric about building for the future into reality; unite the fans in a sense of optimism behind that manager, the players and the club. That doesn’t mean promotion any time soon; Evans probably needs to understand that to achieve his goal he has to be patient and accept it can’t be achieved in a season.

We have signed some 85 players since Magilton took charge of the club, that’s in a little over six seasons. That is frankly ridiculous and a clear explanation for the lack of identity many fans feel with the XI on the pitch. It does, however, give the lie to the idea that Evans hasn’t backed his managers. He’s just backed the wrong managers.

Very few of those players have been bad players, the problem has consistently been one of creating a cohesive team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Players have come in and looked good for a while before sinking to a mean level of mediocrity. We’ve been “two or three players away” from a complete side for a long time now. The availability of a transfer budget seems to lead managers to sign more players regardless rather than work to improve those they already have, to get those players playing better as a unit. The managers aren’t the only ones, too many fans have been sucked in by the Sky hyperbole that the way to improve teams is ever more signings rather than better coaching.

So who is next? Another average appointment – Mick McCarthy, Billy Davies or Gary Megson – and we will surely repeat this situation in 18 months time. I realise that some fans would probably welcome some of those names – hopefully none want our own-goal hero though – but they are, like Jewell, managers who have been around, had some success and some far leaner periods. Nothing new there.

Harry Redknapp might be more successful in the short-term but would probably see off any sort of long-term planning which could have even more catastrophic consequences. ‘Arry’s not noted for wanting to work with the players he already has either.

The sort of long-term appointment that could attempt to repeat George Burley’s job in the late 90s – Karl Robinson, Paul Tidsdale perhaps – looks increasingly far from what Evans wants but in my view is the only way this club is going to reconnect with its fanbase.

Today the prevailing mood of fans is one of apathy about the club (obviously I’m so apathetic that I wrote nearly 1,400 words to say so whilst watching MOTD last night, but anyway...). There is little expectation of anything improving, people are already wondering about renewing season tickets for next season. In September.

There are plenty of people I have spoken to who suggest that if they give up a season ticket they might struggle to justify attending matches – especially with the ludicrously high matchday prices. Perhaps it’s largely frustration but it isn’t something the club should readily ignore.

Few things about the club are particularly good these days; the lamentable club website has been the target of much frustration but understandably so, it’s far worse than the late 90s incarnation. Season ticket prices remain fair but matchday tickets are too expensive to attract casual fans and the catering overpriced and inefficient. All little things really but added to the mess on the pitch and it doesn’t feel very good.

Of course, these may not be of much concern to Evans but unfortunately we don’t really know. I respect his desire for privacy, it’s laudable compared to the self-important pronouncements of some other club owners, but it would be nice if he told us what he really thought about his ‘investment’. How long does he want to keep throwing money at footballers? Or has he got the same bug that keeps us all coming back when it makes little logical sense?

Of course, if things do go right on the pitch, then all else can largely be ignored, and attendances would certainly improve, but this feels like a club approaching something of a watershed, both for Evans and for many fans. The next manager will probably be backed financially but it needs to be a better appointment than the last two. If not, then we will just repeat the apathy and ineptitude of the last few seasons. And probably spiral further downwards all the time.

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ChrisFelix added 10:19 - Sep 23
Excellent article,& says what i have felt for several months.
I feel Mick Mills also summed it up that he could something with the players now at the club. Its all about motivation & I wonder where Paul Jewells has gone, that is if he ever had any.
Our great are in ndecline & the next appointment needs to be the right one. Get the right manager ie pay the wages & the rest will come

eaii added 10:55 - Sep 23
Some good points but one name missing from your disection of Ipswich, Simon Clegg? as far as I am concerned it does not matter who the next manager is, as long as that goon has any imput into this club then we will fail. I base my comments on the fact that since he has been here it has been downwards all the way both football and financial. You comment on the next manager getting financial backing? I see that our debt is going to increase more then?

brendanh added 11:18 - Sep 23
The man in charge is Evans, not Clegg. Evans has dictated our short-termist strategy that is so inappropriate for this club. The next manager must be given longer than a two year contract and the mandate to nurture our kids and develop hungry recruits who aren't yet established in the top two leagues. It's the Ipswich way, it's the only way. A new 5 year plan.

alliedaz added 11:32 - Sep 23
im sorry to say harry will not come to ipswich,any big manager does well with big money in his pockets and thats something we have not got and all the talk of a 5 year plan is gone and what does this mean reguarding evans.does he go coz we have failed or does he pump another 5million in or get no return,also jet doesnt wana plan and other players will will follow

CalneBlue added 12:08 - Sep 23
Great blog, excellent clarity on what's wrong with the Town, and written with rare quality. If only we could believe the likes of Messrs Clegg and Evans actually paid attention!

I would just disagree a little with the point about McCarthy's - he's got a great track record of getting Championship teams promoted but seems to struggle to keep them in the Premier league. He would be a marked improvement on the last two managers.

reusersfreekicks added 12:18 - Sep 23
Quite simply brilliant

sotd78 added 13:02 - Sep 23
What I think we as fans would stomach is a decision to re-instate a five year plan. Tell us up front that we going to stay inside the FFP and that we'll blood our own players. That then would mean perservering with Smith and Hyam. We would NOT then go and loan in a player from clubs who clearly say "play them or return them" - Luongo for example.
Let's then not let go players like Trotter only to replace them with players like N'Daw - arguably no better.
We might then accept a scrap for survival and get behind the team. At present after 45 years of following Town I have no relationship with the club; no affinity with the players and I positively despise the characters we have had here - Bowyer, Bullard, Chopra. they all represent the badboys of footall that I'd rather not watch.

Edmunds5 added 13:09 - Sep 23
Good blog , really enjoyed reading that. 85 players since Magilton took charge just emphasises the lack of stategy and the club. I personally wouldn't mind seeing McCarthy here, I think he would more than stabalise us and he's got teams pomoted before. Jewell was out of the game for a while before us where as McCarthy has only been out of football since last season so is up to speed with things. Though like you point out a youthful manager would maybe indicate a plan for years to come which might be more benefiticial in our situation.

ketton_itfc added 13:20 - Sep 23
Excellent blog Steve!

BeattiesBeerGut added 13:50 - Sep 23
Excellent log - our current predicament dissected with pinpoint accuracy.

I think the issue is that Evans might be equating his "football" business with his other investment holdings and applying the same payback rules to ITFC. i.e we must get back to the EPL cash cow heaven as quickly as possible but by spending as little as possible.

Jewell in my mind has never had a coherent strategy, Last season he was reliant on ex EPL has beens and we only went on a run when people like Bullard and Bowyer became unavailable. His treatment of Hyam is perhaps a good allegory for his overall confused thinking. Luke started games early on (and in pre season) and by accounts played well in the "holding" role and the team looked more solid defensively.
Jewell seems to think that a team cannot be built around such a young player and Hyam is probably scratching his head at being relegated to te fringes of the team.

I would love to see Taricco here as manager perhaps with a more seasoned old hand as his number 2. Brighton play with a freedom and confidnce that our current crop of talent seem to lack and the hope would be that he could bring some latin passion to our underperforming team.

alfromcol added 15:51 - Sep 23
Excellent blog Steve, accurately put! Wish I could write so lucidly.

DurhamTownFan added 16:19 - Sep 23
A blog of outstanding quality. Sums up how many of us feel, whilst addressing some really pertinent points.

Wish the Ipswich star could write pieces this good! Henry winter is looking nervously over his shoulder...

I.for one am against redknapp.

DurhamTownFan added 16:20 - Sep 23
Mainly because he tends no need very heavy investment. We need a motivational coaching manager. Got no idea who fits that bill!

RegencyBlue added 17:29 - Sep 23
Good Blog!

One thing is for sure and that is our next managerial appointment is crucial. Get it wrong again and I dread to think where we will end up.

Oh, and get rid of Clegg. I accept the turnstiles might not get painted so often but I could live with that!!

Lombokblue added 17:40 - Sep 23
Excellent blog
" We have signed some 85 players since Magilton took charge of the club ."
The only reason I want PJ to stay is that the next manager will start start the whole thing over again.

broadsblue added 17:45 - Sep 23
One of the best articles I have had the pleasure of reading. They say never go back, but I cant help but wonder how Burley himself would fare second time around. He would have alot to bring, not to mention a deep loyalty and affinity with the club.

Steve_M added 18:05 - Sep 23
@Lombokblue. Credit for that statistic must go to Glasgow Blue

righty added 18:15 - Sep 23
wonderful blog says everything we all think about our wonderful club,we need a really good manger now to get us out of this mess .

marcus139 added 20:36 - Sep 23
Great blog. But I disagree on what should come next. We need a jolt, an immediate injection of passion. Harry? Paulo?

marcus139 added 20:38 - Sep 23
Also, the positiveness over Magilton. He inherited a good side from Joe, built on peanuts. Magilton then made it weaker, unpredictable, defensively weak. We would never have gained promotion under a man who put himself above his team.

marcus139 added 20:40 - Sep 23
People get lost in the prose, read the facts....

marcus139 added 20:41 - Sep 23
Billy Davies average? Mick McCarthy average? I am not sure...

marcus139 added 20:45 - Sep 23
Oh, and a lot of those players have been over rated, for which we have paid too much money, whilst letting young quality, Rhodes, Trotter, go for nothing. Steve, you seem to yearn for super jim...mistaken.

Sorry added 22:35 - Sep 23
I think the hankering for Jim Magilton is more down to the fact that he was the last manager to have a pre-Evans side. The feeling around the club was different when we felt like underdogs, the broke club punching above their weight. When we had younger players, inconsistent players, even rubbish players, we had to make the best of it, cheer them on, because there was plausible chance of them being replaced in the near future. Same thing with the manager, he had to get the best out of whoever he had. Since the money came, the expectations have gone up, the patience disappeared and the atmosphere has gone sour.

RegencyBlue added 07:37 - Sep 24
Magilton was a great player for ITFC but I didnt rate him as a manager.

He left here under a cloud and what happened at QPR confirmed the impression of a bullying management style, not that different to Keane in some ways.

The last decent manager this club had was Joe Royle. Imagine what he could have done with a fraction of the money wasted by Magilton/Keane/Jewell!
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