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Where Are We Now?
Written by Steve_M on Wednesday, 18th Jan 2017 09:20

Well, ultimately it is now a question of a change of manager now or at the end of the season. Mick McCarthy has dragged the cycle out to four years rather than the 18 months of his more hapless predecessors but there is clearly a need for a fresh approach at the club.

Whether a change of manager will be enough is another matter but, unless someone is suddenly willing to reimburse Marcus Evans a large part of the debt we owe to him, he is probably staying and the drift downwards will continue.

If Evans couldn't find the general positivity of 2014/15, the buzz around the home play-off match and even the disappointment of losing up there, as reasons to properly support the club he owns then he is unlikely to change his approach now.

It is worth taking a moment to reflect just how poor Marcus Evans’s time at this club has been. In nine years, we have finished in the top six once and made a serious challenge for the play-offs once, that is one lasting until the very end of the season, and that was already underway when Evans arrived.

Add a couple of seasons with a fairly good finish but inconsistent form and that is it. It is only McCarthy's better spells as a manager that have made that time look at all.

And so to the first team. It is not hindsight to realise that selling Daryl Murphy and not replacing him would have a significant effect on the season. However that decision was reached, between Evans and McCarthy, it was appalling and one key reason we are suffering now. It certainly cost us any chance of being competitive this season and the last chance McCarthy had of achieving anything here.

It isn't the only reason, of course. Inconsistent form of key players, dreadful errors from otherwise reliable players have paid a part but, all too often, the biggest failing has been we've played as a team without any coherence or pattern of play.

I'm not even sure that we are intentionally hitting the ball long as much as we do in some matches, but we have such a limited pattern of play that nothing is instinctive, everything is too slow and thus liable to be closed down. Even when we play well, as Saturday against Blackburn, a little too much of it feels improvised rather than instinctive to the extent that a clear tactic, like Freddie Sears running the inside right channel and the midfield looking for the pass stands out a mile.

What is worse is that the spirit which McCarthy brought to the club after the abject days of Paul Jewell is vanishingly weak these days, disappearing with adversity rather than being the source of resilience it regularly was. It hasn’t disappeared completely, glimpses of it still show but it looks like a group of players who have aged together and seen good team-mates leave but not be properly replaced. All in all, it is a mess far more often than it isn’t.

At the end of last season, or in mid-March as it was otherwise known, I set out what I would like to see McCarthy change this season to improve the team:

1) Full-backs linking with midfield.
2) At least one player who can beat a man, either with pace or skill, preferably two on the pitch most of the time.
3) Some balance between strikers and midfield.
4) Being brave enough to allow our young players some real game time – there isn’t much point in spending on the Academy otherwise.
5) Much, much better ball retention.
6) Some attempt to be the side controlling the tempo of play.

I think at times this season then we’ve seen elements of one, two, three and four but not consistently and not enough to influence ball retention and control the tempo of play. The former is not something we have done particularly well as a team since Jim Magilton was here and, once he decided to stockpile central midfielders, it became a lot less fluid.

In McCarthy’s best season here, the pressing of Jay Tabb, Luke Hyam, Paul Anderson and Stephen Hunt meant that we could influence the pace of a game. Even away at Bournemouth, where we were totally outplayed for 25 minutes, that pressing and a sense of belief dragged us back into the game.

Is it right to keep harking back to 2014.15? I think it is; it shows what can be achieved with a limited budget and a clear game plan. It wasn’t just long balls to Murphy either. Adding players such as David McGoldrick, Kevon Bru, Jonny Williams and Teddy Bishop along with the energy of Hunt and Anderson provided a balance rarely seen for more than a game or two at a time since. It also shows just how badly things have fallen away in the last season and a half.

Part of that is down to attempting to improve the quality of football, it is clearly functionally easier to have a very solid defence and play on the break as we did in the second part of 2012/13 but not acceptable as a long-term plan. It’s just that when it doesn’t work it is no longer solid nor creative and the sort of mess we saw yesterday.

So, yes, it’s clear that McCarthy is no longer doing what he was doing so well a year or two back. All managers, except the very best, have a shelf life at a club and McCarthy has clearly reached his here. I do hope that when he is gone though, we can reflect on the good job he did in the first two and a half years here and not just matches like yesterday.

Which brings me back to my opening question: do we change the manager now or at the end of the season? After every poor performance then the pressing desire for change is obvious. Given Evans’s track record of appointing managers, any change now will be an experienced manager, one who has shown the ability to get the most out of a limited budget and ensure that the club remains only one division away from the Premier League riches. Fortunately, Ian Holloway and Neil Warnock are currently in work but the likelihood is of a similarly uninspiring choice.

If Evans is serious about his Five-Point Plan, and it isn’t just some rubbish to placate the fans for a bit, then there has to be a different approach to the manager. One of the last good things David Sheepshanks did at the club was to trail Magilton, via the local press, before the latter was announced as manager. He was able to sell the fans a plan which most could get behind and help move the team forward after the sterility of Joe Royle’s last season. We need something like that with our next manager, not another ‘experienced’ has been.

I just don’t think now is the time to do that; anybody we want is likely to be employed, with their own challenges for the season, It is harder to persuade clubs to let managers go now than in the summer. I realise how unedifying that choice is for many at the moment but I do think that is where we realistically are.

For all the failings that can fairly be attributed to Marcus Evans and the four managers he has employed at this club, the context of this division has changed completely. Where Roy Keane had a comparative spending advantage over much of the division, we are now relative paupers with a mid-table wage bill and the inconsistency on the pitch that that leads to.

There is no reason that Evans should fritter away everything he owns on the club but just putting in enough money to mark time in this division is neither a route to success or happiness. My real fear is that a season like 2014/15 might just be as good as it gets for ITFC now.

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Radlett_blue added 09:28 - Jan 18
Great blog, Steve.
We can only judge Evans by his actions, given his reclusive nature & yes, a couple of moments stand out for me. 1. The failure to invest in January 2015. We hade a meaningful chance of promotion, but we bought Sears cheaply & got Varney & Chaplow in on loan. 2. The willingness this time to sell our key striker just before the window closed, when we had turned down a much better offer 12 months before, on the grounds we wouldn't have time to get a replacement. We did the same when Leicester wanted McGoldrick the year before. These actions show that Evans's #1 priority is minimising his funding of Town.
We also seem happy to leave senior players like Berra & chambers in limbo as to their futures. While both of these guys seem decent pros, they wouldn't be human if they were now slightly less committed to the Town cause. Again, I assume Evans's financial reticence is key.
Without regime change, the best we have to hope for is bumping around outside the relegation fight.

ClactonTrueBlue added 10:11 - Jan 18
All very valid points, but my problem with a change of manager is - which decent manager in their right mind would WANT to come to Portman Road?

Bluebell added 11:02 - Jan 18
A great read Steve_M.

Something that should be sent to the 'powers that be' maybe?

Everyone moaned about David Sheepshanks but he was a truly, nice guy whose love of Ipswich was obvious.

Kesgraveblue57 added 12:00 - Jan 18
Steve it was a good read the one thing that bothers me is that Ipswich Town constantly running at a loss is a tax write off for the Evans Empire, and quite frankly there is nothing we can do about it Evans owns the club and manager.

megamoth added 14:02 - Jan 18
I'm for MM to go but you have to accept that we have a tiny squad and have first team injuries to McGoldrick, Pitman, Hyam, Williams, Smith, Webster, Bishop, Kenlock. By anyone's reckoning that's a heck of a lot. By ITFC reckoning (given size of squad) it's an apocalypse.

itsonlyme added 14:35 - Jan 18
Great blog Steve - unfortunately we true fans have been saying for a long time that ME is the problem and there appears to be no hope and no end in sight to our troubles. Before last night, I thought we had hit rock bottom, but it would appear that there is further to go and our owner is as culpable as MM. Until both depart I fear the black hole which we appear to be heading to will soon swallow us up!

ketton_itfc added 17:37 - Jan 18
Great read and sadly I fear you are right. We are not just standing still, we are going backwards and the only outcome will be the downward trajectory to League 1.

DoseOfReality added 18:27 - Jan 18
Good blog, I very rarely comment but follow lots of the chat on here.

You are spot on in ME is the real problem and we all know MM will see his contract out and not be sacked. Last night was humiliating and Butch summed it up.

TWTD and other journos need to publish more of what the fans feel and not the club standard tripe. Milne has done untold damage with his comment today & TWTD asking fans to stick with it. The guy is a joker

10 years of ME & 4 years of MM and Milne acknowledges a non league side are better organised and deserving of victory over TWO matches is pitiful.

Only thing I can't agree with you on is the glimpses of 1,2,3 & 4 I haven't seen anything what so ever other than a side set up to defend and try to capitalise on a mistake or set piece.

Darkest time ever for Town is ahead of us unless there is a major shake up.

rickoshay2 added 21:51 - Jan 18
Milne like Clegg before him knows absolutely nothing about football and is little more than a bean counter and Marcus Evans puppet. He also seems not to care about the fans concern at the long term demise of our once great and proud club under his boss Marcus Evans.The problem first and foremost is Marcus Evans . He had his own agenda when becoming Ipswich's owner. First he sacked a good manager ,Jim Magiliton who had Ipswich in his blood ,who's team had just beaten Norwich City ,,He then brought in his friend Clegg, who just happened to have Olympic connections ,but who knew NOTHING about football,,,the Olympic connections were important to Evans ,as London were hosting 2012 Olympics, and he needed someone with Olympic connections to sell Marcus Evans tickets. He then bought in a most unsuitable manager, that Ipswich Town could wish for,Roy Keane, but Keane suited Marcus Evans PLC, the reason being that as Keane, because of his outspoken ways, was interviewed most days by national media ,consequently his face was never off our TV screens, and he was always interviewed with Marcus Evans group plastered everywhere, you couldn't buy that sort of advertising! When it became clear Keane had fallen out with the fans, Evans then brings another unsuitable manager in Jewell, who had just got Derby relegated with the lowest ever points haul. Evans then gave Paul Jewell money to squander on players, but when Jewell was eventually found out for the poor manager he was, he too was sacked. Evans then brings in a respected manager but one that had a reputation for boring football and old fashioned tactics, but then Marcus Evans bafflingly fails to carry on investing in the club or the team. I am not sure what Evans plan is, as he wont do the honourable thing and show his face and show some form of leadership, what I do know however, since Evans took over their has been a steady decline in Ipswich Towns fortunes ,and if a new owner is not found soon, then under Evans things will only get far worse .So the EADT and Ipswich Star should have a poll on how many people are happy with the way Marcus Evans PLC is running,,,or should I say ruining ! our once proud club. I really do fear for the future of OUR ITFC.So Mr Milne given the way your boss has run ITFC into the ground ,forgive me for thinking but like the owner Marcus Evans you both don't know your ars# from your elbow when it comes to football

Tractorboy1985 added 08:42 - Jan 19
Great blog 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 Couldn't have written it better myself!

MacMan added 09:33 - Jan 19
A serious blog, well-argued. I would like to add some thoughts....a decision to change the manager would almost certainly mean no further additions to the squad. If MM goes then i very much doubt a replacement has been lined up. Even if someone was appointed in a week or so then they would want to judge what they have here already and that's the transfer window over. In any case, who is available? We've tried experienced managers with little success and any club doing well in the lower leagues is hardly going to let their manager leave to join us unless we can offer a substantial incentive. Even then it's a risk: the championship is a tough league and a big step up for an inexperienced manager.
It seems very few managers favour skill over work-rate. Keane certainly didn't; Jewell, well, I was never sure what he wanted from the team, and think how often Reuser, who could turn a game with one piece of brilliance, would be in one week and out the next under Burley.
For me it seems the choices are....keep MM and actually fund his transfer targets, or let him see out the season and then replace him. Could a new manager get more out of this squad if we change now? That would be a gamble....
And as for getting ME to part company with us, of course that depends on whether someone out there with the necessary cash wants to buy the club. I don't see a queue forming.

Blue_Fred added 10:36 - Jan 19
That is the best, rational piece I have seen on here in a while. Agreed the problem is the owner and his apparent use of the club as a tax write off whilst hiding behind FFP and refusing to invest.
I'd also add into the mix we have been so overly reliant of 'emergency' loans in recent years that there is nowhere to move with the current injury levels & decimated squad without investing , and more than ever January is a sellers market.

I do think MM has had his time, certainly he has lost the fans but I think more importantly he has lost himself .. he seems clueless as to how to change it. His 'proper blokes' and 'different class characters' were just shown to he a rudderless ship with no idea ... most appear grateful to be pulling a wage from football still
Chambers and Berra without doubt have been good for us but they also seem to be at the end of their shelf life, Douglas was done before he got here!

As for your question when should we change manager, I'd say sooner rather than later. the atmosphere in PR is bad on a good day, at the moment its caustic
Just my opinion, but to be honest we could do worse than Butcher til the end of the season, he would unite the fans behind the club and also play the kids who deserve to be playing.... whether he'd want it or not is another question
Maybe then with a view to then bringing in a young coach to work with him who will be hungry and passionate ...2 things I fear MM is not anymore

Taking Rickoshay2's point regarding the Keane appointment and increased press coverage showing the Marcus Evans group name, (remember 'Roy Keane's Ipswich' were we never off Sky Sports News?) I wonder how he feels about being aligned to the shambles on the Beeb Tuesday night, or maybe there really is no such thing as bad press?

whatever happens with the manager, the owner is going nowhere, he has realised the Premier League is out of reach (sorry, but it is!) with the resources he is prepared to put in so hides behind FFP and keeps his tax bill low. The problem is as the product becomes less inviting ticket revenue drops, and so we fall further behind and soon our main concern as fans will be which 3 teams are worse than us to prevent the fall into League 1

Warkys_Tash added 10:46 - Jan 19
Super blog Steve, well written from an obviously educated man. I agree with all your points.

I also believe we need a change but it should now come in the summer when we can (hopefully) attract a young upcoming manager in the Burley, Magilton mould.

Let McCarthy plug along with dull but relatively effective football to see us safely retain our Championship status. Remember for all McCarthys poor football & lack of back to back wins, he rarely loses 2 on the bounce - a stat we will certainly need for survival.

However, for me the bigger problem is Evans. You are right to quote the 2014/15, it was our best in 11years & for me Evans didn't recognise it or back McCarthy enough. However, there is only a limit for how long that type of football works - usually a season or 2 to get a club promoted & then the magic dust runs out. Unfortunately, McCarthy is fresh out of dust.

micky_1560 added 14:11 - Jan 19
A great blog and makes such a change from the negative comments on the main story lines without people putting their opinion into perspective or even worse just slagging everything down without any idea of an alternative.

Like most people after Tuesday's lowest of low points, I too was screaming for McCarthy to go and dismayed at Milne's request to stick by McCarthy.
However as stated above, is this the best time?
I'm sure McCarthy can keep us in the Championship this season where a new manager could provoke free-fall.

But to start another season with McCarthy would be fatal, we need to see some progression, the start of yet another 5 year plan!
I believe McCarthy has lost the players, we need a definitive style of play (I can see the 3 centre-backs being ditched now) when with the right players it has looked promising and we need tactics to actually beat teams.

Another reason McCarthy has to go, is his lack of ability to coach the best out of the players he has, after playing myself for more years than I can remember, why is it our players cannot produce even the most basic pass, playing the way they are facing?
The 3 centre-backs system can work, but players need to pass and move!

Marcus Evans is slowly turning our once competitive Championship club into a lower league club with his lack of investment.
While I believe we have to invest in young hungry players to match our lack of investment, if they all come from the lower leagues, isn't that what we will become?

Football is all about pace these days, defenders hate being ran at with the ball, hence our best players being Fraser and Lawrence and to a certain extent Williams in recent times.
Maitland-Niles looked just the job until McCarthy had him defending all the time!

I suggest we may have to endure ITFC until the end of the season, but then for 'Evans' sake, let's hope the owner and manager shake hands and say their goodbyes so we finally get in an inspiring positive manager with players in correct positions who can pass and run for each other in a positive system that they know and are comfortable with.
My only worry is that Evans lack of investment means this will never ever happen.
God knows we deserve it!

Edmundo added 14:59 - Jan 19
A well written blog and great comments. Depressing reading which means really we're writing this season off and hoping for an even bigger miracle than Christmas. ME must go again with finance or just go. Would he stick to his promise though, and like any true fan would, leave with all debts written off?

Swn98 added 15:17 - Jan 19
It's only me true fan?definition please.

Edmundo added 13:29 - Jan 20
I meant is it business for ME or is it really a passion to make this club great again? He's failed, and needs to leave with dignity. The only way is for him to write off the debts and hand over to new custodians.
On another note, Steve_M would you still like to see Karl Robinson or Paul TIsdale as manager? I'd be happier with the latter, although I think there's better out there. Might be worth taking a leaf out of our Saturday opponents' book and look abroad (Wagner)?

Tractorboy1985 added 20:58 - Jan 20
Sorry ricko meant to mark u up pal

MVBlue added 21:11 - Jan 20
Seems both owner and manager have visible issues. Good blog. Managers do have a shelf life its just the owner doesn't realise. Remember he sought Paul Jewell to ask who we should recruit. Who's he going to ask this time. Does he realise his name on the shirt is getting bad press. It'll be end of season and we'll live with it and Mick should be grateful we will. There better be a plan come summer. Post Mick.

geminimustang added 11:42 - Jan 21
This blog is nonsense dressed up as fact.There would be no benefit to replacing MM.The struggle of late is down to ITFC using freebies and loans to mask the lack of transfer funds.I'm not criticising ME as £80M+ of debt with no realistic chance of repayment is an amazing contribution to the club and the people of Ipswich.The players have underperformed and they should be blamed NOT the owner and management.

jas0999 added 13:54 - Jan 21
I wish people would stop going on about this so called £80M of debt. A very significant chunk of it was acquired by Evans for an absolute fraction but is still repayable in full. It exists on paper for interest payment and tax purposes. Evans does very nicely out of it.

Blandford added 11:45 - Jan 24
Thank you for such a well written blog. I find myself in agreement with much of what you said. I cannot see ME even considering sacking MM before the summer, if at all. I do however believe that gives the club time to put together a committee to influence the next managerial choice - preferably a young manager that wants to play in a style that Ipswich fans want to see. I do have concerns however that such an individual may not have the footballing knowledge and experience to run the whole club, let's face it no-one in a senior managerial position has a clue about football matters. Maybe MM could take up a director of football position, well away from team tactics and selection, in order to ease with the transition.

bohslegend added 15:59 - Jan 26
Well said. I've been a staunch supporter of MM and remain a genuine sympathiser to this day although I think it's obvious to all that the end is near.
He's been hamstrung by the owner, not given a pot to pi$$ in for the full 4 years but expected to perform minor (and major) miracles by a lot of people. However even that renowned "belligerent" attitude of his is not getting us results and it's a results game. I've argued with many on here that there's no point playing touchy feely football and getting beaten. However I cannot justify our direct, pragmatic approach with the results we've been getting. That said, and as mentioned above, we have some list of injuries to cope with for a small squad, regardless of style of play we would struggle anyway.
I've been told that MM and the club have already agreed to part company at the end of the season regardless of outcome. So a new manager will come in. And that being the case I don't envisage any long term signings happening this window which would overlap that transition.
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