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Lambert's Cat
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=>@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.

Evans's tenure continues to be a sad conflation of mismanagement and misunderstanding about what a football club can do for its community.

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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monty_radio added 12:29 - Feb 1
You'll own that there is no new insight here, but, boy, do you put the ever-present ones well!
Sadly, as you imply, who is listening that really matters?

Edmundo added 12:34 - Feb 1
As soon as lockdown is eased we need to lay seige to PR on matchdays, and demand the removal of PL, and ME needs to get off his ar$e and apologise in person. Then we need a root and branch inquiry that results in a proper plan, not 5 points on the back of a fag packet

Edmundo added 12:35 - Feb 1
By the way, this blog is emotive and succint. Thank you.

DifferentGravy added 12:41 - Feb 1
Thanks Moggasknockdown......good read and found the stats particularly informative.

I agree with a lot of what you said(Evans etc). However, seen enough at this level of football to be convinced that a tactically versatile and savvy manager would get far more from our current crop of players. When players are out of position, playing with such a negative mindset, it is bound to impact their performance. Only the feeling of playing well and goals/wins can improve player confidence. The players cannot achieve this because they are being stifled. Our defence has not been great but neither has it been completely overwhelmed. It is reasonable to expect us to concede a goal(and we have concede three in 3 games....not significant). Its the other end that needs addressing and Lambert is far too incompetent/pig headed to actually learn from his mistakes and take a more attacking approach. The stats concerning shots and entry into the penalty box back this up. But (as you also mentioned) I dont need to look at the stats....just watch the game to see how Lamberts tactics/formation are restricting us.

In short.....we need a proactive manager as oppose to a reactive one.

NthQldITFC added 13:10 - Feb 1
That made me cry.

Marshalls_Mullet added 13:15 - Feb 1
Someone likes Big Bang Theory...

Vanisleblue2 added 20:59 - Feb 1
Great post Moggasknockdown.
Robson's quote is so amazing. It is almost exactly what happened to me on my first home game in 1981. I had been to one away game in 1980
We were playing Arsenal at home and my Uncle took me (I was 10). We had lunch in the Centre Spot Restaurant and rubbed shoulders with some Reserve Team players (Robin Turner I can remember).
We then climbed the steps to the Cobbold Stand and what was infront of me took my breath away. 30,000 fans and the beautiful hallowed turf.
I have been in love ever since but this period in our history is by far the worst time in those 40years

bluelodgeblue added 21:14 - Feb 1
Great post

SheffieldTractor added 06:55 - Feb 2
Fantastic post and your analysis of the Sunderland match is awesome! Have you read Moneyball?

SheffieldTractor added 07:03 - Feb 2
Having said the above I don't necessarily follow your conclusion re Evans. Yes, the passion is missing. But so to the interference. Your analysis of the data and play for the Sunderland game is so logical and well thought out. That's why I'm surprised your analysis of Evans and the reason for our struggle is so lacking in logic and instead built on emotion. How would a more passionate owner translate to changes in the statistics that you expose so brilliantly? I sense you mean more with your criticism that Evans should just invest more money? (Of course we all wish he would but the alternative of Evans leaving will result in much less money in the club as no-one else is wanting to buy and "give" free money to us.) I think the problem IS the singer - but that is not Evans.

Moggasknockdown added 08:08 - Feb 2
Sheffieldtractor, Thanks- I can't take the credit for the stats- they are from the @itftcanalytics twitter feed, which is excellent- they were stats for the first half of the season. Re Evans, I am not sure his investment is necessarily the debate, more what he does with it in the club. As last night demonstrated, when the going gets tough he will spend money (Thomas, Harrop, Matheson and Parrot are higher end loans at this level), but the argument should be more about whether he has the motivation to make the club successful with the funds he is willing to put in. The club is bereft of an appropriate and modern structure, a qualified DoF, we have a rancid injury record (co-incidence?), recruitment is poor (squad is misbalanced and bloated in certain areas), and whilst we are 1 of 2 clubs with a Cat 2 Academy, we seem intent on bringing other clubs players in on loan (although this is perhaps due to the restrictions of the salary cap). I guess the emotion is a secondary factor- many clubs operate successfully with dispassionate owners. I think we can agree, however, that this manager is a busted flush and a change is needed to revive the season and reengage some enthusiasm with the fans as a bare minimum.

d77sgw added 09:56 - Feb 2
Great article. Man, that quote from Bobby - resonates with us all I’m sure. So many good memories - from standing on a milk crate in Churchmans, right through to relegating City under Magic a few years ago. Never really got much better since. The one thing the article misses is the impact of sheer luck combined with economics. Norwich, Southampton, Swansea, Bournemouth, Burnley, Watford, Cardiff, even Hull - lesser clubs which all got promoted to the Prem before it became a totally closed shop. Our misfortune/massive error was not to get promoted in the 00’s. That would have transformed the fortunes of the club (dare I say it, the injury to Shefki was our sliding door moment...). The chance of back to back promotions was utterly killed by the salary cap in League 1 which (whilst generally a good thing for the game) makes it almost inevitable that you need to totally overhaul the squad if you get promoted to the Championship. The latter is becoming as stratified as the Prem, as the financial disparities of parachute payments from the top, and salary caps from the bottom, erode competition. Only solution to me seems to be a proper salary cap across the Football League and let the Prem go off on it’s own, form the super league they’ve wanted for 40 years.

Moggasknockdown added 10:39 - Feb 2
Totally agree. It's all part of the sadness of the club. There have been so many moments (aside from the self inflicted ones) that have set us on the wrong path. The collapse of ITV digital off the back of a disastrous second season in the Prem (for me selling Scowcroft was THE sliding doors moment, given how important he was to our play) caused an administration from which we would never recover. All I want is for the club to have expectations higher than we currently have, and to be a well run club with good intentions- not the garbage, reactionary and cheapened outfit we currently are. Here's hoping eh?!

Lightningboy added 11:20 - Feb 3
Our owner is like King Midas in reverse...reminds me of a Spitting Image sketch from the 80s or 90s about some MP or another where everything he touched turned to sh1t.

Great post btw...was thinking the other day how depressing it is that the current shower are wearing a shirt in tribute to that wonderful team of ‘81.

Sad times.

jabberjackson added 11:59 - Feb 3

kaptinkaos added 09:39 - Feb 4
This article is spot on, in every way. Concerning the manager, apart from the earliest stages of his career, what has he done? What has he achieved? I think the word being sought is nothing. Just proving that no matter how good or even great a player somebody was, it can never be a given that the same player will be a great coach or manager. Somebody must take responsibility for employing duff coaches, can`t get it right and end up constantly change the team, move players around, and bring in equally duff "fresh new faces" Lastly, my dad, was born and bred in the same area as our manager, so I was well used to the accent, except that I can`t understand a word that Lambert mumbles, so heaven help the players.
On the verge of giving up, after so many years.

norfolkbluey added 17:42 - Feb 4
I have been a supporter since 1961 when a friend I was at school with. We used to wake up on Sunday morning early and cycle down to the shop together to get the News of The World to read about Ipswich then one of the leading clubs in the old 1st Division. Those days are now sadly gone and we are now in the same division how is that. Really awful days. Almost everything you said Mogga has a ring of truth. I just think Evans hasn't a clue how to run a club and Paul Lambert had a moment in time as a player and at Norwich which in point of fact was down to his assistant and not him. Until he has gone we are going to languish where we are. Poor ownership and bad manager are a recipe for going nowhere fast. I don't think it was shefki getting injured it was down to McMahon not being signed that we didn't get promoted. He was a fabulous winger with a £200.000 price tag and we didn't cough up the money for him. That was the pivotal moment. Halcyon days. So many wonderful memories of my club, and who then would have thought we would be anchored in this division scrapping around for players to come and help us go forward. If we make it out of this division it will be with divine intervention. One can always hope!!!!

ElephantintheRoom added 10:34 - Feb 6
Excellent piece. I'd take issue with a couple of comments. The description of everything at the club being 'average' is in my humble opinion a tad over-optimistic. Things have been well south of average since the moment Evans was gifted the club. Also I am fairly sure that Covid has created a chasm between all clubs and their supporters - especially in the lower leagues where few can be bothered to watch dross on line. What happens when things 'get back to normal' is anyone's guess - but just as in the restaurant business (and presumably Evans' core businesses, such as they are) the near future will be full of woe.. At the moment, just like Johnson's cabal of liars and extremists ruining the country, Evans' acolytes seem to be making the very same mistakes that created the mess in the first place..... which makes your hope for divine intervention perhaps the only hope!

RegencyBlue added 22:06 - Feb 10
Excellent piece.

For those still trying to make excuses for Evans and asking where would we be without him I ask one simple question. Where the hell are we going to end up with him?

portmanteau added 12:01 - Feb 11
Tks Mogga you have said it all and more. Not so sure about ME owning the debt etc. ITFC apparently owe HIM 100 mill plus and increasing all the time, because he wants back every penny he has spent. ITFC currently pay interest to him of 5.4% pa so thats a cool 540000+ at the moment. You can almost hear him and ITFC saying there is no sentiment in business and therein lies the problem as you have so well laid out.

algarvefan added 11:03 - Feb 19
Great post and pretty much spot on, things just go from bad to worse and the removal of Jackson and Nolan to the U23's is the final straw with me, he is 'washing his dirty linen' in public by giving reasons and they are childish.
I think Lambert will be gone by next weekend and I find myself wishing for a club legend, it might work, who knows? all Evans appointments thus far apart from McCarthy has been dreadful. Oh for my beautiful small friendly club back, one of which I could be proud.
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