David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Ipswich Town’ Category

12 seasons is a long time in football…

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

MM

As the Championship’s longest serving club, currently enduring their 12th season in the second tier – Ipswich Town fans have had relatively little to cheer about since relegation in 2002. Since the 2008/09 season they have been as mid-table you can imagine, with every season all but over by April Fools Day.

In that time Ipswich have racked up over £70m worth of debt, all owed to the clubs reclusive owner, Marcus Evans, as 3 managers spent big money chasing promotion. The last 2 (Roy Keane and Paul Jewell) ending up being sacked as the club looked to be exiting the league in the wrong direction.

Finally the club have a manager that has the club moving in the right direction, taking over in November 2012 with Ipswich cut adrift at the bottom of the league, Mick McCarthy led Ipswich to mid-table obscurity with a record that would have seen them in the play off zone if extrapolated for the whole season.

The big test was to see if he could stabilise the club which was overly reliant on loan players and those on short term deals – over the summer 10 new signings were made, with only £20k spent on transfer fees as the over spending of previous managers, coupled with the impending Financial Fair Play regulations meant McCarthy had to operate with one armed tied behind his back.

McCarthy has used the squad he has assembled and made us very hard to beat, while there can sometimes be a lack of flair on display no side will work harder than Ipswich, and the heavy beatings which were a regular occurrence under Paul Jewell are truly a thing of the past (Wigan, Leicester and QPR are the only sides to have beaten Ipswich by more than one goal this season).

After a difficult start to the season as the new players took time to gel, Ipswich went on an excellent run which culminated on them reaching the dizzy heights of 6th place on the 29th December – led by the rock-solid centre back pairing of Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra and the goals of David McGoldrick.

It was at this point the small squad and a lack of strength in depth began to catch up with them, a number of lacklustre performances and far too many draws saw them slide away from the play off zone and looking like another season of mid table obscurity was to occur. Again it seemed as though the season would be over by April 1st, especially when 16 goal top scorer McGoldrick was ruled out for the rest of the campaign after picking up an innocuous looking injury in added time against Blackpool.

As the season began to dwindle out, and thoughts began to turn to the 2014/15 season, McCarthy managed to bring in the very highly-rated Jonny Williams on loan from Crystal Palace. A defeat against Wigan left Ipswich 5 points of the play offs, and with a week that would define their season – fixtures against play off rivals Brighton, Derby and Nottingham Forest.

These games became must win matches, and the usually cautious McCarthy gave Williams a free role behind Daryl Murphy and tasked him with getting on the ball and making things happen – 2 Man of the Match displays and 6 points later, and with favourable results elsewhere – Ipswich are now 2 points off the play offs with a game against manager-less and out of form Nottingham Forest to come.

A win on Saturday, in what is due to be the last game of Williams’ loan spell, and who would bet against McCarthy’s boys making the play offs?

He has shown himself to be an equal of any manager at this level over last 18 months and his experience of taking teams out of this league will prove invaluable as we enter ‘squeaky bum time’ – he has been there, done that and got the t-shirt.

With Ipswich having a favourable run of games at home as the season ends Ipswich fans are beginning to believe that they can gate crash the play off zone, and no side would relish a trip to Portman Road to take on a side that may lack quality but never lack fight.

When McCarthy was Wolves manager he joked that the ‘MM’ on his jumper didn’t stand for Merlin the Magician – if he can take Ipswich from bottom of the Championship to the play offs in just 18 months, effectively using only free transfers – then the natives of Suffolk will begin to question that assertion.

Written by Joe Fairs

Joe tweets at @joefairs

Can Mick make us more than just mediocre?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

MM

I rarely get excited by the start of the football season nowadays.

Even less so in the middle of summers when the temperatures are sweltering and other sports are keeping me entertained (predominately cricket at present).

My lack of interest probably reached its zenith last summer when in the midst of the Olympics and while preparing to get married the day before the first game, I honestly could not have cared less about who Ipswich were playing.

I’m going to put last year’s malaise down to one person. Paul Jewell.

I’ll put the overall indifference down to Ipswich’s record in the Championship over the last decade. No decent promotion challenge since 2005 with the last time coming even remotely close to the play offs being 2008.

We don’t do promotion challenges, well not in this decade at least. We do mid-table mediocrity or if you’re lucky, a relegation zone scrap until mid-March before a relatively strong finish to the respectability of 16th!

But, maybe, just maybe, this season could be different.

It’s a chance for Mick McCarthy to show how he steered a squad full of under performing and under motivated players out of danger and into relative safety from a position of utter despair last season.

To use an old football cliche, he really has put his stamp on the team now with 10 new signings over the course of the summer testament to that addage. At the same time, gone are some of those aforementioned under performers.

However, Town fans have seen this happen before in recent history and very little has changed. After all, we are the Championship’s longest servants.

That division we know all too well by now yet again looks set to be a strongly contested one. There are a large number of sides rightly labelled promotion contenders.

But, there’s something different about Mick McCarthy and the way he goes about his business that gives this great pessimist some confidence. He knows how to motivate players, he surrounds himself with hard-working characters, who are prepared in his own words, “to put a real shift in”.

Defender Christophe Berra epitomises this spirit and his addition to the squad probably stands out as the summer’s key addition.

David McGoldrick and Frank Nouble look set to lead the line and the goal threat along with Daryl Murphy and the fit-again Paul Taylor. Midfield creators Cole Skuse and Paul Anderson will join other relatively new faces Anthony Wordsworth and Jay Tabb.

McCarthy may have chosen not to splash the cash on one big name signing, but what he has done is identify players he can build a squad around with strong cover and resilience. That strategy was in evidence towards the end of last season when his rotation of personnel helped keep everyone fresh and motivated to perform at a crucial time.

I never usually make predictions on where we might finish or how our season might unfold, but on this occasion I will make one. We will have a very tough start.

Reading away, followed by Millwall at home and then QPR away represent a tricky first three games with a league cup trip to Stevenage sandwiched in between. Following that, a home game with Leeds and then a trip to Birmingham finish off a busy first month.

I’ll try not to get in too much of a panic if we’re not pulling up any trees in the top six come September. I just hope the majority of town fans can do the same and believe in Mick’s philosophy.

….now, when does the next Ashes test match start?

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

 

Sweating on survival

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

So here we are then, that time of the season Sir Alex Ferguson once colourfully described as “squeaky bum time”.  The final run-in where every little twist and turn in a game gets psycho-analysed by fans, pundits, players and coaches with all the possible permutations of survival, relegation and promotion played-out in people’s minds.

For Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich side, it’s that old chestnut of having “our fate in our own hands” as things stand in the Championship table with eight games remaining.

Sadly, I’m not sure I’m completely comfortable with that position given the resurgence shown by sides in the bottom six since the turn of the year and the ever-popular addage that “anyone can beat anyone in this division”.

I don’t even want to begin to imagine what might happen over the remaining weeks with other teams’ games against supposed higher fliers in the division. What I know is that Ipswich probably need to realistically win another two or three games from their last eight to make themselves secure.

Currently, we sit four points above the drop zone with 46 points from 38 games, but having played a game more than the two sides immediately beneath us and with a far inferior goal difference.

My feeling is that our “fate” will ultimately be determined by two games away at fellow strugglers. Millwall on Easter Monday and Sheffield Wednesday on 20 April. The Hillsborough clash is the third from last game in the season and in theory, we could already be out of the picture by then. But, with the run of results teams currently in the bottom six have shown the capacity to produce, I think not.

People who know me well and my opinions towards Ipswich Town’s fortunes will recognise a track-record for pessimism, but what gives me confidence in this current crop heading in to the final stretch is the resilience they’ve shown in recent matches. Admittedly, we’re not pulling up any trees in the goalscoring charts (just three goals in eight games at the time of writing), but we’re not shipping bucket loads at the other end either. That has without question been a hallmark of McCarthy’s influence since he took charge in November.

Looking at things from a wider perspective, if the Championship season had started on the day McCarthy took charge, Ipswich would currently be 7th in the league table rather than 19th. The reason why we find ourselves still very much in the dogfight is down to the abysmal start we made under Paul Jewell this season with just seven points in the bag on 1 November.

There were some early thumpings handed down to McCarthy when he first came in, notably at Palace and Leicester, but you would have to go back to New Year’s Day to find the last time a side truly ran through Ipswich, in the shape of Brighton. Even a free-scoring Watford were limited to just a 2-0 win at Portman Road at the height of their form in February, while the division’s flavour of the month Nottingham Forest took until six minutes from time to finally break down a nine-man Ipswich side at the City Ground earlier this month.

So who have we got to contend with in the remaining games? Leeds (h), Millwall (a), Derby (a), Hull (h), Crystal Palace (h), Sheffield Wednesday (a), Birmingham (h), Burnley (a).

At home, I fancy us to beat anyone at the moment, given the performances we’ve produced recently against Leicester and Bolton to efficiently engineer 1-0 wins through late goals. Away from home, it’s a less than clear picture, but I don’t see why we should fear anyone. The players appear to have bought-in to the McCarthy way of keeping a solid shape as the away team and frustrating the hosts into making mistakes of their own.

With a bit more luck and better discipline, we would have arguably got more from recent trips to Huddersfield, Forest and Peterborough.

Come 4 May, I’ll either print this out and reassure myself that my early spring confidence wasn’t misguided or I’ll cry quietly into a pint as I contemplate a season in the third tier.

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

Mick needs more aces in pack for magic to rub off

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Mick McCarthy’s reign as Ipswich Town manager is now 10 games old. A fair point you could argue to sit down and assess the impact he has had.

His record reads like this: Won five, drawn two, lost three, scored 13, conceded 18.

Added to that, he has taken the side from bottom of the table with just nine points to the relative safety of 20th and 24 points.

But, there is still a huge challenge ahead for McCarthy to keep this side in the division and away from the drop zone. Christmas is always a tricky time to negotiate and the games come thick and fast.

Following a less than convincing 1-1 draw at home to Bristol City before Christmas, Town take on Charlton and Wolves away before Brighton at home on New Year’s Day.

All three games are arguably very winnable, but what will test the side’s resolve is how McCarthy shuffles his pack of what still is a very disjointed squad.

He inherited a absolute mish-mash of loannees and out-of-form players when Paul Jewell departed and there is still a considerable overhang.

He has managed to add the likes of Bradley Orr and Tyrone Barnett to the squad since his arrival as well as plucking a youngster by the name of Tyrone Mings from non-league Chippenham Town.

In terms of trimming the loannees, sadly an injury to Tyrone Barnett has cut short his loan from Peterborough, while no new deal was struck to hang on to Richie Wellens from Leicester City, who impressed many with his performances.

What is clear is that McCarthy is slowly identifying which players could form part of his long-term strategy.

Tommy Smith has found himself paired with Luke Chambers in central defence ahead of the more experienced loan signing of Danny Higginbotham. Elsewhere, skipper Carlos Edwards has returned to his natural environment of right midfield rather than right back and his preferred front pairing of Daryl Murphy and DJ Campbell has edged out an eager-to-impress Michael Chopra and a hit-and-miss Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

In midfield, Guirane N’Daw, Luke Hyam and Andy Drury have all played their parts in shoring up the team in the middle third.

January looks set to be a very telling time for how this season will pan out, not just in terms of the transfer window reopening but also a fixture list that includes Aston Villa away in the FA Cup, then trips to leaders Cardiff and fellow strugglers Bristol City either side of an almost “must win” home clash against lowly Barnsley.

Who goes and who comes in the new year will ultimately define if the second half of the season becomes the all too familiar elevation to the mid-table or continues to be a dogfight at the bottom with clubs of similar stature and inconsistency.

Holding on to DJ Campbell and his goal threat looks like being McCarthy’s biggest challenge. A certain Mr Redknapp in West London may decide to recall the striker and use him as his plan B to rescue QPR from their Premier League predicament.

Others who look set to go at the end of their loans are the afformentioned Higginbotham, Bilel Mohsni from Southend United, goalkeeper Stephen Henderson to West Ham and Nigel Reo-Coker at the end of his less than successful short-term deal.

More long-term members who have found themselves down the pecking order include Jason Scotland and Josh Carson.

Both could well see themselves heading out on loan while others come in.

Not surprisingly, McCarthy has beeen linked with some of his former Wolves signings such as former Town target Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, along with Richard Stearman and Ronald Zubar.

McCarthy and assistant Terry Connor certainly looked to have instilled a bit more confidence and lifted morale around the club since taking over at the start of November, but there is still work to be done to add quality in key areas.

They must also be applauded for picking the team up from two thumping defeats at Crystal Palace (0-5) and Leicester City (0-6) early on and for stringing three wins together, which included an impressive late win at Bolton (2-1) and an almost routine dismantling of in-form Millwall (3-0).

There is, for the first time in a while, reason to be optimistic, but pessimistic supporters out there (like myself in case you hadn’t already noticed from the tone of this) will be cautious of what could happen next.

If the results and the performances on the pitch come, the club will see the difference in the mood of supporters and the community.

Sadly, home attendances have so far hovered around the 17,000 mark all season and it’s high time the club were pulling in bigger crowds and raising the atmosphere around Portman Road.

Like Goldfinger, hopefully Mick can be the man with the midas touch.

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

Sadly it had to end this way

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

No football fan can honestly say they go into a game wanting their side to lose, but sadly that was the position I found myself in this week with Ipswich Town coming up against Derby County.

It seemed the only way to instigate a drastically required change in management and ethos that ultimately came the following day with the departure of Paul Jewell.

History will show the 2-1 defeat turned out to be Jewell’s final game in charge of the club and the end of what has been a massively unsuccessful period in charge for the former Bradford, Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday boss since January 2011.

He took over a team in a Championship relegation battle and now he has left one bottom of the table.

While the buck surely does have to stop with the manager in what people always call “a results business”, the factors leading to Jewell’s demise go much higher and wider than just events on-the-pitch.

As has been mentioned on this blog numerous times before, Ipswich Town as a club is slowly losing its identity and reputation under the current boardroom regime.

Gone is the perception and even admiration from others for it being a family club with a pedigree for producing home-grown talent and attractive, free-flowing football.

In its place since Marcus Evans invested his millions five years ago has come a slowly decaying, also-ran club, who seem increasingly distant from its fan base and values.

What has to happen now is not just the appointment of a new manager to firstly pull the club out of a relegation battle, but a new man in the chief executive’s chair and an owner who actually wants to show his face and be part of the community.

David Sheepshanks may not have been everyone’s cup of tea as a chairman in the 90s and early noughties and he was in charge at a time the club entered administration, but he always gave you the sense he was proud of the part his club played in shaping people’s lives.

He was paraochial, articulate and proud of his club’s achievements, recognising that the town and indeed Suffolk needed a club it could look up to.

Where was Marcus Evans when the final whistle blew on Tuesday night? On a yacht on holiday in the Caribbean allegedly. Hardly a way to identify with your common man or supporter.

It’s time the club was given a complete overhaul.

Time to ship out the endless loanees in the squad and play our own contracted players and a squad of hungry, young players with a desire to prove themselves.

Personally, I would rather see us finish bottom of the table fielding a side of fresh, young players than stutter through the rest of the season with a collection of other clubs’ players and short-term signings looking for their next pay day.

The other main question is who takes charge next?

I think the bigger question is who would want to take charge next?

We are far from an attractive option now for an out-of-work manager and our pulling power in coaxing someone else out of another job I would imagine is almost non-existent.

Sadly, I think things will get worse before they get better.

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

No awards for long service in this division

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

It’s Sunday afternoon and while the rain lashes down outside and the Premier League’s big boys thrash it out on the telly in the latest edition of “Super Sunday”, I notice the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day is on. You know, the one where he keeps waking up and the same series of events play out over and over again until he can work out how to snap out of it.

See, that’s been the story of Ipswich Town since the era of Marcus Evans began back in late 2007. Never moving forward, but constantly coming back to the same spot.

Where has the club gone? Nowhere. Where is it heading? League One. How are the club’s attendances? Dwindling. What’s the mood of the fans? Despondent. What are the prospects for the rest of the season? Bleak. What’s the manager’s chances of being in a job next month? Minimal.

You see, I could’ve written this blog along this theme many times before now and it would’ve read exactly the same. Ipswich Town Football Club is a club stuck in a rut, going nowhere, repeating a cycle of mediocrity.

Except this season, things look a little different. Yes, that tale of lower-table, nothing-to-play-for-by-early-March scenario might be about to change. Not for the better I might add, but for the worse.

This club is heading in only one direction, down. Unless of course someone out there can find the magic solution to wake up this slowly decaying and withering old nag.

Paul Jewell is a man once again living on borrowed time. Marcus Evans continues to be a man more elusive that Lord Lucan, but one who also seems reluctant to want to step in and protect his substantial investment from going to the wall.

As for the players, well is it any wonder their motivation is so low when you read what a lifelong supporter like myself makes of the current demise?

As has been mentioned numerous times before on this blog, Ipswich now hold the record for being the longest serving club in the Champioship. Sadly, there’s no gold watch for that accolade, just the realisation that you’ve been in the same place, mixing in the same circles, going through the same motions for far too long.

Last season that honour was held by Coventry City and we all know what happened then.

This season, I see the same thing happening again. Relegation to the third tier of English football is on the cards for the so-called Pride of Suffolk.

Maybe that will be a good thing? It seems to have worked for other clubs of our size and stature who have come back fighting stronger and harder. It could be exactly the kick up the proverbial we all need.

Of course it wouldn’t be a good thing! Our supporters are already a deeply despondent and dissatisfied bunch, who have had their fill of broken dreams, shattered promises and pointless end-of-season clashes at Ashton Gate against Bristol City.

It’s high time something good happened at Portman Road, not just another season of abject failure interspersed with flashes of promise.

We already charge quite possibly the highest match day ticket prices in the division and our season ticket holder numbers have been sliding for the last five years.

Honestly, what would come next if it were a season or more in League One?

Paul Jewell, you are not the man for this crisis. It’s been proven before at other clubs and it will no doubt happen again.

You have achieved absolutely nothing in almost two years and we’ve been “treated” to a succession of dreadful signings, appaling tactics and laughable soundbites in your post-match press conferences.

Move on man. The time has come for someone else to put their head above the parapet and make a go of it.

More to the point, it’s time for the owner to sell-up and count his losses. In Marcus Evans’ six-and-a-bit seasons as owner, we have gone through three managers (so far!) and finished in 8th, 9th, 15th, 13th and 15th.

Non-descript and emmanently forgettable.

My prediction for this season? Right now, I’d be happy with 21st, but I fear much worse.

Someone needs to grab hold of this club and rescue it before it’s all too late.

We’re a sinking ship, the band’s still playing, but fewer people are listening.

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

Turned out nice again?

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Nine games is a very long time in a season, but what a change in fortune the last nine have had for Ipswich Town and indeed, a previously beleaguered Paul Jewell.

When I finished my last blog, basking in the light of a superb 5-1 home win over West Ham, I promised another entry before the Hull City away trip on March 10. Unfortunately, external factors have limited my blogging opportunities as well as my chances to watch Town in action.

Thankfully, Town have been less than tardy in going about their business of late and the recent run of results (one defeat in nine) is a welcome relief to the Blue and White faithful, who it’s fair to say have endured somewhat of a frustrating few seasons.

While the recent upturn in form means Championship status appears secure for another season, some fans will be wondering yet again, how has this club underachieved in a division where it should realistically be challenging the top six?

The last ten games will be accompanied by the all-too-recently-familiar “playing for league position end of season pride” feeling. Perhaps the explanation for another year of mid-to-lower-table obscurity lies at the feet of the club’s management. What are Paul Jewell and his backroom staff not doing to identify the players and coaches with the potential to take the team back to the top flight?

Or perhaps, the fans should take a portion of the blame? Continued home attendances averaging around 18,000 in a 30,000 capacity stadium can hardly do much for creating an atmosphere or inspiring the players. Those who continually stay away – and this includes me for reasons such as distance and financial constraints – will quite rightly argue little has been done to entice them back to Portman Road more regularly.

This farcical situation reared its head last month during the abandoned Middlesbrough home game when the mid-winter temperatures plummeted to record lows. Quite rightly the game was called off, but the way in which Chief Executive Simon Clegg handled the refund policy in the days after was shameful.

I went to that game along with a group of five others, who were all flabbergasted to hear they would have to pay again to watch the rearranged fixture. This looks like being my last visit to Portman Road this season and it’s hardly one I will hold fondly among the memories of the last 20 years of watching the club. Sadly, Ipswich will face Boro on Tuesday March 27 for the new date in an even more subdued atmosphere, as no doubt dozens others like myself can’t get to the game or are unwilling to shell out even more for the privilege.

Going back to the question about Paul Jewell and his long-term strategy for the side, how much more will he be backed by the owners this summer in the transfer market? This presuming he is still in the job beyond the end of the season – remember how Jim Magilton was jettisoned so abruptly by Marcus Evans?

A huge turnover of players has taken place in the last four seasons and there are hardly any survivors from the pre-Roy Keane days. Some new additions this season have been a success like Michael Chopra, others hit and miss, such as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and the rest, complete flops, in the form of former Wigan striker Nathan Ellington.

However, what has been central to the upturn in form since late January has been the resurgence of players from the pre-Jewell days. Lee Martin, Luke Hyam and Tommy Smith are three of those who’ve rediscovered their form and taken their respective opportunities to nail down regular places in the starting line-up. Add another name to that list in Andy Drury – scorer of some superb goals of late – but still you’ve only got one of Jewell’s signings making a significant impact.

It’s been a torrid 14 months in the job for Jewell really, form has never been conistent, the defence has been far from secure and he has arguably avoided the sack by 45 minutes on at least two occasions. Come May, will the mysterious Marcus Evans decide to part company with him and plump for another candidate? Or, having learned his lesson from the ill-fated Roy Keane experiment, will he stick with the man in the hot seat for one more season?

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

Have Town finally weathered the storm?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Take a look at the date of my last blog entry and you’ll quickly realise it coincided with Ipswich’s 5-3 win over Barnsley on December 10.

You’d been well within your rights to chant at me: “you only blog when you’re winning”. But, the honest truth is I’ve been holding off posting for the last six weeks as there’s been so many elements to the soap opera of this season, you’re just never sure if you’ll keep up with the latest twist in the plot.

Since that crazy second-half display at Oakwell, Town followed it up with an unconvincing 1-0 win against Derby, but then had to wait another eight games to record their next three points, an equally ridiculous 5-1 home win against league leaders West Ham.

Between those two headline-grabbing performances though have been some real concerning and alarm-ringing episodes both on and off the field. Where do you start? Paul Jewell’s ill-judged comments towards assistant referee Amy Fearn after the late defeat to Birmingham at St Andrews or the series of shocking defensive lapses to surrender winning positions against Blackpool and Leeds?

The answer is they’ve all contributed to possibly the lowest confidence rating among fans for more than 25 years. In the same week Simon Grayson has lost his job at Leeds United, it still astounds a significant number of Town supporters that Paul Jewell has survived in his post this long.

Personally, I would’ve sacked him after the defeat at Birmingham and the media frenzy that followed the next morning from his “to a man, but not a woman” comment.

I felt at that point in time, he had lost all ability to instill confidence in his players and that luck was clearly not going to be on his side. Those who watched that game will rightly tell you Ipswich dominated for long periods and were more than worthy of three points. The following game at Elland Road saw Town take a first-half lead then capitulate with three howling errors to give the hosts a 3-1 win. At this point, I couldn’t see a way he could possibly continue as manager. Before all this, Town had also managed to allow Forest to score their only six goals in nine games. Truly embarrassing.

But then, out of the blue, from as right field as right fields go, an astounding 5-1 rout of West Ham.

How the hell did this happen? Speak to regulars who watch home and away and they’ll tell you it’s down to selecting a group of players hungry to prove themselves when handed the opportunity. Luke Hyam, Andy Drury and Tommy Smith are just three players who’ve been out-of-favour for long periods, but now appear to be thriving on the chance of a continued run in the side.

In fact, Drury has been nothing short of inspirational since his return from a loan spell at Crawley. The League Two side seemed extremely keen to keep hold of him and it’s not hard to see why.

The midfielder played a key part in the build-up to the goals against West Ham and has also found the back of the net against Leeds. Hyam, given his first chance in a blue shirt by Roy Keane last season and then quickly discarded, is back in the engine room of midfield and this week earning himself a one-year contract extension.

Smith, for a long time on the fringes as a centre back, has undoubted potential and looks like being ready to take responsibility in the absence of other talismanic figures in the squad.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas finally looks to have found time to stop tweeting and start scoring, inspiration no doubt for his much-anticipated collaboration with pop pal Chipmunk!

Sadly, Town could not renogotiate loan deals to bring back either Keith Andrews or Danny Collins, but I’m sure all fans wish the pair well as they move on to their respective new challenges. The sole capture this transfer window of midfielder Ryan Stevenson from Hearts will have disappointed many, especially when other deals seemed so close to happening right up to the final few hours. But, the West Ham win shows we have the players in the squad for a fight and a fight it will continue to be with relegation still a huge threat.

I just hope our next win comes well before the next blog entry, otherwise I’ll be writing to you again when we’ve scraped a win at Hull on March 10!

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

Papering over the cracks?

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

It’s less than 24 hours since I and many thousands of other Ipswich fans witnessed a comeback bigger than Lazarus on live television against Barnsley.

Understandably, I was a bit delirious after seeing an astonishing 45 minutes in which Town scored five goals. For a brief period, they were exhibiting the skills and finesse of Real Madrid and Barcelona, who followed Ipswich on the listings later that night.

But, now that we’ve had a night of celebrating a memorable win and also pinched ourselves on the Sunday morning to realise it did actually happen, let’s disect what’s gone on since mid-October to see the club go on their worst run in sixteen years.

Saturday’s 5-3 win at Oakwell was a bit of a farce when you break it down. At half-time, Ipswich were 2-0 down and probably should’ve been behind by more. They looked rudderless, low on confidence and devoid of ideas. We probably all thought Paul Jewell had 45 minutes left in charge of the club as he trudged off down the tunnel in front of the travelling supporters.

Whatever he said at half-time or perhaps, whatever some of the players said, worked a trick.

Here is where I put the dampners on the win again. Keith Andrews and Danny Collins scored the first three of the five goals in that comeback. Both will soon end their loan spells at the club and when they do, will leave huge holes in an already fragile line-up.

Added to that was the indecision shown by another loan signing, David Stockdale. When you’re away from home, on a terrible run of form with a leaky defence in front of you, the last thing you need to do is give away a silly penalty. The defending for Barnsley’s second goal was also non-existent and schoolboy-esque. First Carlos Edwards failed to track his man and then Lee Bowyer wanders off the post to allow Ricardo Vaz Te the chance to head past a stranded keeper.

In a 45 minute window, that summed up the problems Ipswich have had over the last eight games. The defence is bar far the worst in the division, there are some creaking bodies out there in terms of age and despite some signs of talismen emerging – Andrews and Collins head this list – we are yet to find someone who can organise and lead this team consistently.

Saturday’s three points were a huge relief, but it’s hard to ignore the rapid descent since Ipswich’s previous win some 55 days earlier. Paul Jewell still has an immense job on his hands convincing a large element of supporters he is the man for the job and that his team selections show signs of progressive, solid football and not a collection of big names who look good on paper.

There’s a long way to go to pull ourselves out of the mire and I sincerely hope we didn’t just witness a flash in the pan on Saturday evening.

OK, so I’ve dished out some negatives in this blog, now for some positives. What a response by 11 players in blue and white in the second half at Barnsley and some well-crafted goals to boot. Considering Barnsley have been on a tremendous run recently, their capitulation was even more astounding.

Jason Scotland had possibly his best 45 minutes in an Ipswich shirt. His hold-up play and confidence to run at defenders with the ball was exemplary. He capped off a fine performance with the last goal and was my man of the match.

Alongside him, Michael Chopra continued his knack of scoring important goals and his finish for 4-2 oozed real confidence and belief.

So, for now the nightmare is over. We can all look forward to the next game with a bit of excitement, rather than trepidation. Christmas certainly came early at Oakwell, but let’s hope it can continue for a few more weeks yet.

UP THE TOWN!

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

Looking for a Plan B

Monday, November 7th, 2011

What a difference a few weeks make in football.

Wind the clock back just three weeks to mid-October and everything was looking rosy in the Ipswich Town garden on the back of a six-match unbeaten run with a starting eleven who remained unchanged throughout.

But, three matches and three defeats later the team suddenly look woefully short of depth, ideas and a creative spark.

October began positively with a come-from-behind win at home to Brighton, followed a couple of weeks later by an encouraging and slightly unfortunate draw at Cardiff – a dubious handball decision for a penalty while 2-1 ahead making it two points dropped, rather than a point gained.

A less than convincing 1-0 home win against Portsmouth came next, but fans weren’t so bothered as signs Ipswich were becoming a “win when not playing well” side were emerging.

Sadly, as I hinted rather pessimistically in my previous up-tempo blog at the end of September, injuries (where do you start? Mainly Ibrahima Sonko) – absence for personal reasons in Michael Chopra and suspensions to the likes of Aaron Cresswell have coincided with a dip in form that’s seen defeats at the hands of Crystal Palace, Millwall and Doncaster and a drop from 6th to 14th in the table.

Breaking up the midfield diamond quartet of Jimmy Bullard, Lee Bowyer, Keith Andrews and Grant Leadbitter has illustrated the team’s lack of depth and adequate cover. That goes for not just the midfield, but all over the park, as the likes of Nathan Ellington, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Ivar Ingimarsson have yet to make their mark when handed an opportunity.

Added to that, question marks now hang over the gang of players aged 30+ and if they can keep up with the pace and tempo of a Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday playing schedule.

While this has happened, fans have had to revise their expectations for the rest of the season. Paul Jewell has come out and said this is a “work in progress” side and promotion this campaign may not be the ultimate aim. This might not sit comfortably with some supporters, but it does have an element of sense.

Firstly, losing seven games out of fifteen is certainly not promotion form. To elaborate, since the start of 2011 when Jewell took over, Ipswich have gone from the midst of a relegation scrap to having improving top-half prospects. The last three games have shown they are still searching for the right blend of faces and more importantly, those strong enough to press the first-choice eleven and be up to the task when they step in.

Some fans might not share his long-term vision though. After all, Ipswich are the second longest serving side in the division behind Coventry and mid-table-obscurity has been the tale of too many recent seasons.

Without doubt, there are at least ten sides on their day in the Championship who could contest the promotion and play-off places. Breaking into that promised land might need to be the first aim for Paul Jewell’s men before looking to stretch their ambitions somewhat higher.

Back to matters closer to hand and while the last international break may well have come at a bad time, with the side in the midst of a good run, this next one might just have happened at the right time. The Blues need Sonko back and fully fit, Bullard to knuckle down and work harder on his match fitness and more time on the training ground to find tactics and formations which can threaten the pace and confidence of younger, more energetic sides.

The rest of November sees Ipswich travel first to Nottingham Forest, still very much a side coming to terms with dramatic changes, then a home encounter against an always dangerous Reading, rounded off with a midweek trip to Burnley.

Three games to show how the club can bounce back from some poor results, but three games that will test the team’s still fragile defence.

Finally, it would be wrong of me not to pay tribute to the tremendous gesture shown by fellow Town supporters during the defeat to Doncaster when Billy Sharp scored the visitors’ second goal of the game. Paul Jewell’s made no secret Sharp has been and still is on his wish list, but whatever might have transpired before paled into obscurity when we all learnt of the tragic death of his two-day-old son.

His choices and affinity to Rovers went out of the window both during that game and when he scored in the game before against Middlesbrough.

The applause and subsequent standing ovation he received at Portman Road clearly touched Sharp as his poignant post-match interview on the Football League Show revealed. It also served as a timely reminder that after all, football is just a game and life and death are far more important.

UP THE TOWN!

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams