Written by Tristan90 on Wednesday, 17th Feb 2021 14:20
Marcellus, a guard at Elsinore Castle, is a bit-part character in Hamlet yet utters one of the play’s most famous lines: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
Marcellus warns Hamlet against following the ghost, he’s pretty forthright in his "I’m not supporting your decisions, don’t go, I’m not following you" point and yet, when Hamlet ignores him and does go, Marcellus follows him anyway. The demands faded away and loyalty won out despite how firmly in the right Marcellus was.
As my direct debit continues to leave my account every month, paying into a void with no idea what I’ll get in return, I am feeling like Marcellus. I’ll rail against Marcus Evans, against Paul Lambert, against the state of our club but I’ll follow it regardless.
It’s not blind loyalty - like Marcellus, I can see the issue as plain as day - yet I go with it anyway. The reasons are many - habit, loyalty, hope, something to do on a Saturday afternoon - but they’re not for now. Yet, despite continuing to follow, I’ll declare, again, that something is rotten in the state of Ipswich Town.
Ipswich Town is a club with problems. Big, deep-rooted, festering problems. Problems that have been half-addressed, glossed over, circumvented or, with admirable sleight of hand, hidden behind an apparently brighter facade and a lick of paint all too often. The ‘New Era’ heralded by the club’s PR machine on the appointment of Paul Hurst is well and truly upon us and what an era it is: record-breaking in all the wrong ways.
First and foremost, there are the on-field issues to address. Last night’s latest nadir was just a long line of low points but it felt different; it wasn’t just a draw at home against Northampton Town (perilously close to warranting the old joke about having ‘nil’ officially added to their name), it was among the most lacklustre, uninspiring and hopeless performances I’ve ever seen on a football pitch and I had the misfortune of watching Cambridge United draw 0-0 with Forest Green in the Conference many years ago. The way this season is going, that match is about to lose its status as The Worst Game Ever.
The loanees, the inexplicable decision not to change the system, the ill-timed substitutions, the fact that Kayden Jackson and Jon Nolan are training with the U23s, Alan Judge’s head-shaking before coming on, the 79-minute wait for a shot on target and whatever it was that Troy Parrott was doing: the list of sins is pretty much endless.
And still we’re unsurprised because this is the Lambert Way, it seems. Right down to sending off, it was a Paul Lambert performance to a tee.
To question whether the quality is there, as he did last night, is absurd; this is a squad that’s been in the top six of League One at Christmas twice. The performances on the pitch have been, with the exception of the Blackpool game and the points regularly gifted to us by Burton Albion, poor at best and this comes down to the management and coaching. Too many excuses and too many mistakes have been made where it counts and that’s why he needs to go.
Lambert’s constant comments about his experience at ‘big clubs’, though, does carry a bit of weight. Yes, it comes across as cocky and arrogant. Yes, it is very often used to as a bad distraction from an even worse performance. Hell, the vast majority of us would chip in a couple of quid to fund a pop-up Bratwurst stall outside Parkhead so he can leave Suffolk and bask in glorious nostalgia.
But his comments today on <i>talkSPORT</i> rang true. He was slammed on Twitter for mentioning Dortmund again but the point he made was worth listening to: "I took some of the guys here to Dortmund to show them how they did things."
I think it’s obvious to everyone with even a passing eye on Ipswich Town’s result and performances that Lambert’s time as an effective manager at our club is over. What that doesn’t change, though, is that he’s got a point: he does know what a successful club looks like. Many brand him ‘PR Paul’ but he was praised when he came in for getting a lot of things about the club’s ethos - or lack of it - right.
He was right that the fans were alienated and, with a bit of acknowledgement, could get Portman Road bouncing. The toxicity of the McCarthy era was over and we sang and danced our way through what was then the club’s worst season ever.
The rise of Blue Action, despite the misguided antics of the other day, is a good thing. He was right to point out that it was wrong that there was ‘no blue’ and ‘no badges’ around the place when he arrived; these things may seem frivolous but they’re emblematic of the culture of a club.
He’s right, too, about how bad things have got under the ever-worsening stewardship of Marcus Evans. The comments Lambert’s made in the last 24 hours (from "There’s got to be a sit down at this football club to see where it’s going" to "I’ve protected owners before and been a lamb to the slaughter - I’m doing it again") have been perhaps the bluntest assessment of the myriad failings of Marcus Evans from anyone outside of the TWTD Forum. As Lambert says, "There has been something drastically wrong […] and it’s not good enough".
Unfortunately, as manager of Ipswich Town, neither is he. He should go whilst we still have a play-off shot, however distant, so the new man can at least have a go with a squad that has something to play for.
We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, though, because the points he makes about the state of the club do come from his successes.
Three parties need to take note: Evans, the new manager and us as fans. Evans cannot continue to ignore the damning impact of his disastrous tenure, the new manager needs to insist that the problems are addressed and we need to ensure that, whilst we give our backing to the new man, we don’t lose sight of the big issues even if he performs miracles.
Fundamental change is required at Ipswich Town. It needs to start with the manager, continue through the structures of the club - a real football person with their own mind in a position of power, anyone? - and, ideally, end in the boardroom.
Will it happen? Who knows but one thing that has come out of the Lambert era, now surely in its dying days, is the laying bare of certain truths: the club is rotten but the support base and passion are there. With the right decisions, all is not lost.
Hamlet was mad to follow that ghost and Marcellus was mad to go with him but hope and loyalty are impossible to ignore; I’ll continue to follow that ill-defined apparition in the distance in the hope that it’s not a ghost but a figure who merits the crown and stick to the belief that, "though this be madness, there is yet method in it".
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