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What Have We Learnt?
Written by Pabbingtons on Monday, 29th Apr 2013 20:20

I had originally planned to pen this blog last week before the Birmingham game. It was to be full of praise for Mick McCarthy and the team, but that, looking forward, my original slight concern with his appointment remained, how would Mick develop our football, would we just be hoof ball but with better players?

The team lacked attacking verve and seemingly the personnel to do it, they should be extremely proud of the points they’ve picked up (and don’t get me wrong, I’d have been happy with any style of play if it kept them up) but it looked like the personnel would need to be changed to get the results next season. We surely couldn’t get promoted sitting back for 80 minutes, and then scoring a late winner?

I know people pull out these great stats that Town would be fourth if the season had started with Mick, but I think it’s safe to say that you couldn’t play this way if you had serious promotion ambitions, as the opposition would sit back against you. You suddenly find yourself with lots more possession and not the technicians in the team to unlock defences.

I do wonder if that’s why teams set up to defend better each season in the Premier League, like Wolves, struggle when they come down. Their personnel’s strength isn’t to dominate possession, it is to chase and harry, break up play, and counter.

But Saturday changed things. Optimism grew inside me for the new season, and that in Mick and TC we really might have something. These were 10 of the same 11 that had ground out a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough the previous weekend, albeit with the massive pressure on them not to lose.

Here this XI, including two ball-winning midfielders and quite defensive wingers, suddenly came alive. These players have more to them I thought, a different dimension that had not been apparent. Jay Tabb produced his best performance by far, popping up behind the front line from various positions, Carlos Edwards again looked better, Guirane N’Daw finally produced his first performance in ages, being a man-mountain in the centre against the ineffective Hayden Mullins.

Frank Nouble and Daryl Murphy linked excellently, and I thought that was one of the clearest signs yet that we should finally go out and get Murphy properly this summer. Looking at Nouble, he’s the type of striker that has terrorised us in previous seasons and something we probably haven’t had since Shefki Kuqi.

When Colin Kazim-Richards came on the opening day, and James Vaughan for Huddersfield soon after, they caused us great difficulty; good in the air, pacy, solid on the ball and chased and harried putting fear into the defence. Curtis Davies and Paul Robinson were very clearly rattled by this combo on Saturday, unclear whether to go tight on Nouble, and with youthful full-backs near them, they hit lots of aimless balls forward when the young lad put pressure on.

My only fear is that he’s very much a form player, and we are seeing the best of him at the moment but there may be times when he’s not on the money, the first half an hour against Palace for instance, that’s why we need Murphy as he’s another physical option. Though in terms of strikers a cheeky punt on Kevin Doyle wouldn’t go a miss!

It is on this note that I make my main point on ‘What have we learnt?’ as the longest-serving Championship team. I think this league has shown us that team spirit is key, yes one team might run away with it, Newcastle did for instance. But it is team spirit rather than the expected quality of a team that makes the difference, as we have all seen anyone can beat anyone, and team spirit is the key to getting up that table.

Southampton and dare I say it, the team from up the road, had this in abundance after coming from the league below and it propelled them all the way through the division. Last year, Reading finally got their act together and produced a second half run that sent them up.

To emphasise this point a little further Wolves have a wage bill estimated at £27 million, Peterborough £3 million, if the two were to play each other tomorrow, who would you back to win? Money is not a guaranteed route to Championship success.

So, though we would all like to see Town linked with various ‘bigger’ names in the summer if it affects that balance we currently have then leave it alone. Mick will sign players that fit into his work ethic approach; he is quite clearly no mug. Signing Richard Stearman and keeping Aaron Cresswell, who more and more looks a class above in the latter part of the season, would be enough to start with.

It’s strange before Saturday I did not share the optimism that Town could really challenge next season, they’d be on the fringes I’d imagined, but when they were fearless as they were on Saturday and the confidence was flowing you suddenly have hope. Do we dare to dream? As we did under the player with the ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality of Roy Keane, or in the manager who had a track record of success in the Championship? Mick McCarthy actually has both of these traits, and I do hope he’s not snapped up in the summer, otherwise we’d be back to square one.

So, in essence, all we have learnt is that next season Town’s fortunes will probably be as hard to predict as ever. But that's the Championship for you. And at least at the moment it feels like we’ve got our club back, one we can be proud of!

To stick my head above the parapet I think Town will flirt with the play-offs for the majority of the next season but finish just outside, based on the fact that I think that to change that mentality from defensive to dominating will provide difficult with the same squad in one season, but I hope Mick proves me wrong! And this would still be extremely encouraging.

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Philip added 22:29 - Apr 29
Cheers Pabbingtons. Nice piece btw - constructed opinion, fluid writing and strong sense of voice. Optimistic but not unrealistic - what we want to hear!

hogster1970 added 23:14 - Apr 29
defo agree with all that mate, just look at the burley team all them years ago, the play for each other team approch worked so well, untill the prema donnas upset the applcart some what

backinbeige added 08:23 - Apr 30
"Looking at Nouble, he’s the type of striker that has terrorised us in previous seasons and something we probably haven’t had since Shefki Kuqi."

Every team needs a player with the ability to run through absolutely anything- defender, referee, building. The thinking man's Emile Heskey.

ArnieMsBigToe added 09:09 - Apr 30
Certainly made for an interesting read Pabbington. A well written piece.

Even MMs most severe critic would have to agree that he and TC have achieved what most of us thought impossible back in November last year.

I'm not sure if there's much historic data, that we can look at, because I would expect that the new fair play rules may have an impact.

Even though it is now effectively a new playing field, it would not surprise me in the least, if MM & TC already have the basis of a cunning plan ready to roll.

They will have targets!! I am quite sure

BillBlue added 10:20 - Apr 30
Good read, interesting too. To start with we have got our club back but I wonder if any of us understand the transformation which has taken place in our club this year, I hadn't until just now when I found myself saying "from a team that willfully leaked goals to a team with the best defence in English football" which I believe to be abundantly true. I am so encouraged by what I have read, from many sources, about the Birmingham game that I am beginning to become convinced that big Mick and TC are building something which might just become gigantic! I see somebody hopes that Mick will stay and, again, I am convinced he is in the process of changing his hearts allegiance from Wolves to Town and to build both his and our future right here. I remember when all the big clubs tried to lure Sir Bobby Robson away he stayed because in his heart he was building something and I think this might be a repetition of those days and it might happen much more quickly than most of us can envisage. Let us hope so.

JWM added 11:44 - Apr 30
Ipswich Town FC and MM are the perfect marriage...Nice blog btw

IvorFeeling added 13:06 - Apr 30
Pabbington - good post.

In my opinion this has been a watershed year for ITFC. PJ departing, Clegg being replaced, the acadamey status confirmed at 2 but now being upgraded to 1. Klugg coming back. I really beiliev we have the right man at the helm and I think ME has learnt alot in 5 years that there is no quick fix. Saturday's performance showed that we can play great stuff and the age of the team was also very young which demonstrates we have a solid foundation to build on.

I am fortunate to watch our greats of the 70/80s and like all great teams they had an excellent defense. MM had to tighten it up as it was just ridiculous so don't judge the teams attacking prowess as staying up was all what is was about.

Like others have posted we, the fans, are starting to get our club back. COYB


Edmunds5 added 17:11 - Apr 30
Like the blog, it shows good up front honesty about what is needed to do well in a League like the Championship. You're comments about us being careful with how much we pay for players is so true, the team is being built around players who have been frees, came up through the ranks or quite modest fees which proves a lot is about development as a pose to reputation and I feel we have the perfect manager to progress this further, Mick is very good at finding suitable players for small fees and has a good scouting network. Just look at Nouble, yes he has a long way to go but what was he? £25k? compare that to Priskin who I think was £1.8m. Also thinks that buying younger players for this kind of money brings about enthusiasm because they have a lot to prove and that rubs of on everyone else and lifts the spirit. Compare this to Qpr, big reputations, big wages but they don't look like they're in it together and have seen the disadvantages on the pitch.

bigolconnor added 22:31 - Apr 30
Toss. We absolutely could get promoted with the personnel we have. I am a huge fan of scatter bomb journalism. You are clearly like mystic meg in your approach. If you spout enough some of it will hit the mark for everyone. Why don't you just say what you think and let people agree or disagree. I was bored after the first sentence but do acknowledge that it is difficult to voice an opinion to the "masses".

bigolconnor added 06:24 - May 1
Sorry. The devil was in my head. Ignore that booze fuelled rant.
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