Written by Moggasknockdown on Monday, 1st Feb 2021 12:15
Remember goalkeeper-coach Jimmy Walker’s ill-conceived tweet back in November? “If we don’t finish in the top four minimum we might as well wrap up”?
Walker appears a character fizzing with cartoonish energy and is seemingly quite a likeable chap, certainly the antithesis of the media-savvy, dull-eyed drones that most clubs roll out these days.
At the time, he may have considered such a tub-thumping tweet to be what the fans wanted to hear, as the initial rumblings of discontent were starting to turn into a full-scale wobble.
Certainly, he might now reflect on his hubris much more sincerely as victories (and hope) have long since dried up as the club hurtles toward an existential crisis at a rate that neither the manager or owner have the capability or inclination to arrest.
The cracks between the club and fanbase since November have also started to open into small chasms. Irritability in post-match interviews has threatened to turn into full-scale vitriol at a media viewed as intent on spreading negativity.
Manager Paul Lambert in his own words is thick-skinned and unmoved by criticism but simultaneously finds the tone and narrative of the local media (that he doesn’t read or become affected by) as “negative” and “full of rubbish”.
It is all a bit Schrödinger’s cat (or Lambert's cat if you would prefer) especially after you consider the logic of banning Phil Ham from press conferences for a poster on the TWTD Forum leaking the team following to the Lincoln game.
Lambert's obsession with ponderous possession in a stale 4-3-3 hardly takes much working out for any opposition coach, so prevalent has it been all season and something owner Marcus Evans himself has heralded as a key deliverable for the club. No spoilers there then.
Toto Nsiala's reckless shove in the penalty area that ultimately decided the contest at Sincil Bank will not be much of a surprise for any regular viewer, involved as he has been in four out of the five penalties conceded this season.
As the fantastic analysis account <a href=https://twitter.com/ITFCAnalytics>@itfcanalytics</a> demonstrates on a weekly basis, by every available metric, Ipswich Town are a poor to middling League One team.
High levels of possession (on average 55%) with low levels of conversion into chances (14th in ‘expected goals’, 16th in shots per game, 23rd in penalty box entries), coupled with an increasing penchant for giving up chances (12th in League One).
Avoiding too much nerdy stats analysis for a minute, the point really is that most managers can quickly work out what we are about, and our coach does not have the imagination or skill to counteract this. Thus, throwing out a respected local journalist is a remarkably spiteful and ill-conceived reaction to the blindingly obvious - we are just not that good.
The longer this decline goes on under Lambert, the more damaging and poisonous it will become. On the pitch losses against Peterborough and Sunderland were largely expected, a damning indictment of a club where big games are just higher profile opportunities to bungle any chance at a hint of redemption or hell, visible progress.
We have, of course, watched managers under Evans slowly and visibly corrode as the pressures of being a human shield manifest into ill-tempered digs at the long-suffering fanbase.
This is not an entitled group getting antsy over some poor form, this is a group at odds with watching the slow bleeding out of a club over 10 years by a uninterested owner and a cadre of hapless, helpless individuals.
We don’t expect to be anywhere else, the tedium of watching this play out all over again, year after year after year, coupled with continual jibes from the club’s hierarchy will have dire consequences for the club’s success in getting fans to part with their hard-earned cash come April.
The owner has hardly gone on the PR charm offensive to counter any dissatisfaction off the pitch either. His mocking of the fans with a ‘careful what you wish for’ jibe was quickly replaced by a contrite press release and yet more meaningless platitudes about ‘green shoots’ of positivity.
This is a club that since the turn of the year have been in free-fall, losing six out of seven at home, including a particularly galling capitulation against second-bottom Swindon in front of the Sky cameras.
Words are cheap and actions are in short supply. Looking enviously around for models of success, you are only to look at Preston, Brentford, and hell, even Norwich City and even further up at Brighton at Southampton for what could have been had there been a concerted commitment to getting the right people in place at the most influential levels of the club.
Look too at Peterborough, Lincoln, Oxford and even the MK Dons for examples closer to home. We are behind the curve by five to 10 years, chasing our tail and hoping, rather than planning, for the best.
Perhaps the club have forgotten that we can see the performances with our own eyes and therefore the post-match, superlative-laden analyses by Lambert, hailing performances as excellent represent a sinister gas-lighting of a fan base that are increasingly required to put up and shut up.
The club peddles misinformation akin to Chemical Ali or Baghdad Bob telling journalists that everything was fine whilst the city burned to scorched earth in the background.
Never mind Trumpism, Evans's "green shoots" underpinned by some interesting statistical interpretations continue to insist that promotion is still on the agenda, despite the stacking evidence in front of him.
Excuses are grasped and repackaged as positives, injuries, suspensions, refereeing decisions, weather, fixture congestion, the imbalance of the EFL financial model. As Stuart Watson brilliantly asserted in the EADT recently; words like should, would and could are doing some particularly heavy lifting for the club now.
By now, however frustrated most of us feel with the club as the latest poor soul is about to be put out of his misery and replaced with the next, we must all surely acknowledge that the corrosive failure of this manager will ultimately be replaced with a corrosive failure of the next.
The problem is not the singer, it is the song and the song is written and produced by Marcus Evans. Under Evans, the culture of mediocrity and low professional standards has become part of the furniture for a club that used to be much, much more than the sum of its parts.
Everything about the club and its operation seems to have become tacky, cheapened and accepting of average, from the website to the stands and everywhere in between. Even the lockdown fitness video by club mascot Bluey was poorly thought-out, shoddy and more like a budget media studies project than a well-considered and professional-looking video for the fans.
Ipswich Town FC for now is just an old aristocratic family that fell on hard times and lost the lot, from the chauffeur-driven Bentley to the grand European tours. The name stands as a reminder of what has been and gone.
A slow decline over 10 years has been followed by a head over arse tumble into League One and has seemed to knock the last bit of stuffing out of the club. The jaded seats and tatty stands are now accurate representation of a tentative and rudderless outfit on and off the pitch.
So, what is left to say or do? How much more must happen before fans at one of the most placid clubs in the country say enough is enough? Excommunicated in League One with lower expectations than ever, we reside under a leader in Marcus Evans who just cannot seem to get any of it right.
The assumption that his skills accrued in his business empire are somehow transferable to running a football club is flawed. Whilst he props up the club and its debts owning the bricks and mortar and its name on the door, in 13 years he has truly failed to comprehend the soul of the club and its proud heritage, as well as its true importance in the lives of young, old, local and exile. In short, one wonders whether he cares enough to listen.
He would do well to read verbatim the powerful words of one Sir Robert William Robson, CBE: “What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”
We this year honour Robson's ‘Boys of 81’ on the 40th anniversary of the UEFA Cup triumph as though witnessing achievements of a completely different club.
Robson's Ipswich was well run, proud and regularly bloodied noses through being more than the sum of its parts. Whilst we honour that era today, many of us are deeply saddened by what has become of our beautiful club.
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