|Show ME, How You Do That Trick|
Written by Mullet on Sunday, 1st Jul 2018 15:50
“It’s worth remembering the Championship is a really different prospect today, compared to when I invested 10 years ago.”
Those first 26 minutes on film, directly from Marcus Evans, came in April 2018, 10 years into his time here. The quote above stops me dead in my tracks. It is a sentiment many of us have known and pondered for some time, it is one that has taken the owner this long to acknowledge.
Whilst the interview was welcomed by many, the clearly scripted, soft-soaping treatment the owner got was evidently well-received. It is undeniable Evans said everything and nothing. He also addressed everything and nothing in terms of fears and solutions.
The boardroom spewed from every syllable like food made by a chef who knows nothing but packet mixes and heating instructions. It might have filled a hole created through communicative starvation, but it was not nutritious enough and merely earcandy.
Clearly, things were not, and are not going to change much under Evans in terms of approach and that in itself may not be a bad thing. It may also explain why a man who has presided over ITFC like it is a barge on the Shropshire canal, dispensed of his now ancient mariner after rescue from the stormiest times are long passed; and then held his course when clouds began brew for half a season too long. With Terry Connor hung like an albatross around his neck, the man who had given us the best of times under Evans was ceded; whilst we went about welcoming aboard Paul Hurst and Chris Doig.
Bath’s busiest, gives us a wonderful Seven Ages of Paul which reinforces the sense that those that see the departure of Mick as a departure of methods and means by Marcus, are going to be hugely underwhelmed.
These are younger men, fresher faces, and their regular change of scenery through success, crosses paths with the same route well-trodden by MEG at ITFC. If refreshing us with up and coming talent can’t give the club an upward trajectory, it at least gives us the forward momentum we are missing.
I have no doubt that there was a still recent point or three where Mick was not going to go, but ultimately had to. It is clear that at Shrewsbury it took Hurst time to rescue them from certain doom, to persist with what he inherited and use a solid 4-4-2 and steady evolution to eventually take them to the play-offs. A campaign of pragmatism, right faces, right deals and right attitudes to become unfancied to faltering in the final.
A side not laden with goals but built on physicality, togetherness and fitness. Sounds familiar?
If that scares you it shouldn’t. If the fact that we will have to sell first annoys you, then think back to how silly FFP made us look to many on the outside. Just as those who goaded many fans with “be careful what you wish for” when they merely meant to chide and counsel us.
The financial woes and risk-taking of our peers is again kicking up a level, as now Forest look to trail in the wake of Wolves, and may well end up following arbitration-locked QPR and also see them end up bobbing in uncertainty like certain clubs who grasped fresh air and sauerkraut in a bid to follow Huddersfield.
When clubs such as they become de rigueur , these are indeed strange times.
The opening interviews from Hurst and Doig talked about many things we’ve all heard before. But one that will have pleased many was the idea of blank slates and attitudes. A few days later their actions, as we accepted a bid from big spending Bristol City for Adam Webster, may well have told us more. As I saw him smiling with his red shirt at Ashton Gate it immediately brought those words to mind.
Whilst Webster seems to have jumped at the chance to go west, the Hurst revolution will be funded by what was a fee shrouded in mystery at first. Figures ranging from £5m-£8m seemed righted to £3.5m up front, rising to the latter amount.
How much of that goes into Hurst’s funds remains to be seen, but there was a curiosity in how the player Mick swapped for Matt Clarke went from someone who could and should really play better under the new man, to a contemporary Steve Sedgeley in no time.
His blundering interview at his new club incensed a few and forced him to tweet the above “proof” he wished us well and his gilded step sideways to a club massively outspending Ipswich and not always finishing above us, left everyone with a slightly sharper taste in their mouths.
This was soon followed by the departure of young man no one had seen kick a ball yet for the club at senior level. Ben Knight. Highly rated by England and described as one of the best ever by Bryan Klug, he was taken to the Man City academy factory this week for a fee rumoured to be between £600,000 and £1m.
It seems an almost annual event that our ripest fruit will be harvested by these clubs, and it is a galling compliment. But where that money goes and what sort of hole it leaves in the Five-Point oint Plan remains to be seen.
Evans's ire was magnified by the fans’ but it perhaps brought home the order of things, when it is clear we do this to clubs further down the pyramid after all.
To salve the wounds of bad news beating us down, Marcus Evans to his credit was quick to assure us that fees would be reinvested, but not the degree to which monies received will be gifted to the new team.
However, with the whispers that Barcelona are tracking Flores from the year below Knight, it is mind boggling to think we may well supplement our Championship existence with children who never make it to fruition here.
The deal for Knight was intriguing enough to have caught the notice of one football academic who chose to tweet about it, in a very different way to our Mancunian equivalents (if you have the time the discussion below Maguire’s tweet is enlightening).
With the last 18 months seeing so much more positivity coming from Klug, the academy and the games where Nydam, Dozzell, Downes et al made a case for self-made success. It is clear now why we saw Hurst exploit the other side of the academy system in this country and go straight for Trevoh Chalobah upon arrival, from Chelsea’s excellent young team.
If Bersant Celina was early karma for taking Knight, and Tom Lawrence and Ryan Fraser have delighted previously then it is best to accept Trevoh with open arms and bowed heads.
Described as a “thoroughly modern defender” when he made the bench for Chelsea in the FA Cup final, it’s clear from this video the youth game was beneath him in many respects.
An athletic and aggressive defender, who reads the game brilliantly, he will not only be competing with Cole Skuse on the interceptions front, but his versatility means he might cover for him and several others when needed, he also offers a real threat from set pieces.
Good movement in either box means he can score with his head and has quick enough feet to improvise his finishes. Where Chalobah really looks to replace Webster rather than CCV is his range of passing. He clearly felt confident to pass and move against fellow kids, but also shows he can use long balls to stretch teams.
Curiously he seems reliant on his right foot in most of what he does, unlike Webster who seemed to be two-footed. Yet Chalobah was in the left-sided centre back berth in many of those clips.
Hurst was also linked with Manuel Milinkovic, who has had time in Scotland and on loan from Genoa. It seems again the club feels north of the wall is the most fertile hunting ground for value and ability.
With the more high-profile Barrie McKay already making the move south to Forest, he seems lost there already. A number 10 and winger who suggests he’s a younger, high-calibre version of the repeatedly-touted Alex Rodman who has worked with Hurst more than once at Shrewsbury.
You can see from his time at Forest McKay might not be fancied despite having three years left on his contract, and a productive but fleeting career on the first team stage.
Aitor Karanka has gone down the Wolves route and already loaned in two expensive foreigners. If this does force McKay out and Hurst has been a fan for a long time as the Daily Record suggests, then his time working with Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner would make perfect sense and be worth the presumably big for ITFC fee.
McKay like to cut in on his right foot, has good movement to open defences for others, but he also has that capricious quality a former Forest 10 we brought in when unfancied at the City ground. Much like other players Hurst has targeted, he also likes to score from distance. If Ipswich become a 4-1-4-1 side then this will be crucial in making the most of attacks.
This might explain why we are linked with Rodman too, who is very similar but at much less cost and at 31 less chance of resale or development. As you can see here.
He too seems agile without being especially quick. The tendency to use his left leg for standing but a close control and habit of cutting inside to narrow the pitch and draw the full back gives him great success.
He has a signature strike on the outside of the right boot that drives the ball hard and rising that makes goalkeepers misjudge the flight of the ball and demonstrates he possesses impressive technique at every level he has played at.
As with the eye-catching defender Toto Nsiala, Rodman has signed for Hurst twice, and if either make it a third time by leaving the Shrews for Ipswich (as Hurst, Doig and their physio Chris Skitt has), we might one day argue over Hurst’s ability to inspire loyalty vs a risk-averse habit of sticking to known quantities in unknown surrounds.
I’d rather see the positives in that and would take the physical threat of Nsiala here every time. If the likely departures of Knudsen and Bart mean that the left side of defence is then shored-up with the rumoured approach for Colchester’s Kane Vincent-Young and Myles Kenlock makes the starting place his own.
Then the newly-shorn captain might see Josh Emannuel having done enough at Hurst’s club from his playing days to stay in the team, and Jordan Spence and Barry Cotter leaving either permanently or on loan. With that you feel we would have enough talent, grit and pace to make a decent defence from the pieces of quality raw materials Mick left.
“I want to go as high as I can…express myself” said the man from League Two’s Crawley. Much like when the currently injured Danny Rowe joined from Macclesfield, Roberts was a curveball bouncing above and beyond his current club having dropped beneath the league structure.
He clearly knows former Ipswich youth product Josh Meekings from his time in Scotland (and my trawling of his last two years on Twitter). But whether he knows what Ipswich will be like next season, when we don’t - remains to be seen.
Roberts on the wing, may make those of us a certain age nostalgic, but his crowning glory during a short stay at the Red Devils was a 3-1 win as a super sub over Exeter. He came on to produce a cool finish from the back post, before topping it off with a curling left-footed freekick. It immediately recalled last season’s game at Sheffield Wednesday.
If supersub at League Two to Championship is a big leap, replacing the man we got as an after-thought following the Garner deal is a space launch for Roberts. Waghorn became more productive than anyone in the league last season in terms of goals and assists.
With Boro mooted to want him, and fans quick to chuck a price tag or their arms around the cult hero whilst screaming obscenities north-eastwards, it would take a huge amount of money to relieve Hurst of his main man.
More likely to go would be the expensive foil from the former Gers in Suffolk. Garner cuts a figure of one who revels in being the main man at most clubs, but his season in Ipswich was injury-hit, and perfunctory all too often.
Double figures just about, but Joe cut a frustrated one as he threw his body down and on the line too often to charm refs, defenders and fans alike. Given the choice I’d let his move to Bolton happen, so they can replace Gary Madine, and Hurst can find the right target man.
It is no surprise the one he picked up from our Norfolk friends, Carlton Morris, excelled in League One along with midfielder Ben Godfrey, but from a Portman Road perspective, unlikely Hurst will go back there even with their flurry of deals this week.
In shaping his side, you would hope that Hurst is going to be allowed to exploit all that has been saved on wages this summer in moving on numerous staff. All whilst Freddie Sears and Grant Ward eye the sidelines and wonder which side of them they will be, come August. Where they will be in the queue as the line out of the physio room shuffles towards the training ground is another conundrum.
The changes so far, the ones proposed, the ones invented too, all seem to point to the man who relishes stats and empiricism as well as the old-fashioned values that Mick promoted is an evolution on his forerunner.
Tactically and characteristically the squad seems to be being tweaked and tucked rather than dismantled. Hurst criticised the wide options he had left and instantly looks to be doing something about them.
Whether this is naivety in being so transparent before making deals or laser focused pragmatism and openness after players are secured, remains to be seen.
However shedding his man of blood works out for Evans, after six years it is clear that any stains will fade quickly. The question is how much of his football DNA runs through his successor in Hurst. There is undoubtedly every possibility that #ANewEra will be as golden as any other since Evans arrived.
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