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Non Sequitur
Written by warkthelint on Monday, 14th Nov 2016 09:51

Ipswich Town has commonly been associated with English football in all its major defining moments from providing two of the nation's most successful managers, to being one of the few provincial clubs to have landed the whole haul of League Championship, FA Cup and UEFA Cup.

And also as a protagonist in the major seismic shifts in English football from being one of the first participants in the Premier League back in 1992 to being actively involved in European football in the golden period of 1972-1982 when English clubs carried pretty much all before them.

In a few words, for a so-called 'sleepy' area of the country, we effectively punched above our weight. We did so in a way that in terms of modern football from the 1950s onwards, probably has only been matched by Wolves in the late 50s and Nottingham Forest in their golden Clough period of 1977-1980.

Town punched above their weight and was seen as prime mover in all facets of how a club should be run and managed, despite its more meagre resources compared to far richer clubs and we always had a visceral attitude to how football should be played to the common man and in keeping with the philosophies laid down by Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson and then subsequently George Burley and Joe Royle.

To many the great Town empire built in the past has now become a pillar of salt and we find ourselves languishing as a middle-ranking, run-of-the-mill club which has lost its way in these more commercialised and price orientated ways of running football clubs as businesses.

Is it true to say that we have lost our way? To many, the great things associated with Town, ie our wonderful youth policy, homespun managers, open and enterprising style of playing the game, closely forged bonds with the community, seem to have outlasted their time and are no longer in any way, tenets upon which our great 'little' club is run.

My mind goes back to probably what was for a Londoner like me the road toDamascus moment when I realised that Town embodied all the finer virtues of football in the crashing FA Cup semi final defeat in 1975 against West Ham when Clive Thomas contrived to deprive us of a merited Wembley place by disallowing two blatantly valid goals after battering the Hammers for 90 minutes.

When Sir Bobby raged at the appalling injustice, it was tempered by a sense that we would come back and we would get our just rewards. I thought as a Londoner that I really wanted to be involved with this club despite all the various attractions of following a plethora of clubs available in London. No, for me, there was something different about Town and I wanted to be in it.

Be it the way the Cobbolds ran the good ship to the way that Town was everybody's second favourite club in may ways truly defined that we were indeed special and that there was no one quite like us.

Can it be said that we have lost our way, lost our X Factor, lost the discerning characteristics that made Town for many years the shining example of what a good club was all about? Certainly judging by the doom and gloom that prevails over Portman Road, one would believe so.

It begs the question: What does it take to restore our club to its former pinnacle in the modern game? Bobby Robson always maintained that the club had to bring its own players through and we had a conveyor belt of great talent and this legacy was started in the mid 1960s by Jackie Milburn and brought to fruition in the 1973 and 1975 FA Youth Cup-winning teams.

Players like Kevin Beattie, John Wark, Russell Osman, George Burley, Eric Gates, Roger Osborne, Alan Brazil, Robin Turner, David Geddis, John Peddelty and Terry Butcher were developed and brought through. It then continued with varying success when the likes of Kieron Dyer, Richard Wright and Titus Bramble in the late 90s and early years of the new millennium came through and then the incredible success of the 2005 team but where, or by design or by default, not one of the team was able to cement a long lasting career at Portman Road when it boasted players of the calibre of Shane Supple, Owen Garvan, Daryl Knights, Chris Casement, Ed Upson and James Krause.

If we look at the present climate, there is an air of frustration into how the present structure is unfolding when the last managerial incumbents like Roy Keane, Paul Jewell and Mick McCarthy seem reluctant in their own different ways towards bringing on the new talent and giving them their opportunities to forge a career with Town.

It seems our rivals down the road have the bragging rights as far as local development is concerned and in recent years have made us look like lightweights.

It appears that Marcus Evans has finally realised after a hesitant start, possibly due to misinformed priorities, that if we are to start competing with other more financially wealthier clubs that Town still needs to look at its youth area and give priority if we are going to compete with them.

Certainly the great periods in Town's history have coincided when the bulk of the team was made up of home grown talent, allowed to flourish and prosper.

True the financial spectrum of modern soccer has changed significantly and nowadays smaller clubs like Burnley in the 1960s and Town in the 1970s would never be given the chance to develop with acumen and patience a spine of a team, it simply wouldn't happen.

Can Town get back to what made us unique or will the prevailing decline continue unabated? The next year will probably be the deciding one in terms of understanding what is Town's rightful place in the panoply of English soccer.

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Edmundo added 15:17 - Nov 14
A very thoughtful piece, and follows on from a few earlier blogs that really question two fundamental aspects of our current malaise: 1. Why has our Academy been left to fester...? 2. What is our direction and under what central tenets is the club being directed?
A lack of leaders on the pitch has been mentioned in a number of articles and phone-ins this season. The lack of leaders off the pitch is in some ways even more worrying.

dusth added 21:36 - Nov 14
I was there at Stamford Bridge that night though I had been a town supporter for a while. I've been looking for Clive Thomas ever since (Don't worry Clive, enjoy your retirement in Treorchy!!) Like everything, the financialisation of football has meant the old ways don't work. We can develop good players but they will be bought off sooner or later, only to languish in the reserves of the buying club. But yes a proper Academy policy is vital. I think our managers now see their real job as keeping us in the Championship and hoping for a miracle. Even though miracles occasionally happen I would rather we risked everything to develop an attacking philosophy with an exciting young manager even if it means dropping down and roaring up again. Neither Alf nor Bobby were anything before they came to Town and George Burley was only just out of nappies as a Manager. You'll get hungry players if we go that way and a less cynical crowd. But are you up for that Marcus Evans or is it a horror scenario? Even now I can still hear West Ham supporters singing "I'm ForeverBlowing Bubbles" as we struggled out of Stamford Bridge. However gutting, it seems like (and was) a rather important night compared with recent ones.


Nthsuffolkblue added 16:01 - Nov 20
Good blog. The academy has certainly been the making of Southampton, Then again, Crewe has long had a renowned academy without ever achieving any notable success on the pitch. It certainly should be the way ahead for us.
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