|Too Early to Talk Promotion? Three Reasons for and Three Against|
Written by DurhamTownFan on Tuesday, 23rd Dec 2014 15:47
Just under half of the season gone, and Town lie second in the table. Aren't we all proud of how it has gone this year? Mick has turned a bunch of journeymen free transfers into one of the toughest sides in the division. Now our players are playing with renewed confidence, we’re beginning to put some flair and craft alongside the graft.
Some of my mates at the Boro game were decidedly reluctant to mention the ‘P’ word, doubtless influenced by the trials of the past few years. But, like it or not, we’re all thinking it, and you can’t deny that Ipswich are in with a shout for promotion.
Is this the year Ipswich might finally get back to where we all believe they belong? I’ve compiled three reasons why we might do it, and three that could hold us back, if anything just to get people talking.
[b]Reasons for Optimism[/b]
1: Mick McCarthy
Mick is a wise old head, who has won promotion twice before with Sunderland and Wolves, knows how to organise a promotion campaign and clearly has the respect and devotion of his players. For the first season in a while, you could honestly say that nearly all of our summer signings have worked out (the only blips might be Conor Sammon and Balint Bajner, but they seem to be doing a job just right now) and we’re now finally beginning to play some decent football when we get in winning positions. I wouldn’t swap Mick for anyone else in the league, given our current budget and players.
2: Daryl Murphy’s goals
Fourteen and counting is surely beyond the wildest dreams of any of us at this stage of the season, and Murph shows no signs of letting up. He’s big, bustling, can head, do a job out wide, hold up the ball when needed, and can shoot from distance. The only thing you’d say is that he doesn’t nick them in the six-yard box, but he did a good job at that on Saturday gone with our first goal. Some of the shots he’s hitting are clearly coming from a man flying on form and confidence (eg against Wolves). Long may it continue!
3: Team spirit
What is the mark of a good team ethic? Coming from behind to win big against Leeds? Fighting to the last minute to nick a point in that awful game against Charlton? Players sitting out the odd game and coming back flying in the next, like S Hunt, Tabby, Teddy B? Subs who never get a look in celebrating like they scored themselves (Bajner)? However you measure it, they look up for it, and that’s going to be key when our form drops for a few games, as it surely will at some point over the next 24 games.
[b]Potential Banana Skins[/b]
1: Small squad
While the mood in the camp is great and everyone is doing their bit, you can’t get away from the fact that we have a small squad. An injury to Murphy would put huge pressure on David McGoldrick, who is still yet to fire on all cylinders since last year’s extended lay-off. Likewise, injury to two players at once from the back five of Mings, Chambo, Smith, Berra and Parr, and we’re suddenly relying on the youngsters plus St Ledger (who might not even be here come January).
2: Selling our best players?
Early indications suggest that Marcus Evans and Mick McCarthy will do everything to resist any possible interest in Mings and McGoldrick, but you’d have to worry if we were to lose the next three games in a row and then get offered silly money for either (which you’d say would be anything over £8 million), or if we get a big offer for and of our other top performers like Murphy, Tommy Smith or Christophe Berra. At the moment, it looks like the players are firmly behind Mick and happy to stay at Ipswich, but money talks in all walks of life, and it will be shouting very loudly indeed if we go on a losing run and drop out of the top six.
3: A tight ship
It’s no secret that Mick and Marcus Evans decided to rein in the spending after the mis-spending of the Keane and Jewell eras. At the moment, you simply cannot argue with this policy, but there are other clubs out there who have a significant capacity and willingness to spend big at this stage, if required. There is enough time left in the season for the likes of cash-rich clubs like Fulham, Forest, Cardiff and (whisper) Norwich to still threaten, while Derby, Boro, Watford or Bournemouth would be at least equal to Ipswich as attractive destinations for a loan move. In 2000, we saw the benefits of a late gamble when Marcus Stewart came in to help us over the line, and you wonder whether there’s something up Mick’s sleeve for a similar move if we’re still in the mix in a few weeks.
Whatever way you look at the table and however well we’re playing for now, there are still a lot of games left to play in this year’s Championship. At this stage you wouldn't write off anyone from Fulham upwards to go on a run, and there are few teams currently in the top half that lack the potential to go the distance.
Having said all that, we've got the form and the momentum, the league’s top goalscorer, and one of the best managers in the league, so you’d have to say we've got a shout.
As Jose Mourinho recently said, you’d rather be in front any day of the week, and this breeds and will hopefully continue to breed good confidence in the team, which leads to good morale, decision-making, and more importantly, scares the opposition!
My potential obstacles all revolve around our lack of funds, but you could make a good comparison with Burnley’s promotion of last year. They were a similarly tight-budgeted club, with a small squad and all the momentum, and if Mick has any sense he’ll be on the phone to Sean Dyche trying to get the magic formula for a repeat of that here.
However it ends up, you've got to be proud of the team, the manager (and dare I say it, the owner?). In August, 90% of fans would surely have been pleased with a top-six finish, but now how many of us would be gutted if we ‘only’ finished sixth? A mark of how far we've come, for sure.
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