Written by Slambo on Sunday, 11th Jun 2017 18:16
The real root cause of Ipswich Town’s descent into obscurity.
Let me start by saying that Mick McCarthy should never have played Luke Chambers for as long he did at right-back. I’m also happy to agree that Jonathan Douglas should never have got anywhere near the starting 11 in anything other than a relief capacity.
As for Marcus Evans, the appointment of Roy Keane was a catastrophe, Paul Jewell, well-intentioned, but misdirected, Mick McCarthy has by and large been a success (in very relative terms).
I believe Evans should also have made funds available at key points to sign the more dynamic and progressive players the team so desperately needed (and of course still need).
And that’s it. These two men have been the main subjects of Ipswich fans’ ire this past season, and even before that, but I would argue that the problems now facing Ipswich are only marginally of their own making and in fact due to broader trends in the game, trends that are jeopardising the viability of English football as a whole.
On a fateful day in 1992, the FA agreed to allow the Premier League to become an autonomous entity, negotiating its own TV and marketing deals and in the process enrich itself beyond the other three professional divisions and indeed beyond sense and rationality itself.
It’s been widely reported that Sunderland earnt more money from finishing bottom this season than the champions of Italy, France and Germany combined. Coupled with the grossly unmeritocratic parachute payments, how can Ipswich possibly hope to compete with the three relegated teams on pure financial terms?
This is not to mention the likes of Aston Villa and Norwich, and even Fulham, Reading and Cardiff who, having recently spent time in the Premier League, are also due cash windfalls. Not as much as the just relegated, but still enough to easily bully Ipswich out of potential signings.
But what about Brighton and Huddersfield, who will play in the top flight next season on relatively modest budgets? This is a fair point, and it was recently reported in the Ipswich Star that with a strong academy, coupled with good scouting, clubs can find a 'sweet spot' and obtain success on the back of meagre expenditure.
But what does the future hold for these two? Brilliantly supported, traditional, well-run clubs? Perhaps a season among the big boys being patronised on Match of the Day, before eventual demotion, maybe yo-yoing between the divisions? Or establishing themselves as mid-table also-rans?
Is that the sum of ambition for any club not part of the cartel at the top of the Premier League? I find that Southampton illustrates my point brilliantly: they have produced Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, among many other wonderfully talented youngsters, only to find them cherry picked by the elite clubs.
Oh yes, they were well compensated, of course. So in, say, 20 years' time will Saints fans be reminiscing about that glorious Southampton team that conquered all before them, or how massive their third quarter profits were for the tax year 2012/13? How has actual success become the reserve of a tiny minority of teams?
I won’t dwell too much on Financial Fair Play. This has become a lame duck, openly flaunted by many clubs. Yes, we could lobby Evans to spend the big sums seen at Wednesday, Derby and Wolves, but (as evidenced) it’s no guarantee of success and besides could seriously jeopardise the financial stability of the club.
I will concentrate instead on the EPPP, another oppressive, Premier League led scheme designed to further divert resources into the hands of the Premier League at the expense of the rest of English football.
I was utterly appalled to learn that, thanks to having a Category One academy, Norwich can openly and without impunity set up youth academies, or more aptly named ‘colonies’, within Ipswich Borough limits. They have in fact done so, at Chantry Academy, and probably elsewhere. There is nothing stopping other Cat One academies in the vicinity doing the same, all under some nebulous justification of helping the national team.
So Ipswich are finding that not only has their ability to compete from the top been all but neutralised, but now their ability to compete from the bottom. What kind effect this will have on nurturing future support when kids (already starry-eyed at the elite clubs in the Premier League, who are allowed to hog all the glory for themselves) are potentially plying a professional trade in the yellow and green of Norwich?
Well, I guess Marcus need only plough his millions into the academy. But he already has, and Ipswich have been repeatedly rejected, failing audits by fractional amounts, with increasingly vague explanations.
Man-made climate change is real. It’s an uncomfortable, terrifying truth. When faced with something of that magnitude, it’s easier to deny it, ignore it, or blame someone/something else. So it is with the Premier League as a separate, self-serving entity.
We can blame Evans and McCarthy all we want, but if they were both gone nothing would change; we can blame incompetent, rogue owners, but for every Oyston and Becchetti, there are a dozen good, honest men, trying to do their best in a game rigged against them.
We’re told that this is just the natural order, ignoring that in the century before the Premier League Arsenal and Man United could still be mediocre, or downright rubbish, and Chelsea and Man City had as much or if not less silverware than Ipswich. We’re also told that ‘that’s just the game nowadays’, as if this was a natural transition, as sure as winter follows autumn. This is another lie. The current situation was consciously created to satisfy the agenda of a few selfish individuals. And we can change it back.
I can’t believe I’m the only fan disillusioned with the state of the game and see that the greedy, bullying, selfish Premier League is the cause of most – if not all – its current ills. Surely, if we as fans band together, and if supporters’ groups across the country also unite, we can affect some actual reform that will give every well run club in England the opportunity to actually achieve things.
This isn’t fantasy – it used to happen all the time! If the political events of the last few days have taught me anything, it’s that people are sick of all the power and wealth being hoarded by a small elite.
I for one will be answering the call of the Independent Supporters Trust and will be raising some of these issues at their next meeting. Hope to see some of you there.
Thanks for reading.
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