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Where Have Our Standards Gone?
Written by Pickersblue22 on Wednesday, 21st Mar 2018 17:51

If you were one of the 1,066 Ipswich Town fans at Ashton Gate on Saturday, ask yourself and be honest, how much does the result really bother you?

I was there and was thoroughly depressed by the performance, but in the grand scheme of things, losing the game 1-0 seems to scarcely matter. For those of you scowling at your screens, please bear with me. The whole issue of the 'bigger picture' is what I want to get to the bottom of.

So as to offer some context and perspective to this blog, I may as well set my stall out as a 'Mick Outer'. Since the start of 2016 I have felt that he hasn't used the resources at his disposal as effectively as he could.

After expertly guiding us from the bottom of the table and into the play-offs in the space of two and a half years, in my opinion McCarthy ground our progress to a halt by refusing to properly react to other teams finding a way to better counteract us. This has developed to a point where the majority of fans have lost all belief in his ability to produce a team capable of challenging near the top end of the table.

Tactically Mick now resembles someone who has gone out, left his keys inside his house and then bangs on his front door when he gets home, expecting someone to open it even though he knows there is no-one inside. In other words, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I have a handwritten fixture list stuck on the cupboard in my bedroom, to which I add the result after each game, as well as the names of the Town goalscorers. That particular column says a huge amount about how our season has panned out. It can be split almost exactly in half. In our first 20 games of the season we scored more than one goal on 11 occasions. Eight on those 11 were games that we won, and only once did we score twice or more and lose in this period, away at Leeds.

In the following 18 games, we have scored more than once just three times (at home to Reading, away to Sunderland and Sheff Wed). Of course there are various factors to attribute this change to. At the very start of the season, practically every shot we took ended up in the back of the net, something that couldn't last forever. Multiple defensive injuries meant that our now eternally defensive mindset would likely have been punished, so we had no real choice but to go for it.

The crux of the issue is that the manager has not done enough to try and solve the problem. He has changed the set up of the defence but this has not had a real effect on how efficient we are going forward.

I admit that the injuries we have in midfield play a part in this, but we hardly ever move the ball from defence to midfield to attack anyway. The ball is always passed across the backline, and then either back to the goalkeeper or hit long into the channels. Our midfield is scared to offer for the ball - I could write an entire blog about why I think Cole Skuse shouldn't be anywhere near our team, but I'm not going to.

The main thing is why would you leave Martyn Waghorn in the same position when he hasn't scored for several games? Why would you put Bersant Celina on the bench and give him so little time to make an impact? Why would you take off Mustapha Carayol at Preston when has just cut them to shreds and park the bus?

Waghorn's form has been a microcosm of our season. Nine goals in that opening 20-game period was followed by a drought. This is something that happens to all forward players, but a positional change was certainly a factor in this. A forward line of Waghorn on the right, David McGoldrick in the centre, Bersant Celina on the left, all behind Joe Garner undoubtedly looked a real threat.

However, since around the time McGoldrick was injured, Waghorn has played almost exclusively in the 'number 10' position. He has offered plenty, including his wicked set-piece delivery and tigerish enthusiasm, but surely more should have been done to get the best out of the man who was, at the time, comfortably our top scorer.

It is a situation that smacks of what has been done to Freddie Sears. It is nothing short of a disgrace that a player who looked so lethal, so sharp when he came to the club, has been so wantonly taken advantage of.

Whenever the manager talks about him, the word 'selfless' is never far away. He was shunted onto the left wing by McCarthy, who was safe in the knowledge that Sears wouldn't dare to complain, to the point where all the confidence and belief has been sucked out of him. And now not only has McCarthy criticised his goal return, he has compared it to the goal returns of other players, such as Celina and Garner who have not only played many more games than Sears this season, but they have also been playing in their natural positions.

Anyway, back to this season. The falling standards that I refer to in the title of this piece can be found in a number of aspects of the club, but especially in the performances on the pitch. Of all the maddening attributes of Mick McCarthy, the one that winds me up the most is his constant overly-positive assessment of our performances. I cannot think of the last time when he and the fans were on the same page regarding how we have played.

Saturday at Bristol City was a prime example. We were so chronically defensive against a team with two wins in 16, with a back five and two holding midfielders. I can accept that selection, but once we went behind it genuinely blew my mind that McCarthy didn't immediately turn around and put Celina on the pitch. Or Aaron Drinan. Or Ben Morris. He waited 18 minutes to do anything resembling attacking intent. We hadn't looked like scoring a goal and yet he just let us carry on as we were. Again he was stubbornly doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

And then for him to come out and say that it was a 'really confident display' is simply ridiculous. The closest we came to scoring was a Waghorn corner that nearly snuck in. We created almost no chances whatsoever. Does he genuinely think we are stupid or is he just completely delusional? For me it was another addition to an ever-growing list of times where the fans have been taken for total idiots - the major example being the pathetic apology for McCarthy blatantly swearing at the fans at Norwich.

We literally have nothing to lose this season and yet we are fielding teams that are so painfully defensive. The Sheffield United game was classic - nine defensive players on the pitch against a decent, albeit hardly potent team. The manager practically shouted Brenner Woolley down on Radio Suffolk when he dared to ask whether he was tempted to be a bit more attacking.

It's not as if we are clinging onto our Championship status. We know we will be in this league next season so why not show some ambition. When Marcus Evans sees these types of games, how can he not get onto Mick and tell him to sort it out?

I'm trying not to let myself believe this, but I am starting to think that McCarthy just wants to annoy the fans as much as possible before he leaves in the summer. As long as he actually does leave. I said at the end of last season that I would put up with him for one more season, and then he has to go. And I feel this more strongly than ever now.

I am well aware that the owner has plenty to answer for, but he has no influence on the manager's tactics. The metaphorical gun of negativity should really be pointed mostly at Evans, but considering the number of times McCarthy has grabbed it and pointed it at himself, I thought I would spare him the trouble and point it at him myself.

There is another frustrating development that the players seem to think that the fans' expectations are too high. For Luke Chambers to essentially say that 'we can't play like Barcelona' is ludicrous in the extreme. We are not expecting that. But it is not unreasonable to expect some attacking intent and slightly more attractive football. Especially at this stage of the season with little to play for.

To touch on some of the other standards that have dropped, I would love to know what has happened to the Portman Road pitch. Obviously the recent weather hasn't helped, but it is now an annual occurrence that the pitch seems to deteriorate as the season goes on. It used to be one of the best in the country. The state of the stadium is just scruffy. It badly needs a lick of paint, a bit of tender loving care. Again, this is not an unreasonable expectation, and shouldn't financially be too much to ask for.

I go back to what I said at the start. Does any of what I have said really matter? If the manager leaves in May, then the answer to that is no, not really. His tactics are probably the least of our worries in many fans' eyes. But I do honestly believe that we are not getting near the top six with him in charge, even with a fully fit squad.

His strengths are defensive organisation and bringing out the best in players. In short, I don't think he is a good manager of good players. He will create a solid foundation and then hope that his attackers can make something happen high up the pitch. That is not exactly innovative or exciting coaching.

We need a manager that will do everything he can to build a team around the best players. The playing squad is one of the best things about the club right now. With the majority of the group fully fit, I honestly think we are strong. But that means nothing if the best players are not actually used properly.

So Marcus Evans, the ball is in your court. Actually it might be in McCarthy's. To be honest I really have no idea. I don't think anyone has any idea. At least there are only eight games to go.

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artsbossbeard added 19:11 - Mar 21
Congrats on cramming in every current moan about the club into a few paragraphs. Consider my cap doffed.

Northstandveteran added 19:21 - Mar 21
Yep, sums things up perfectly.

Edmundo added 19:49 - Mar 21
Evans is running the club down (see ., nice guy though he may be, is willing to not only take it but dish it out too: but to the fans not his paymaster. Lack of integrity all round. Great blog, thank you.

longtimefan added 19:57 - Mar 21
Thought this was going to be a reasonably balanced piece and then I read “Why would you take off Mustapha Carayol at Preston”. He was sick FFS. There’s plenty to disagree with Mick about without using idiotic examples that deflect from any reasonable point you might have. Didn’t bother reading the rest!

Pickersblue22 added 20:12 - Mar 21
Re longtimefan. Carayol said himself that he could have played for another 15 minutes. McCarthy couldn't wait to take him off. And he replaced him with Hyam which was the more troubling thing about it.

Elwood added 20:17 - Mar 21
Sadly, that is a very good blog

Daleyitfc added 20:18 - Mar 21
The best blog I've read on here, bar none.

DurhamTownFan added 07:39 - Mar 22
Does anyone else see a pattern of our seasons under MM being utter garbage after Christmas? Even in 2015 we finished very poorly and were never going to win the play offs

Another point: who do ALL of our creative midfield players get injured? Right back to Johnny Williams first spell... something being done wrong in training with them? (Probably neck ache)

I agree with the blog: we can bemoan his lack of investment but fact is MM has done a poor job with what’s available.

carsey added 11:25 - Mar 22
Great summing up of the situation at PR. My biggest fear is McCarthy doesn't go and I then have to make the decision about a season ticket. I didn't want him here in the first place and I want him here even less now but I am a Town supporter so even with him incharge I reckon I'll still be there

sotd78 added 12:36 - Mar 22
We went attacking formation 442 versus Hull and the wheels fell off.
I think that was McCarthy trying to show you that he thinks that he does not currently have the fit players to do anything else.
That doesn't btw make me a MM fan - personally I think reverting to a 442 formation we haven't played for weeks; with a scratch midfield and no proper centre forward was silly. Indeed one might say it was MM winding us all up. But the real issue is long term planned investment. It'll take 10 to 20 million a year on the playing staff (fees and wages) for three years to get us in the frame.

RoyalAscotBlue added 13:50 - Mar 22
Yep. Couldn’t agree more.

armchaircritic59 added 22:04 - Mar 22
From someone who no longer goes to Portman Road but did for decades, i find the state the club is in very sad indeed. For those decades i attended it was run by proper football people who mostly were local or became honorary "sons of Suffolk" (such as Sir Bob). I kind of had the impression that they would bleed blue! Yes the football world has changed (not always for the better), but now we have an owner, who though born in Suffolk (near Bury St Edmunds), found himself in London, not long afterwards. I remember when ME first came to the club, the reason he gave for keeping an extremely low (to non existent) profile, was to protect his young children from the glare of publicity/ the media. Those times have now surely gone. It's time for him to face up or sell up! I see there's often been critisism of Ian Milne on here, to sum extent understandable, but i think it needs keeping in mind, he's just the mouthpiece for the owner who refuses to communicate directly to the paying public. In the business world it's called delegation. There's little point in criticising the piano player when the song writer's at fault! As for the "playing style" of the manager. i must confess to not seeing a single game since he's been here, so i feel i can't justly comment on that (apart from forming an opinion based on others opinions-which is never a great road to go down!). I can say, having seen his teams of old that what has been very frequently written on here ties in with what i saw then. That's as far as i can go with that. It's certainly not my style of football, but as said before, times change, people don't always change with them. It's my view that the buck stops firmly at ME's door. Everything at this club (or any other club) stems from the top down!

heathen66 added 22:39 - Mar 22
Absolutely fantastic blog and excellent account of the demise under Mick McCarthy.
As you say, even with a fit squad, nine of the current team would still play week in week out.
Huws imo would enhance the starting XI as although good defensively does offer something going forward as a sort of box to box player.
The only reason for going 5 at the back is that CCV (as part of his contract) and Chambers (we know why) must play and as we saw Vs Hull they are not good enough. Even with 2 or sometimes 3 holding CMs.
Evans must take some responsibility (if only for letting this go on as long as it has) but as you rightly say he does not pick the team, or decide the tactics or what players he signs by the look of it.

BeattiesBackPocket added 12:00 - Mar 23
Absolutely spot on blog! Couldnt have put it better myself.
Sotd78 I dont disagree completely with you as Evans does need to put up or tell us what his actual plans are HOWEVER I would take you back to Burley and Royle. Burley came in with a 5 year plan to introduce the youth teamers and bought in some exciting lower league players in the ilk of Johnson from Bury, Holland from Bournemouth etc etc and we played exciting, free flowing attacking football never did I think or come away from a game not thinking we can out score the opposition and all this on a limited budget.Unfortunately when he was given some money albeit not enough for the second season syndrome this is where it went wrong. Same with big Joe he came in at the worst time saw the club through administration, sold most of his best players and relied on youth and lower league players and still managed to get us playing good football, plenty of goals and in the play offs more than once. When most fans harp on about funds its not always for me about that its what the manager and coach can get from what they have and our players are being played out of position, their confidence being dented severely by this or being in and out of the side or just playing like theyre scared with conceding first. I believe we need a strategy like Burley and a plan in place and see those improvements see the kids coming in (Not just when Skuse or whoever is injured) but being played regularly alongside some senior pros. I honestly still believe the players we have if played right can be challenging alot higher and playing much much better football that what we are being served up. That does not just lie with funding.

ITFCsince67 added 13:08 - Mar 23
One of the best blogs i've ever seen on TWTD, well done. Agree with just about everything that you wrote. The club is a mess from top to bottom, from the ground and the facilities to the grass and the players. Yes we have had injuries this year to our midfield players but these players are young and lightweight and would have got crushed in the Championship. Bishop and Dozzell fine footballers but not ready to command a midfield. Skuse not everyone's cuppa tea but with one holding midfielder he is the right man to protect the back 3/5.
While we play negative football the fans will stay away.
Evans and McCarthy are as equally responsible for the state of the club. I will not even mention Milne as he is a puppet.

Blandford added 18:07 - Mar 24
Excellent blog which sums up the stagnation of MM's time at our club very well. The only point I would add is this -
Whether you choose to believe him or not, one of ME's five point plan was to develop the youth academy and rely on it for future players. The academy is working well and teams are playing some decent football. However the style of play is so far from what the first team produce that there is little hope for young players to progress into the first team and become the next generation of Ipswich players.

BeattiesBackPocket added 10:41 - Mar 29
Blandford well said our youth teams have some good products coming through but I also think under Mick these players will only get any playing time if HIS "proper blokes" are either not fit or banned. Dozzell only started the season due to his signings of Huws and Adeyemi being injured otherwise I think he would've been another talent gracing the bench or sent on loan. I want a manager in the Ilk of Burley coming in with a plan to introduce some of these kids alongside some good signings from lower leagues maybe again in the ilk of Holland, Johnson etall all who came from lower leagues.
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