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|History does not repeat - but it rhymes ...|
at 19:14 13 Feb 2020
"Bobby Robson was the new man in charge at Portman Road, and he quickly grasped that his dressing room was in the grip of a clique of senior pros, including Baxter, who fancied themselves as more powerful than the boss. For all his avuncular reputation in later years, the young and ambitious Robson was no soft touch, and he showed all the toughness bred into him from his Durham mining background to stamp his authority on the club.
Early on in his tenure, the inevitable showdown came after Baxter had been dropped for a match against Leeds United. Robson said in his autobiography: "Baxter [was] another who had been making the dressing room an uncomfortable place, while testing me to the limits of my endurance. We lost the game 4-2 and they revelled in our misery, laughing and joking and ordering a bottle of champagne to celebrate the defeat."
It was just one more source of friction among many – including a disagreement over which players' wives were permitted entrance to the club's guest room. Robson went on to describe the violent fracas which ensued, and how he stood "toe-to-toe" with Baxter, swapping punches with the Scot until other players intervened. But Robson won the power struggle. The majority of the players backed the manager, and Baxter was sold to Hull City soon after. He had made 409 League appearances for the club, and it was a desperately sad finale to a career that had brought much honour to Baxter and to Ipswich Town.
If Robson had lost his personal battle at Ipswich, it is unlikely that he would ever have made it as a manager. He had, after all, already failed at Fulham. But he followed his Ipswich predecessor, Ramsey, in becoming a much-respected England manager. Baxter's career, meanwhile, was on the wane. His best days in football were behind him."
|Switching to a Category 4 Academy|
at 16:42 5 Feb 2020
As I understand it, there are four categories of football academies. Categories 1 through 3 start with under-9's, and category 4 starts with under-17's. ITFC has a category 2 academy that narrowly missed being a category 1 academy.
ITFC could switch to a category 4 academy that would be cheaper and easier to run. Some entrants could be players who do not make it in Premier League academies (i.e. a 'Brentford Lite' model). Others could be promising foreign players whose parents are willing to pay for their sons to gain EFL academy experience. (This appears to be one of the ways in which Morecambe FC survives with virtually no income. ITFC is far more prestigious, and is ideally located just off the Dutch coast!)
A Category 4 academy could be run economically on the basis of up (into the first team squad) or out (in some cases, for a fee ). Compared to other teams in Leagues One and Two, ITFC would have significant competitive advantages when implementing a Category 4 model. Especially if the facilities were to be spruced up ...
|We do not play well in the rain ... |
at 12:19 28 Dec 2019
We do not play well in the rain. Our most listless defeats have been in the rain (against Accrington Stanley and Rotherham in the League, and Coventry in the FA Cup), and we have under-achieved in other bad weather situations.
This is not really surprising. Skill is at less of a premium in poor conditions, and physical strength, mental resolve and team spirit become more important. Pouring rain makes it more likely that we will be out-worked and out-muscled. So do the absences of Downes, Norwood and Vincent Young.
I'm hoping for a lot of warm spring sunshine ...
|The Downside of Rotation ...|
at 22:44 16 Dec 2019
When asked about the frequent rotation of players and switching of systems, the manager and coaches have asserted that players retain their fitness and match sharpness as a result of high-level training. I disagree.
Several decades ago, I had a brief period (two and a half seasons) of training for, and playing in, competitive games of amateur football. I experienced major differences between high-level training and competitive games. Mentally and psychologically the two situations were different, even if the number of calories expended was comparable (which it seldom was ...)
In intra-squad games, players are familiar with each other's tendencies, know what to expect, and tend to hold back bit in order to avoid injuries to themselves and to team mates. In competitive games, players must react quickly to unpredictable new information, and anticipate correctly how team mates will respond 'under fire'. Some players look great in training but struggle in combat. Others play at half-speed in training, but are warriors in combat.
These observations suggest that managers need to identify warriors, install a system that plays to their strengths, and allow them sufficient time playing together that they become a cohesive fighting unit rather than a collection of talented individuals.
The town squad has the potential to be elite in League One. If I were the manager I would play 4-3-3, with tweaks depending on personnel and circumstances. Midfield and strikers are well above the League One average, but would benefit from playing together consistently in a settled system. A benefit of the 4-3-3 is that it is more entertaining for supporters to watch than systems that use a lone striker and produce only occasional shots on target. I personally would rather watch an exciting 3-2 loss than a boring 0-0 draw ...
The back four has fixable problems. Wolfenden is a huge talent, Vincent Young has great potential, and Donacien provides adequate coverage for Vincent Young. Chambers is an experienced platoon leader but is slowing down, and Wilson would struggle in the Championship. Left back has been a perennial problem, and is what I would seek to upgrade during the January transfer window. As far as the other CB is concerned: I would try to work out why Nsiala was a League One player of the year when he played for Paul Hurst, and a dominating player in the Championship for the last half dozen games of last season while playing for Paul Lambert. I would then try to develop a long-term partnership between Wolfenden and Nsiala. If that were to flourish, it would solve a lot of problems ...
I have never watched professional players train, but would find it interesting to observe match ups between Chambers and Jackson, and between Norwood and Nsiala ...
|If Evans wants out ... |
at 17:25 5 Aug 2019
The following scenario is pure speculation.
As a businessman, Evans wants to divest a loss-making business. He is ready to write off the loans he has made to the business, but is unwilling to shoulder responsibility for the debt that was assumed when the business was acquired. How should he proceed?
Very plausibly, by attempting to sell the business as a going concern that has decent prospects. If so, he would try to cut operating costs, avoid making additional loans to the business, and do whatever he could to avoid any perception of a fire sale.
This course of action would be logical for ME, but it would put PL in a difficult situation ...
|Next man up ...|
at 21:52 18 Jul 2019
After last season, it is understandable that some Town fans have developed a tendency to panic early, panic often, and assume the worst. However, we are in a far better situation this season than the chaos that existed at the beginning of last season. Having regained some stability, we can now start to develop resilience. This comes from developing a strong team ethic, with the expectation that when players are injured, the 'next man up' will come in, and the team will continue to function as a team.
In the case of the back four 'crisis', Kenlock and Emmanuel are decent League 1 FB's, Wolfenden did well in League 2 and is ready to step up, Donacien is a versatile 'next man up', Chambers will be back after his one game suspension, and Ndaba looks very promising Although Nsiala's ham string injury is unfortunate, it is not a disaster for a resilient squad.
|A 62-year round-trip ...|
at 18:30 3 Mar 2019
The chances of gaining 13 points from the final 11 games are tiny. The chances of gaining 13 points more than Reading or Rotherham will gain are, for practical purposes, zero. The most we can hope for is that the team will play attractive football for the rest of the season and perhaps achieve a few unexpected wins. Then, after 62 years of continuous presence in the top two tiers of English football, the club will return to its roots.
As a Town fan for the last 52 of the 62 years, my reaction is one of relief. The first 25 years of the 62 were glory years (with a few dips). The last 35 years were choppier, with some ups but more downs. Among other circumstances, the establishment of the Premier league, with its huge financial risks and rewards, changed the nature of football. It became increasingly difficult for a relatively small club such as Ipswich to prosper; and survival in the Championship came at the costs of an over-reliance on loan players and playing an unattractive style of football. That cycle needed to be broken.
Relegation to League One is a form of homecoming. The club is big enough to prosper in League One, and will have an opportunity to evolve in ways that are sustainable and can provide a solid foundation for renewed success. In the short term, the squad can be pruned of loan players, chronically injured players, and older players. This will open up opportunities for younger players, and improve the alignment between costs and revenues. The club can return to the 'brand' of playing attractive football in front of enthusiastic supporters, which is how I remember teams of the late 1960's. If the long-term result is some more 'glory years', so much the better.
In my opinion, Paul Lambert is an almost ideal choice to manage the club at this point in its history. A believer in playing attractive football? Yes. A believer in playing in front of enthusiastic supporters? Yes. A track record of success in a comparable situation? Yes. I am looking forward to next season in a way that I have not experienced for a long time.
|Sympathy for Paul Hurst |
at 00:11 10 Feb 2019
A reference point for Paul Hurst's tenure at Ipswich is Brian Clough's tenure at Leeds United.
Clough was a plain-speaking Yorkshire man who achieved excellent results managing Derby County. In July 1974, after Don Revie left Leeds to become the manager of England, Clough became the manager of Leeds. Results were poor, and his tenure at Leeds lasted just 44 days. There was hostility between the manager and his players. A dramatized version of the events was depicted in the film 'The Damned United". Twelve weeks after he was terminated by Leeds, Clough became tha manager of Nottingham Forest, where he enjoyed huge success for several years and remained for 18 years. Analyses of Clough's time at Elland Road have concluded that he correctly identified the need for a dramatic change of culture, but greatly underestimated the difficulty of changing a deeply-entrenched culture.
Paul Hurst is a plain-spoken Yorkshire man who achieved excellent results managing teams in the National League, League Two and League One. In May 2018, Hurst became the manager of Ipswich Town. Results were poor, and his tenure at Ipswich lasted less than five months. Future analyses of Hurst's time at Portman Road may well conclude that he correctly identified the need for a dramatic change of culture, but greatly underestimated the difficulty of changing a deeply-entrenched culture.
Consider the situation that Hurst inherited:
During the two previous seasons, the team had achieved mediocre results. Prior to Hurst's arrival, three significant loanees (Celina, Connolly and Carter-Vickers) and a talented forward (McGoldrick) had left. Other players were upset about the way that their previous manager had been treated, or felt unsettled about their futures. Within a few weeks Webster, Waghorn and Garner had moved on. The shelves had to be restocked quickly.
Hurst brought in several loanees, including talented young players (Chalobah, Pennington, and Edun) and a veteran forward (Walters). He attempted to sign a veteran defender (Collins). Hurst also signed players who had performed well in Leagues One and Two, including two defenders (Donacien and Nsiala), a midfielder (Nolan) and several forwards (Harrison, Jackson, Edwards, and Roberts).
With such drastic and rapid change, it was inevitable that it would take time for the squad to gel. Hurst did not manage expectations well. His dealings with established players seemed unnecessarily confrontational; and blaming the players for the loss to Exeter seemed like an abdication of his share of the responsibility. Even so, there were reasons to think that change could be weathered. Given a deserved away win, rather than a last-minute, undeserved loss, at Rotherham; effective adjustments to the way set-pieces were defended; a return to previous form for the goalkeeper; and a healthy Jonathan Walters; the corner could have been turned.
It was not to be. Momentum turned, hopes were dashed, patience ran out. In retrospect, Paul Hurst came into a difficult situation and did many, but not enough, things right. If he has learned from the experience, he will return to another job as a better manager and will achieve fresh success.
|We can stay up ...|
at 00:13 23 Jan 2019
If the 'new' squad plays with mid-table form, the record over the last 18 games could be something like W6 D6 L6. In that case, Town would have 42 points, which could well be enough to stay up.
Can the 'new' squad achieve mid-table form? Before the January signings, no. With Collins, Keane, and Judge - possibly. If Skusey regains fitness and form, chances improve. If, with Collins anchoring the defence, Bart regains confidence and form, I would be willing to place a bet at evens ...
Does Will Keane remind anyone else of David Johnson who played for Ipswich in the early- to mid-1970's and went on to Liverpool? Skilful, fast, elusive, with a distinctive hair style and fun to watch ...
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