|No Passion, No Plan, No Identity|
Written by u2itfc on Friday, 30th Dec 2016 10:45
It is, of course, part of the human condition that our perception of past events changes over the years. Days of success and enjoyment become ever more rose-tinted, while periods of pain are dulled by the passage of time.
And so it must especially be for any Town fan as long-in-the-tooth as me. Just as no team will ever, in my mind at least, succeed in matching the unadulterated perfection of Bobby Robson’s teams – then equally and oppositely, the dark days of John Duncan’s or Mick McGiven’s (or fill in your own least favourite manager here) tenures are now viewed as temporary aberrations compared to the parlous quality of the entertainment currently being served up at Portman Road.
This time, though, I think we ARE seeing new depths being ploughed at ITFC. Unlike previous periods of footballing recession at the club, there appears to be a complete absence of any plan this time – at all levels.
While the team stumble around on the pitch in apparent darkness, literally chasing fleeting opposition shadows, Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor stand dumbfounded on the touchline like men attempting to provide stadium illumination and direction with a couple of flickering candles in a strong breeze. But worst of all, hovering perennially out of sight, our owner seems implacably unmoved by the spectacle – apparently content that the club’s debts can continue to offset his tax liability.
In the past, depending on your personal point of view, there was SOME cause for optimism. Maybe the team had potential, but was hampered by poor management, or conversely, the team was dire, but management had a strategy. Now we seem confounded on all fronts – it is little wonder that apathy has set in amongst the fans – while the club stagnates, there is literally nothing on the horizon to pin your hopes on, nothing to be proud of, and the only way out of the purgatory of an endless stay in the Championship seems to be an inevitable drop into the third tier – sooner or later. And who will shed tears when that trapdoor finally opens? Yes – us.
I have no doubt that were anyone at the club to ever read this blog, their answer would at least in part include reference to FFP, or to the uneven playing field brought about by parachute payments. And yes – I get that. The latter is one of the biggest iniquities in today’s football. Why no one of substance in English football is making a Wembley Stadium-sized song and dance about the unfairness of this situation can only be because the power to change it lies with the ‘haves’. And the irony that Town have suffered twice over as a result the parachute debacle (first by falling out of the top tier when they were inadequate and then by being the surrounded by the bloody things now they're huge) just makes it worse.
But – Town have always fought against the odds financially. Even in Sir Bobby Robson’s time he had to sell a player before he could buy one. In George Burley’s era he was forced to sell one of his stars every time he met with play-off failure. But both Robson and Burley still managed to progress – the overall trend line on the performance graph continued its upward trajectory.
How did they do this? By sticking to a principle of improving the players they did have at their disposal, developing the youngsters, blending in the experience – and playing the kind of attractive football on the pitch that sold the club to new fans, and potential squad additions.
I see on this site many derogatory comments about George Burley and David Sheepshanks – and as I’ve said, as someone who grew up watching Town in the Robson era, nothing will compare to those teams – but even off the back of one of the worst seasons in the club’s history in 1995 (including the infamous 9-0), Burley and Sheepshanks clearly and publicly set about turning the club around.
They had their famous five-year plan – a plan which could have even been achieved much sooner than it was, were it not for the lottery of the play-offs – and they completed it to the extent that even this website temporarily was renamed (“These ARE The Days”) – not by spending big, but through shrewd management, commitment to the club’s heritage, and by playing an exciting brand of football (if you don’t agree, try watching the YouTube video review of the 1999/00 season - and compare the verve, flair and spirit of that team with what we see today. Even if promotion hadn’t been achieved, we were at least ENTERTAINED!).
What disturbs me most about McCarthy – notwithstanding his dogged attachment to safety-first football – is his apparent ability to wring the spark out of the brightest of stars. Whether they come in from outside (eg Freddie Sears) or through the Academy (eg Teddy Bishop) talented, exciting players sooner or later turn into ‘hard-working’ nobodies who go from being headline-grabbers to barely getting a mention in the match report. Surely the club will find it increasingly difficult to attract both (semi) established professionals and aspiring youngsters. We used to frequently see the quote “Once I heard Ipswich were interested in me I was here like a shot….” – not now.
So where do we go from here? Who knows? I’ve held off writing this, convinced that the signs of stupor at Portman Road are symptomatic of an owner who is keeping his costs down while he looks for a buyer – or that even MM would look at what is happening on the pitch and would (as I would hope any of us who cared about the club would), do the honourable thing and step down.
Maybe as soon as this is published it’ll already be out of date because these things will have come to pass. But I’m concluding that both Evans and McCarthy are more than comfortable with the status quo, and the barren wasteland that Portman Road is becoming will stay that way for the foreseeable future.
The only way I can see things changing for the better is to place the future of the club in the hands of people who truly, and obviously CARE about Ipswich Town Football Club. Whether they’re ex-players or managers, or just aspiring, ambitious football people doesn’t matter – just as long as we see PASSION, a PLAN, and someone at the helm who bleeds blue and white!
Or do I just come from a different footballing era when passion, planning – and an even playing field – could see a club like Town succeed? Before the time when heartless footballing mercenaries took over the beautiful game?
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