|2019/20 - Grating Expectations|
Written by tractorboykent on Thursday, 2nd Jan 2020 12:03
A lot of comments at the moment would suggest that we are in the midst of a(nother) crisis. Whilst the league table doesn’t reflect that, the perception is likely more based on our own expectations of where we’d be at this stage.
Personally, until the middle of last season I knew little or nothing about League One. It was only at that stage – when it was clear that we’d shortly be playing there – that I started to watch the Quest highlights and to read what the pundits had to say about it.
Pre-season, the neutrals' view of our chances were pretty clear – they thought that either a) we’d not be good enough to climb straight back or b) we’d be bad enough to face another relegation.
Based on what I’d seen and these opinions of people who know much more about this level than I do, as the season kicked off I had few expectations.
Today it seems that a lot of us see it differently. Some Town fans felt that we should walk it. That may have been based on a pre-season view of our strength or it may have been formed over the first 11 league games when we actually did.
If it was pre-season confidence then that seems hard to understand – memories were surely not so short that people forgot how totally woeful we had been last season; far and away the worst team in the Championship, it was no surprise that we were relegated first and long before anyone else.
Equally, as great as this season’s initial run was there were only a few big wins – a lot of 1-0s were achieved by solid organisation rather than rampant superiority.
Maybe those with such confidence had bought into the Paul Lambert mantra of "We’re a big club at this level". So what? Lambert no doubt repeats this because he wants to make clear that – with that "big target on our back" – the opposition will raise its game so our players must be extra motivated.
But the mere mention of it can sound arrogant and is likely to be motivational for the opposition. This is especially so when used indiscriminately; it was rolled out after the Portsmouth game – a club with a much more recent history of playing at the highest level than ours.
Some fans have bought into this too – Wycombe fans hearing the chants of ‘Your support is f*****g s**t’ were likely to point out that their support is in line with their club’s overall resources and look who’s top of the league.
Listening to the Radio Suffolk phone-in on the way home after the Bristol Rovers game, several fans were insistent that we should be thrashing sides like that – after all we are IPSWICH TOWN. The reality was that we had just been outplayed for pretty much 90 minutes and lost at home to a better side. Fact.
The neutrals sometimes buy into this big cub thing too by pointing out that our squad includes a lot of players with Championship experience. Whilst that’s true the only thing it proves is that the vast majority of them weren’t good enough for that level – that’s why they aren’t there anymore. After half a season can any of us fans name a single Town player who looks a cut above in this league?
I have a mate who’s a Wycombe supporter and he thinks that the size of their squad will be their undoing as injuries, suspensions and loss of form kick in over the season. So far this looks wide of the mark.
On the other hand the size of our squad seems to be a problem of the opposite type in that we have a manager whose constant rotation suggests that he doesn’t know his best XI or its best formation. This view seems to be unanimously shared amongst Town fans and neutral pundits.
The fact is though that we are in a play-off place as we enter 2020. Yes, that’s a long way from being top with a cushion and games in hand as we were back in October but it’s also no mean feat to have developed a winning mentality after a constantly losing one throughout the whole of last season. As a supporter, whether or not you are satisfied with this probably boils down to your expectations.
When we look back on 2019/20 it’s likely to be seen as a season of four quarters rather than two halves – the first quarter wonderful and the second dire. It’ll also be seen as the time that the club backed Lambert – a four-year extension being a generous and extraordinarily rare vote of confidence nowadays – for a ‘long-term project'.
To those who believe that we should be straight up this season, long term means a rise back to the Premier League from next. To those who believe that getting out of League One is no easier than getting out of the Championship it may mean something else entirely.
Personally I am happy to revise my expectations as we hit halfway. From what I have seen we are nowhere near the best side in the League – Coventry look that to me (they are creative, clinical and organised where we are often none of those) and Peterborough and Oxford look contenders.
We do however have the players to be amongst the best and we have shown that already. With a very large squad, I agree with Marcus Evans that we shouldn’t be adding to it unless players first make way and, in any event, with Freddie Sears, Emyr Huws and Teddy Bishop all coming back we have three ‘new additions’ that should all shine at this level.
If we can get our mojo, momentum and consistency back then top six should be on and top two possible with hard work, focus and – please - unity.
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