|Cycle of Hurt|
Written by Steve_M on Wednesday, 25th Nov 2020 11:45
It's hard not to see a club that has got nearly every big decision wrong and come out on the wrong side of almost every promotion or relegation fight over 19 years as being in anything other than terminal decline. The very obvious exception to that pattern of failure was the appointment of Mick McCarthy and his first few years here.
Marcus Evans has made so many poor decisions since he bought the club and, even allowing for the way in which financial doping has changed the Championship in that time, ITFC has fallen further and further behind the modern game in his 13 years of ownership.
What should have been a competitive financial advantage was squandered by Jim Magilton and, even more so, Roy Keane but a total failure to implement any kind of footballing structure has meant that every change of manager has seen a large upheaval.
Which brings us to the biggest mistake: allowing Paul Hurst to rip up the basis of a good Championship squad and then overpay for a load of lower division players. Many of those might have grown into a good squad but the wholesale change as good as relegated the club in the first two months of the 2018/19 season.
Paul Lambert certainly should have done more to close the gap to the rest of the division but it was always going to be difficult to stay up from where we were, not so much in terms of points as the lack of quality at either end of the pitch. I don't blame him for relegation though, but that time should have been about preparing for a quick return.
Lambert has now had two attempts at promotion and failed at both. That we are still well placed in the table is irrelevant to the very obvious decline from the early weeks of the season: the energy, belief and coherence of the team are markedly worse and it shows in the lack of chances created and the dreadful goals conceded.
For a side that had won six matches out of six at home, there was no sign of that in the performance last night. Hull needed to be little more than well organised and (occasionally) clinical in front of goal to win easily and, yet, absolutely no one is surprised by either of those factors.
Injuries are a mitigating factor, Teddy Bishop and Gwion Edwards have been two of our better players this season but the frequency of serious injuries and the seeming failure of players to recover for them – Kane Vincent-Young now out for over a year just the latest – is another pattern repeated across too many seasons.
It’s clear that a change of manager is needed and it has to be soon. We’ve watched the Premier League gradually become out of reach over the two decades of failure and now we are seeing the Championship head the same way – it may only have been 18 months since we were limply relegated from that division but the impact of Covid-19 on the lower divisions is going to be harsh.
The push for a salary cap reduces any competitive advantage ITFC has in the third tier, and we are still a big club at this level on account of the size of the fanbase regardless of anything else.
Any hope of Evans ever getting back a significant amount of what he has spent on ITFC has long disappeared. In the absence of a buyer willing to pay whatever Evans will settle for then he has to decide what level of spending he is comfortable with. The worry for us is that it might be at League One level rather than the £6 million a year it was costing to mark time in the Championship.
Again, the lack of footballing structure ends up costing more money and, indeed, the five-year contract given to Lambert when the team hadn’t won for two months last December will cost even more money to terminate, whatever the break clauses within it. And, of course, this is all accounted for as debt, money ITFC owes to Evans. None of which changes the likelihood of his recovering much of it.
If nothing changes, everything points to the third division becoming our new home with maybe the occasional spell in the Championship for a season or two being as good as it gets for ITFC. The signs of this decline have been visible for a long time certainly back before McCarthy was appointed – he managed to arrest that and even build on it for a few years too – but there is no evidence of anything that is going to turn that round now.
There’s far too that needs to change at the club but a first team drifting to another mid-table finish in this division is the most urgent aspect of this decline. That has to be arrested and it has to be by a change of manager. Maybe the rest of it will still follow but without on-field success, however moderate that might be, crowds will decline and the promotions of 1992 and 2000 become as distant as the Robson era: nice to look back on but of no relevance to the club today.
Over to you Marcus.
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