Written by Mullet on Monday, 17th Feb 2014 11:52
"Some people can f**k off," was mouthed right out of our very own small corner of Yorkshire. A sentiment as Yorkshire as the tea and a certain type of famously advertised bread.
A sound-bite equally simple as it is nourishing. Despite the misunderstanding of the media tongues wagging to portray Mick McCarthy's reaction as an angry swipe at certain fans. It was in fact a cheeky needle aimed at their own ranks.
In a nutshell it sums up McCarthy. On the surface a simple, direct and effective man with the blunt charm of a punch-up in his native South Yorkshire. But any fool with Dictaphone in hand or not, would do well not to underestimate Mick the man or Mick the manager.
You can in recent weeks, look at any team he puts out and assume you know how it will play and how the game will play out. Unfortunately for those quick to do so, that isn't often the case. Town have produced varying quality of football and too often produced the same result – a draw. It is incredible to think right now we find ourselves in a bit of a rut and still we don't lose too much, but we aren't winning too much either.
It's a lovely problem to have. The bitterness and the bile still lingers at the back of throats below the heads of those still awake enough, to taste the sickening remnants of regular maulings which came before Mick.
However, this weekend we go back to a ground where Mick covered the old ground of a Town side getting completely outclassed and ripped apart. Still I glimpse during restless nights the sight of Hendo slippery of palm wrestling with the advances of a Foxes' attack, who were dealt with by our defence, in much the same way chickens might do when left penned into their own 18-yard coop.
Luckily, a nostalgic type such as myself has rarely had to witness such vintage defeats since (video footage aside). Instead Town have marched and tramped their way beyond the guerrilla warfare of a relegation fight and back into mediocrity. How good it feels too. Hendo, like Bradley Orr and the subsequent on-field marshalling of Guirane N'Daw (who all played that day) were a sign of the old MEG-driven ITFC and have long gone. The rank and file of loanees and misfits who were part of our own Dunkirk spirit mere ghosts in the fog of bad times.
This season marks a celebratory moment of Town being distinctly average. We now operate in a football world where the landscape has changed again and all the maps are toilet paper. A league where realistically, one place is up for grabs in the promotion hunt for clubs like us as we hop from foot to foot, not even a little horse to carry us along. Where the gap between rich and poor is wider than in a Dickensian polemic. Where still clubs spend, spend, spend with two fingers in the ears or held up at the bean-counters.
Financial Fair Play isn't so much a white elephant in the room, but a dead giraffe. No one really knows how it's got here finally, or who it's meant to appease, but it's something to gnaw on. As fans we now have the anxiety of whether our club is doing the right thing. There are, by rough straw poll, more clubs ignoring the rules than can go up. That means someone has to pay next season, there is every chance it might be clubs like Ipswich if those flouting the rules are not publicly flogged for doing so.
Worryingly, the recent eyes we've made at the magical half dozen places at the parapet of potential promotion has lashed a new millstone to Mick and his men. Now we can scale such heights and get there once, it seems some feel we should be there from now and beyond.
Unfortunately the football and the results have been less willing to indulge in a flight of fancy into realms where eagles dare and the prospect of tumbling down the pile may be ignored. It's no great surprise that Town have stood still on the pitch as others have overtaken them for the time being at least.
Rivals such as Wigan have games in hand due to their continental adventures, others have strengthened in the recent window, smashing wages structures and as ever in 'the modern game' the tensile strength of envelopes in doing so.
Town meanwhile plod on. Out of the cup and out of the great egg race for any and all available resources you might wonder. Losing Ryan Tunnicliffe was a blow. The chance to work with his mentor in the league above, meant we have at best steadied our position by getting in Paul Green to fill his.
Tunners was a golden-trendy-haired trophy of Mick's small triumphs here. A sole loanee in and around the team who could play in multiple positions, offer graft and guile in adequate amounts and 'do a job'. Around him alone, nothing was built. He merely signified the greater stability and signature style Mick has cemented at the club.
It is no surprise to me that such a small upheaval had rippled across such a small squad. At a time where regulars gain injuries regularly and star players like Aaron Cresswell looks to have had his first noticeable dip in form, the glimmers of play-off hope settles with the dust for now. Town have 45 more points to play for, that's a lot to gain and a lot to lose. I'm not a betting man but Mick has with all his constraints; a few outside complaints and a bit of constructive media talk, made Town safe. Safe from relegation, safe from further harm this season and sometimes little more than a safe bet.
As a fan it has been pretty, pretty woeful and sometimes just a bit dull all in 90 minutes sometimes. Watching Town eke out wins, keep out simple shots and occasionally allow David McGoldrick the magician to wave his wand about in doing so. As he notches up Marcus Stewart amounts of goals, rolling through teams like a certain Martijn Reuser used to, you get the sense of something old, something borrowed from our last lot of good times, something super and truly blue. It's an odd and trembling joy going to watch Town these days.
It might take us a while to get up again. It might take a few goes. It might not come at all. But I can live with that. We've got our club back, for now.
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|cbower added 12:46 - Feb 17|
After the disaster that was Keane and Jewell, the stability that Mick has brought to the club is very welcome. I like the fact that he has made us solid and like you, I remember all too vividly the sight of Reo-Coker meandering back not giving a toss at Leicester last year - an all too clear indication of a lack of commitment. In my opinion, Mick has got us to the stage where we are 2-3 players short of a good squad and a team that could genuinely push for a top six spot sometime soon. The departure of Tunnicliffe came at completely the wrong time for us. He was just starting to show why he has been so highly rated and I had high hope for him for the remaining games. It will be a big summer for us I think - not necessarily in terms of the amount of players coming in but more the quality and creativity of those signings as well as hoping that we can keep hold of McGoldrick, Smith and Cresswell for another season at least. For the time being at least, I am happy going to games at least knowing we will be competitive and not expecting to be embarrassed by a lack of heart.
|MrDiddle added 18:22 - Feb 17|
Great blog Mullett. To think that just over a year ago we were looking like surefire relegation fodder, the change is remarkable. People will moan about Micks style of play and lack of marquee signings but lets be honest, Rome wasnt built in a day. Mick has come in, taken over a turd and rather than polish it hes thrown most of it in the bin and started again. The result at this time is a team of people who actually want to play for ITFC, who want to play for Mick McCarthy and who are no longer looked at by any team in the Championship as a pushover. Ok the football at times has not been entertaining but I dont reckon any true fan would swap that for the embarrassing football we played for the 3 1/2 years prior to Micks reign. Are we serious contenders for a top 6 position? Current form says not, but a lot can happen in the last quarter of the season. It's just nice for once to not be looking over our shoulders. COYB!!
|Blue041273 added 20:28 - Feb 17|
A cracking blog! Where, in a wide range of valid and interesting points, do I start to add a contribution?
Perhaps the crucial text is regarding the FFP rules. These were supposed to equalise the playing field but clubs with cash in hand are riding roughshod over the current season in a way that makes the rules meaningless. We are told that QPR, in particular, face fines under the rules but any such fines would be meaningless given their deep pockets, and especially if they gain promotion. Relegated teams with their parachute payments from the EPL have a distinct advantage over the rest of the teams in the Championship. Realistically there might be one promotion place to which the rest of the league might aspire. QPR and Leicester have spent good money in the pursuit of promotion. No-one would be surprised if they achieved the objective. What chance do the rest of the clubs in the league have if they have to assemble squads comprised of loanees and acquisitions of aspiring journeymen from the lower leagues?
While not losing that inexorable vision of that special promised land, I am realistic enough to know that we have been dealt a bum hand this season and that we, and I include MM in this, are NOT competing on a level playing field.
That said, as fans we expect, and demand, a team that is competitive. That is what the manager is paid to provide.
We need something special to help him to overcome these odds. Money might do it, but there can be no guarantees.
|IvorFeeling added 23:05 - Feb 17|
Love it Mullet. Great piece and fantastic summary of where we are at.
|HarryfromBath added 17:27 - Feb 18|
Thanks Mullet for a really terrific read. It is a superb summary of where we are as a team right now and a poignant look back at the road we have come from to get here.
Your thoughts on financial fair play echo a bedtime fear of mine. When push comes to shove, it is inevitable that the F.A. will blink rather than face down the teams in this division who have stuck two fingers up at the rules.
|JWM added 17:34 - Feb 18|
After all that's been said regarding FFP I have a nagging suspicion that our owner is conveniently hiding behind this as an excuse not to give the funding that the team desperately needs. Great blog btw Mullett.
|arablue added 02:12 - Feb 19|
Mullet, thanks for the blog post. Your thoughts are, as always, finely weaved into your writing, not only giving colour to commentary of the bl**dy obvious kind (what would a fan base website be like without one...) but more interestingly, provide the impetus for some real intellectual, as one can be, when we talk of the challenges facing our beloved football club.
Whilst many of us now go into Saturday afternoon ritual not having to dread about the high probability of another sh**ty remaining of a weekend because of Ipswich losing a match, stupidly sometimes (the match, not the fans), nothing really beats the rush from having a win for ITFC, no matter how unsexy they may be.
The end, in this case, justifies the means. A win is a win, and under MM and TC, a win is often an ugly one; achieved by grinding out the opponent, playing attritional football, all sweat and hard work. Brief, fleeting silky skills are rare treats - a bonus really - but after the worst 3.5 years under the 2 dudes, or false prophets to the spiritually inclined, I am not complaining. A win is a win.
As of now, our band of honest hardworking players have a stiffer challenge to contend with; Didsy sidelined for 10 weeks. With it, the pessimist in me fear that this signals the beginning of the end of our premier league challenge. As your accurately pointed out, Didsy is the one with the wand. Without him, we are left with honest, hardworking but tad goal-shy, non-wand waving forwards.
Defence prevents losses but forwards win matches.
Anyway, on a brighter side, things as rosier than its been for a while.
I shall enjoy this. I think many would too.
|Pip50 added 13:52 - Feb 19|
Apologies for being an anorak, an excellent blog by the way, MMs record this season is not significantly different from his two predecessors, except for trading some losses for draws.
To Mid Feb 2014 Feb 2013 Feb 2012 Feb 2011
Played 31 32 30 30
Won 11 10 11 12
Drawn 12 8 4 5
Lost 8 14 15 13
Points 45 38 37 41
Except I'm bored shi*tless
|blrmy added 17:56 - Feb 19|
Lovely post Mullet, well written and a pleasure to read. Thank you for the time you put into it.
Stats, especially "finer grain" micro stats, are usually meaningless, you can normally find anything if you pull enough together. But the more macro stats above, at least do show that we are losing a lot less. Yes, they are turning to draws, and we will have to be patient before those draws turn to wins.
Do I think it will happen this season? No. Next season? Hopefully, with some intelligent additions to the squad, money permitting...
With more wins, and more goals, the oft-quoted boring football will at least feel - if not be - less boring.
|Ruby7Knuckles added 11:54 - Feb 20|
Did you get an 'A' at A-level for English by any chance Mullet?
|sarahjean1 added 18:32 - Feb 20|
If it's true we have a squad who want to play for town that's a big plus
|SouperJim added 09:46 - Feb 21|
Very well written Mr Mullet and I agree. We're not the best thing since sliced bread, Yorkshire or otherwise, but as you put it we're safe. Safe means we can dare to dream again, isn't it nice to dream again? I'll take that, for now.
|ericclacton added 11:53 - Feb 22|
Sponderlusiously good piece, Ten outa Ten.
|slowerball added 17:55 - Feb 24|
A very well written and interesting piece - as always. I agree about the solidity and I like Mick, he's a better option than very many who have jobs at this moment in time and better than all / most without a current managerial post. I like Terry Connor too. I do think that FFP will start to have a serious effect on teams up anjd down the country and we have at least paid lip service to it, although you could argue this is an excuse for not spending any money from the owner... I couldn't possibly comment. It would be nice if we were on TV more (than once!) as the money that that would bring in would benefit us in FFP terms, etc. Maybe, however, we will need to sell in order to buy - Cresswell, McGoldrick perhaps, and if we make money, then that is good business. I wouldn't want to sell our best players, but we have done so many times over the years. I recall us playing a cup game at Ewood Park with several banners stating Butcher & Mariner Must Stay. I remember playing at Huddersfield with lots of banners stating Tarrico Must Stay.... There were none that said anything similar about Tunnicliffe and rightly so... It is sad to see so many folks unhappy about Tunners leaving the club, I thought he wasn't an Ipswich player to be honest, never mind a Man U player and whether or not he makes the grade at Fulham / in the Prem remains to be seen, but I doubt it very much indeed.
I think - and whether this be about FFP or otherwise - that we are in a better position than we were because we have a better manager, but spending wise and strengthening the team to enable us to challenge the top six, we are way off. Mick has done great with free transfers and getting the best out of what we already had. Mick is a resolute character and his teams play that way - certainly we are - although we have failed to do so on occasions and that has cost us the game. We do not have the quality in the squad. Can we bring in a couple of loans to freshen things up and with a view to permanent moves in the summer? I think we need to. And I'd get Paul Taylor's finger out because he has a contract and we paid big money for him. The owner will demand a return on that investment and so he should.
|slowerball added 18:00 - Feb 24|
Yes, I realise I have spelt Taricco wrong!
|Mullet added 18:00 - Feb 25|
Thanks to all who took the time to read/comment etc. Some interesting views have sprung forth. It was almost fateful that within an hour of submitting this, the McG injury broke and then we had to sit through another one of those games at Leicester.
With Tunners now off the menu, it seems we'll limp through the season as expected. How far up or down depending on who can muster the most from within the squad I suspect.
The poor form of Cresswell continues to baffle but likewise the fact that he is no longer taking corners and we aren't scoring from them can't have escaped many can it?
|slowerball added 22:24 - Feb 27|
Well, we have added to our midfield - young Jonny Williams. A good addition, albeit for only a month at this stage. Will he get more game than the Villa boy Jordan?
I must admit, I was never as convinced with Cresswell as most were. He's okay, but his distribution is over-rated and would you say he's a great tackler? But who is in modern football these days.
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|Mullet added 12:19 - Mar 1|
I think Williams is far more developed than Graham who looked far too fragile for Champ football in the bits I saw.
Cressy has become a bit of a "sacred cow" for some regardless of what he does in the polar opposite way Nouble has become a boo-boys favourite. It has to be said though he is a talented attacking left-back who has a few major lapses in positioning now and again.
You're right about his distribution being a cause for concern but it seems a recent development. I'm also adamant since he stopped taking corners we've not looked like scoring from them. At Donny we killed them off with his set pieces.
I think Mings is a decent sub but unfortunately not good enough to have allowed Cressy the rest he's looked in need of since Xmas. Hopefully he can just weather a bad patch as he was given such a torrid time at Leicester it's hard to say how much better he's got and how much was down to Hunt not covering him.
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