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Dear Martin Samuel...
Written by Superfrans on Tuesday, 8th Jan 2019 11:38

...I felt I had to respond to your piece in the Daily Mail today about Mick McCarthy.

I am an Ipswich Town fan of 40 years standing, a season ticket holder for 20 years and (as it happens) someone who was a fan of Mick when he was at Portman Road. He is a very likeable chap, as the general media support for him indicates.

I'm not going to justify some of the treatment of him by some of our fanbase last season. But a few points do need to made in response to your piece.

Mick was no angel in regard to his deteriorating relationship with our fans. It was very much tit for tat and had been for some time. When you are playing the kind of football we were for most of Mick's time with us, winning games is essential.

It is very difficult for any fans to watch what we were watching week-in, week-out, when you are losing more than you are winning - as we were for much of the last couple of seasons under Mick. This is why many of our fans became alienated by him, some of them tipping over into aggressive negativity.

These latter aggressors were by far and away a minority of our fans (as Mick would attest), but the majority of our fans felt by spring 2018 that it was best for all concerned that he left. Ask him - he wasn't forced out, he decided that after five years he had taken us as far as he could.

One reason for this is the progressively deteriorating relationship between Mick and a section of our fanbase. And, it must be said, Mick didn't help any of us by stoking this animosity between himself and the most critical fans.

For at least 18 months, Mick responded to any kind of criticism or questioning with a withering dismissiveness, eventually growing into outright animosity. This climaxed at our away draw with Norwich City when, rather than celebrate us taking the lead, he turned against his own fans and served them with a volley of abuse.

Did some of them deserve it? Of course. Did it hurt anyone? No. Was it sensible? Certainly not. As a long-standing supporter of Mick, I was one of the many who was at the match celebrating and received this abuse along with everyone else. My own personal reaction was to hold head in hands that Mick was actually (believe it or not) further worsening the situation - this had been going on for at least two years.

Mick should have been the bigger man. It is never easy to turn the other cheek, I know. But he is a highly experienced, world weary professional, who has had to deal with far worse in his professional life, I'm sure. He should have refused to engage at such a level.

It's hard to imagine another professional, in another walk of life, who would act in the same way. Would Geordie Greig address the Mail's readers in such a way? What would the Mail have reported if, say, Arsene Wenger had turned, mid-match vs Spurs, and celebrated a goal by screaming abuse at his own fans? It was daft (at best), but certainly hugely counter-productive.

As for the 'be careful what you wish for' advice - we knew we were letting ourselves in for a period of uncertainty post-Mick. After more than five years with a manager running the football club, change was always going to bumpy. Mick could set teams up to not lose any day of the week, he could always dig us out trouble. (Although, as I've said before, it is not great to watch.)

Our owner, supported by the fans, gave the opportunity to manage the club to an up-and-coming young English manager, Paul Hurst. The club gave him freedom to do his job, allowed him to take big decisions (like selling specific players to reinvest the funds) and to try to play attacking football. All things which, I am proud of and which our club should receive credit for.

Sadly, of course, it didn't work out. Hurst was sacked after four months - not an easy decision to take for a club and owner which has always (ALWAYS) stood by its managers (including Mick, who was one of the longest-serving managers in the Football League). As you will know, we have had just 15 managers in 60 years - fewer than Leeds have had this millennium.

Paul Lambert has come in and his comments have been interesting, to say the least. He has described the strategy we had run for years of drafting in 4/5 loans every season, signing 7/8/9 new players every summer, as "madness". The club needs rebuilding, he says. It's the biggest rebuilding job he has ever faced, he says.

This, following five years with Mick running our football strategy. Mick is not *entirely* responsible for all of our problems. But he does bear some responsibility for them - along with Marcus Evans and Paul Hurst. Maybe others.

The squad left behind by Mick was not great. Once our five loanees had gone back and we had released various players (all decisions supported/taken by Mick) we were left with two decent keepers, nine fit, experienced outfield players and a rich seam of youth talent, but barely enough players for a competitive 11 vs 11 training match. You make the point that the clubs Mick leaves usually hit a slide (you cite Millwall and Wolves). Perhaps there is a reason for this.

Whatever, there is clear evidence (along with Lambert's insight) that the club's football strategy has been wanting for some time - as the most senior, highest-paid football professional at the club, Mick must assume some responsibility for that.

The one group of people who are NOT responsible for where we are, are the fans. Fans who have kept coming, season after season, for 17 solid years in the Championship, through managers who have been good (Mick, Joe Royle), bad (Roy Keane) and downright ugly (Paul Jewell, Hurst).

Despite this stasis, our home attendances continue to hover around the 17,000 average mark this season, more than 1,000 of our fans travelled more than 500 miles to watch us play Accrington Stanley at the weekend, despite the fact that there were no trains north of Manchester (many had to take buses or cabs for the last leg of the journey), the team is at its lowest ebb for more than 60 years and we haven't won an FA Cup game for 10 years (the last half of which were managed by Mick, of course). Hope continues to spring eternal, clearly.

I reiterate - Mick was a great manager for us, certainly for the first three seasons. He dragged us up by our bootstraps and saved us from relegation in 2012/13, took us to the play-offs two years later and kept us mid-table. For that I (and the majority of Town fans) will always be be grateful. I also liked him personally.

But after five-and-a-half years, it was time for him to move on - for him to try something new and the same for Ipswich Town.

In the meantime, Ipswich Town are left as the canaries (a metaphor which sticks in the throat, I'm sure you'll realise) in the coalmine - an established club, trying to operate a relatively sustainable football model, without the benefit of parachute money or a sugar daddy, and keep its head above water in the Championship.

For me, that's the biggest story here. Not the perceived slight on a football manager - but the level of debt mounting up outside of the Premier League because of the imbalances brought by television's riches and which are threatening to fundamentally damage our national game.

Yours sincerely.

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Gobbs69 added 11:48 - Jan 8
Brilliant response Superfrans. You should send it in to the paper.

Superfrans added 11:55 - Jan 8
I have. I've emailed it to Samuel. Let's see if he responds.

Reuser_is_God added 11:55 - Jan 8
Agree with every word.

Great stuff Superfrans. Every time we are criticised for Mick we now have our default answer, a link to this blog.

Lathers added 11:58 - Jan 8
Nice response. It amazes me how one dimensional journalists and fans of other clubs are when it comes to NOT understanding the bigger picture regarding why it was time for mcCarthy to go. If you split up with your wife and your new girlfriend doesn’t turn out to be any better, do you then rue leaving your wife? These supposed ‘football experts’ don’t appreciate that whilst we are going through this period of ‘change’ none of us are looking backwards, regretting our actions. We are instead willing the new manager to turn things around with the support of our Owner. McCarthy certainly seems to have a lot of friends out there in media and footballing circles who 9 months on from his departure can’t seem to let things go.

Gipeswic added 12:14 - Jan 8
Totally agree. Also, Mick would have left as soon as the Ireland manager's job was offered to him.

Dyland added 12:21 - Jan 8
Superb blog

Bent_double added 12:21 - Jan 8
Super blog, Superfrans!

ElephantintheRoom added 12:22 - Jan 8
A measured response - but is it balanced? MM had probably had lunch with this bloke who was probably paid to keep the great man in the public eye. It's PR guff, nothing more, nothing less. You don't think the fans are to blame for the current situation - but clearly they are. There was a post on the forum the other day from a long-term supporter who asked why people go - admitting a bit of shame and embarrassment at supporting what Town have become. Most of the replies were of the 'because I do' variety indicating the absurdity and supporting what has become indefensible. Supporting the indefensible is what has led Town down the path they have been on for eleven years. Lambert is currently seen as a savior, applauded by supporters for saying short term signings and loans are madness, then applauded again for dragging in four more. You applaud supporters for going to Accrington - but why did they go? They know the club has opted out of cup competitions, they didn't know if either side would try. In the end they saw a couple of moonlighters who may have only met their team mates in the dressing room. It's madness. MM 'a great manager'? Come off it. He inherited a good team, certainly a mid-table team that had got the previous incumbent sacked and took that mid table team to mid table. Never did he try and build a team - surely the mark of even an average manager. Most of what you say is true - but the supporters have to take the lion's share of the blame for what they now support and what they have become

naa added 12:32 - Jan 8
Excellent blog, very balanced and your position is one I shared completely (I liked Mick, and I appreciated all he'd done for us).

Lathers: perfect analogy with the girlfriend/wife too.

Smithy added 12:52 - Jan 8
Journalism at its best unlike the lazy obvious article by Mr Samuel which any idiot could print.

Superfrans added 12:54 - Jan 8
Elephant - I'm just going to respond to one of the points you make. "The supporters have to take the lions share of the blame". I'm a supporter and I'm not taking any of it. "Supporters" are not an amorphous mass, there are different supporters with different views, lumping everyone in together is nonsense. And Mick says he left because he felt he had had his time. he has said this repeatedly.
As for Accrington - you can think whatever you want of them, but I'm massively proud that we have a fanbase which results in 1,200 (or whatever it was) fans travelling all that distance, no trains for part of the journey, the Saturday after New year, freezing cold, when history told us we'd probably lose. Amazing support.

christiand added 12:54 - Jan 8
Good on your Superfrans. A well balanced piece of writing!!! It'll be interesting if Martin Samuel has the decency to send you a reply.

Cakeman added 13:27 - Jan 8
Very good read Superfrans. The past should be left there so I am disappointed to learn that McCarthy keeps being discussed by several pundits who make a living by winding people various up and by newspapers who.......well newspapers will always publish dross. Best leave it there.
Irrespective of who our manager is now and I am very pleased it is Paul Lambert I enjoy coming to Portman Road much more even though we are well adrift at the the bottom of the table, than I did before when Mr Mick ‘I will make sure you are not enrertained’ McCarthy was in charge!

barrymann16 added 13:33 - Jan 8
great piece from you sir,

AlanG296 added 13:42 - Jan 8
Great blog. Samuel hasn't written anything about ITFC for years but has now written 3 or 4 times since we parted with Mccarthy. Odd that he pedals the be careful what you wish for line for ITFC but I haven't seen him use it regarding other clubs and the hundreds of manager departures there have been in the league since MM was appointed. A lot of the articles he writes re other stuff, I agree with but he clearly has an anti ITFC or pro Mccarthy agenda or both.

SenatorBlue added 13:47 - Jan 8
Great response. Spot on throughout, and you hit the primary issue on the head in the final paragraph, which all commentators inside and outside the game choose to continually ignore in favour of sound-bite populist articles. Despite our predicament, I certainly do not "rue" losing McCarthy, and have enjoyed what we a trying under Lambert - we just lack the ability to invest in the quality needed.

ShropshireBluenago09 added 14:00 - Jan 8
Sums it up perfectly nice one

Marshalls_Mullet added 14:00 - Jan 8
Excellent reponse. I dont know why some of these writers are so obsessed with Mick and Ipswich.

Its quite sad on the part of Martin Samuel, what a loser.

TR11BLU added 14:28 - Jan 8
Fantastic response Frans, excellently written and with substance. Unlike the initial article which appears to have been highly researched....not. And to think, Samuel earns a living writing this tripe.
I look forward to reading his response, as for Mick, maybe he will get over it one day but I wont hold my breath.

Lightningboy added 16:39 - Jan 8
Absolutely. 100%. Spot on 👌🏻

Now I hope Martin Samuels gets someone to read it to him.

westernblue added 17:27 - Jan 8
Fantastic piece, Superfrans. Balanced and insightful - many thanks. In their dredging up of MM's departure some pundits do seem to have a blind spot - mostly without having done Town the courtesy of watching us these past years. Mind you, the piece was written in the Daily Mail, so in it's tenuous grasp of reality at least it seems consistent with the rest of the paper.

Felstow1978 added 17:30 - Jan 8
Excellent, a well-balanced and objective blog. Just one small point, did you expect anything other than bias and misplaced journalistic judgement in that shyte-wipe of a so-called "newspaper"?

Ipswichbusiness added 18:48 - Jan 8
Excellent blog. For me McCarthy went on too long; we should have got rid of him following the Lincoln debacle.

JCBLUE added 19:09 - Jan 8
Excellent 👏👏👏

C_HealyIsAPleasure added 19:44 - Jan 8
I’m going to be honest - I clicked onto this expecting to hate it, but that’s an outstanding blog, excellent work
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