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A Death of Our Club By a Thousand Cuts
Written by radiogaga on Wednesday, 1st Feb 2017 21:10

Around this time a year ago, I posted a blog on TWTD with concerns that we would fall further behind our rivals as every transfer window came and went, unless noticeable changes were made.

At the time, we were seventh and a handful of points off the play-off places. In spite of that, I and many others voiced concerns that our position papered over a lot of cracks.

Fast forward three months. We finished seventh, which is a very respectable finish. Realistically though, we fell out of play-off contention from January onwards after a run of horrific performances and poor results. We effectively finished seventh by default off the back of the results that had us in fifth on New Year's Day 2016. The year before, we started New Year's Day in the top two.

On neither occasion was Mick McCarthy substantially backed in the respective Januarys. Instead, players sufficient enough to be mere squad players at other Championship clubs came in on loan and left, our seasons petered out on both occasions.

Call me naive but, given what he'd done for us by January last year, McCarthy should have had the trust of the owner to go out and spend what he needed to add one or two players to the squad, and show serious promotion challenging intent. Unfortunately, Marcus Evans's failure to truly back his manager last January was a repeat of his failings the previous season.

Too much is made of McCarthy and the sixth place finish in 2014/15. Finishing sixth was a season to be proud of. In so many ways it was unprecedented success, as we did it with a wafer thin squad.

We were a galvanised underdog that made the play-offs against the odds. People too often forget that we effectively limped into those play-offs, having fallen from top two at New Year's Day to needing results to go our way on the final day. Whilst sixth was an excellent improvement, we should not ignore the serious opportunities that were missed by Evans to truly back McCarthy and give us the best possible chance of winning promotion in that January transfer window, to take us further or at the very least strengthen us for an improved crack the following season.

Ironically, it is Evans's regime that seems to have generated this underdog mentality that made our sixth place finish feel so monumental, existing only as the result of years of mediocrity under his ownership. Evans bought a club that was in good shape in every way except finances in 2007. I remember a genuine feelgood factor around the club as Jim Magilton had us playing attractive attacking, winning football at Portman Road with a young group of players that were ours and proud to wear the shirt. Fans were responding and returning through the turnstiles. It merely shows the scale of which our expectations have been lowered.

This season has been disastrous from start to finish. A poor disjointed pre-season followed our limp conclusion to last season which yielded a measly two wins from our last 10 games. Once again, a lack or reluctance to invest in new players cost the club dearly as only Grant Ward and Adam Webster arrived in exchange for six-figure sums.

Evans hinted in his programme notes for our last home game of last season that the money was available for McCarthy to buy the right player at the right place. It clearly remains to be seen what the maximum right place is defined as being, but this appears on the eye as being another cheap PR gesture to sway undecided season ticket holders with an early bird renewal deadline looming. We've had too many of them that it simply feels like the club are crying wolf, and the conclusion of the August transfer window and yesterday's are arguably the straws that may have broken the camel's back with many wavering over season ticket renewals.

Evans and McCarthy allowed Daryl Murphy to leave late in the previous transfer window. Our poor recruitment efforts in the summer compounded our disillusionment further by the sale of a popular fans' favourite for a sum of money that few other championship clubs (if any) would allow their top goalscorer to leave for.

Even Rotherham valued their top goalscorer Danny Ward at £5 million, considerably higher than we sold Murphy. Admittedly Murphy was 33 and wanted the chance to play for Newcastle, that cannot be held against him. However, it was weak of the club to sell a player that they had happily committed to keeping on a new contract without getting a replacement signed first.

Three million pounds is not a great amount money in the modern game and certainly not enough to replace a goalscorer, it was a backwards move for us beyond comprehension. Leon Best was brought in to plug the gap - hindsight is a wonderful thing, but even the most staunch Town fans expected little of Best. Much like the unforgettable fire sale of Jordan Rhodes, we shot ourselves in the foot big time by undervaluing the difference good goalscorers can make both in the immediate and long-term future.

So we were told, the money from Murphy's sale would be used in January. Technically it has been invested during this window in loan fees, paying player wages for our new free agents, but it's a paltry and desperate excuse. Too often under Evans, the club has been left on bare bones as we sell/lose our best assets without making adequate replacements.

With the exception of Aaron Cresswell (which paved the way for Tyrone Mings' emergence), the likes of Grant Leadbitter, Gareth McAuley, Damien Delaney, Connor Wickham, Jon Walters, Mings, Jon Stead and Murphy all left the club without being suitably replaced at the time. Whilst our recent managers have had many failings, they have not been aided a great deal by the lack of resources they were given in rebuilding teams around losing key players.

And alas the latest transfer window farce which completely contradicts the mysterious Five-Point Plan recently outlined by Evans. For the record, I like the Five-Point Plan. It promotes everything I want to see the club doing - building itself around a successful academy, shrewd player recruitment and a stable management set-up that delivers attractive football.

The problem is that saying it is much easier than putting it into practice as the club frequently demonstrate. Fast forward a few weeks, not a single youngster starts against Derby or Huddersfield. Our promising young academy striker Ben Morris barely makes the bench in spite of our struggles for goals and pledges that youth will get their chance. How a £10,000 signing from non-league strolls into the club and is getting on the pitch within weeks of signing, whilst a young academy striker desperate for a chance to prove himself sits in the reserves, really is incredible.

More perplexing is the loan signing of a young striker that can't even get in another Championship side. No disrespect to Dominic Samuel, but where is the commitment to our academy that the club has the audacity to ask fans to donate to when purchasing their season tickets in exchange for an unrealistic and unforthcoming reward of a free Premier League season ticket?

Emyr Huws is a player I rated a couple of years ago, but the most we will gain from having him is at best two or three good months before he returns to Cardiff. You can be sure that if he does well here, he won't be coming back here next season. Where in the Five-Point Plan is signing other Championship teams' players on loan to develop them, when we should be committed to developing our own? The arrivals of three other experienced short-term signings hardly matches up to the Five- Point Plan description.

Expecting any manager to build a successful team under such constraints is almost like asking a chef to cook with half of his ingredients. McCarthy is the victim of his own success, after three progressive years having been built on a foundation of good free transfers and loans.

Sadly the standard of achievable free transfers are no longer of the same standard that McCarthy was able to bring in a few years ago. We appear to continue to perservere with a transfer strategy that worked very well once but will always fail more often than it succeeds. For every Daryl Murphy, you have to go through five or six Balint Bajners, and that is the market that Town appear to primarily operate these days.

This is a team that now needs desperate rebuilding - Luke Chambers and Christophe Berra are no longer the dominating centre-halves we had two years ago, nor are Cole Skuse and Kevin Bru ideal for this level. Freddie Sears is a completely different player to the one that was brimming with confidence and goals when we bought him, whilst David McGoldrick and Teddy Bishop (regarded by many as our most creative players) are simply not reliable.

Our team is anything but settled or building for the future, with gaping holes for next season all over. The persistence with 35-year-old Jonathan Douglas is further evidence of both our manager's short-termism and the lack of options our wafer thin and recruitment malnourished squad possesses.

The football has been extremely poor and McCarthy does not help himself by stubbornly persisting with starting/refusing to criticise underperforming players, nor does he help his cause by talking about youth getting their chance only to field sides with no youngsters in the squad.

There is no long-term plan or identity in this current team and there appears to be absolutely no prospect of it any time soon. Performances have dropped to a whole new low this season (last night, Forest on Sky and Fulham on Boxing Day are as bad as we've looked for many years), although both FA Cup ties against Lincoln were the ultimate humiliation.

Let's put lack of investment to one side, we played like an out of date team against a Conference team who looked far more creative and industrious than us. That has nothing to do with investment, that is all to do with how your players are managed to play football.

The club responds with no suggestion that the defeat is a low point in the club's history, only the empty gesture of offering free coach travel to the last game of the season if you went to Sincil Bank. Fans are more than customers - all of us who went to Lincoln would have said no to a refund or free coach travel in exchange for a January of genuine long-term improvements to the squad, but we have once again been let down.

It remains to be seen where this barren period is going to take us next. But for the second year running, my thoughts remain the same. Unless major change is made, the club is dying a very slow death.

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Uncle_Bulgaria added 21:32 - Feb 1
Here, here. Very well said Sir.

Letchworth_Blue added 22:15 - Feb 1
Can't argue with any points made. Empty promises from the owner. If he has had enough of investing in players, then put the club up for sale.

rickoshay2 added 22:30 - Feb 1
Brilliant article,, The mess ITFC have become, and it all began 10 years ago when Marcus Evans was allowed to buy the club, a mistake that I fear will now haunt ITFC for some years to come. Evans has gone from the saviour in some peoples eyes, to an owner that wont show his face, or show any sort of leadership, and after the respected gentlemen that were the Cobbolds, we have now slipped so low, we have an owner who has a warrant out for his arrest in Brazil, and appears to care nothing for the supporters . ITFC are now unrecognisable from the one I started to support all those years ago in the sixties when I would stand on a stool in the old Churchman's. The team is now full of players ,the majority of whom I wouldn't recognise in the street, we have a manager who gets increasingly incompetent as each game passes, and cant seem to go through a press conference without expletive's. As I said I fell in love with ITFC all those years ago, but the ITFC that exist today are a million miles away from the one I have cared for and loved all these years. If it was a marriage I would be asking for a divorce for very unreasonable behaviour! As the object of my passion ,ITFC, has become to represent all the things that I dislike in the world,,,,,but supporting a football team is not a marriage, its for life, but since Marcus Evans took over my beloved club the last few years have been like a life sentence and not a lifetimes passion,,,

SWGF added 22:33 - Feb 1
Very, very well put.

(Although I'd argue that given what I've witnessed over the last year (& certainly in the last 4 weeks) the death won't be that slow)


ronnyd added 23:47 - Feb 1
Excellent blog and so so true, more,s the pity.

Warkys_Tash added 00:19 - Feb 2
RadioGaga, excellent blog. Complementing Super Frans' very well.

Agree with all points and both of you seem to point to the owner not just the manager, which a lot of people seem to miss this point. Its all McCarthy's fault in their eyes. However, MM hasn't helped himself and you have made some very valid observations where that has occurred. Stubborn team selections, square pegs in round holes, snipes at the fans, dislike of criticism of his negative tactics. However, he has been seriously hung out to dry by Evans.

Evans is obviously not interested in the club. I would like to see him put iTFC up for sale for what it actually owes him - not what he believes it owes him (i.e he started with an £8M debt but still holds the club to the whole £40m - £32M is believed to have been written off by Norwich Union). That way we might get an investor in that would take a punt. Someone who actually knows about football and has a vision, like the Cobbolds, like Sheepshanks. Speaking of Sheepshanks, he must be rueing the day he ever met Marcus Evans.

It seems the majority of fans agree with what is wrong. How do we, as fans, get Evans to listen? Thats the magic trick. He is the majority owner and has to answer to no-one, making dreadful decisions and sometimes seeming doing nothing whilst our club crumbles around us.

Huddersfield offered fans £179 season tickets, filled the ground, got a very good, almost unheard of coach with European experience and have turned around their fortunes from a regular relegation battle to promotion contenders in one season. All for a spend of £2.8M!!

prebsa added 09:29 - Feb 2
Fantastic blog, explains perfectly what is happening at town! Lets just hope something changes in the summer because if we are still in this league then 17/18 could be a real struggle.

Daleyitfc added 09:36 - Feb 2

brittaniaman added 09:48 - Feb 2
As we all know McCarthy is an analogue Manager in a Digital world !!!!!!


Blue_Moses added 11:01 - Feb 2
Really good, thanks

awayfan added 12:46 - Feb 2
Very accurate and hits every nail firmly and squarely on the head. Agree with the post above saying that this complements Superfrans' blog very well. Not a happy read but well done for saying what needs to be said.

Ferguson added 13:36 - Feb 2

And, to add insult to injury, even the shorts are wrong.

Lightningboy added 21:56 - Feb 2
I couldn't have put it any better myself - spot on...wish someone would get our owner to read this.

We need to get our whole strategy back to the days of the mid to late 1990's when Burley had us crusing into the play-offs season after season on a relative shoestring.

God how I miss those times.

armchaircritic59 added 22:49 - Feb 2
A great read, and though i live up to my name these days, i attended for a few decades. The mention of the Cobbolds is almost enough to make you weep. I well remember the quote from JC who said" the only crisis that could occur at this club, is if we run out of white wine in the boardroom"! But behind that gentlemanly, humourous facade, lay two shrewd, sharp brains. Wonder what they'd make of it all today?

Bobby_Petta added 10:10 - Feb 3
The biggest problem is the money that relegated teams get in parachute payments, how are we supposed to match that? the wealth isn't getting given out fairly, the elite teams get richer while the rest struggle. Villa sign the Brentford striker for 9 Million, teams are supposed to stick to the fair play rules, which isn't happening. The FA need grow some and do something about it.
3 mill for Murphy who is 33 is good money the club couldn't turn that down. Biggest problem is the manager and his stubbornness , I agree more youngsters should be given a chance, Morris should at least be on the bench.
The club needs to invest in a good scouting Network look abroad and lower league and they should have gone category A academy.
Evans should get someone to run football club who has experience in football like Sheapshanks, get the right young manager and have a long term plan. I don't have any faith in Evans to get the right manager. If he has lost interest in the club then he should sell up.

Bad_Boy_Mark added 17:06 - Feb 3
Excellent blog, well written and hits the nail squarely on the head!

I'm annoyed with myself as during those halcyon days of George Burley, I thought we would always be challenging...how naive I was!


Palestine added 09:22 - Feb 10
Great post!

And good to see that more and more supporters acknowledge that the problem is more with Evans than MM...not that I am really defending MM in anyway, but he has had bgger all to spend. Would be lovely to get some football people back in charge, and preferably ones that love the club.

Ironically from being bored of being stuck aimlessly in the Championship we now have a potential relegation fight to get excited about. How great.

Ultimately if this is the football on offer then the joy is taken out of football anyway.
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