Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy may hate pre-season, but he won’t miss a trick
With Ipswich Town set to play their first pre-season friendly of the summer, at Drogheda on Saturday, CHRIS BRAMMER explains why the summer period is crucial, despite Mick McCarthy’s disdain for it.
Mick McCarthy once said he hated pre-season friendlies, given the public’s fixation with results.
He has a point.
Simon Milton recalled recently the time the Blues had a great pre-season, only to start the season poorly. The reverse happened too.
Whilst little emphasis can be placed on results, McCarthy will still be taking notes though.
Do the players he can hang his hat on still have the same hunger?
Are other squad members, desperate for an opportunity to impress, doing everything they can to catch his eye. Then there is Steven Taylor, who is training with the club in an attempt to win a deal.
Then there are the youngsters – Flynn Downes, George Fowler, Adam McDonnell, Tristan Nydam and Pat Webber – all of whom have made the trip to Ireland for Saturday’s friendly at Drogheda. They should be champing at the bit.
Given McCarthy’s dislike of pre-season games and the lack of significance he gives them, those rookies could be forgiven for thinking they are fighting a losing battle, but that won’t be the case.
That’s not the case though and Teddy Bishop is probably the best example of a young player that seemingly came from nowhere, during the summer of 2014 – the teenager going on to become a key part of the team that reached the play-offs the following May.
His performance in a low-key home friendly with West Ham stood out, proving that Mick is always watching.
Performances are key, but there is the mental side too.
“We hope to get the usual benefits of being away – they’ll have a break, enjoy each other’s company, we’re staying at a nice place and we might manage a bit of a social while we’re there such as a game of golf. It just galvanises the team spirit,” he said during his time at Wolves.
So will the young lads adapt into the group with lots of big personalities?
How will they cope with perhaps no longer being the main protagonists within their peer group?
Can they mix it against seasoned campaigners, albeit at a lesser pace than they would experience in a competitive game?
The Blues begin their campaign at United Park this afternoon against a Drogheda team that are currently second from bottom in the League of Ireland’s top tier.
Given the Irish team play a crucial league game tomorrow, then Town are likely to face a much-changed outfit, but there will still be players in the home side desperate to prove a point.
For senior players like Luke Chambers, Bartosz Bialkowski and Freddie Sears, the Drogheda game will be nothing more than a training exercise, but for the kids, it may carry a more significance.
After today’s game, Town’s next pre-season fixture sees them come up against League One Peterborough United, on July 18.
They then travel to fellow third tier outfit, Gillingham, four days later, before going to League Two Colchester on the 25th and League One Charlton on July 29.
Again, the results will carry little significance, but McCarthy will be keen to try different combinations, shapes and tactics, ahead of the season-opener at home to Birmingham on August 5.
McCarthy said at his press conference to herald the start of pre-season recently that he had no preconceived ideas about his starting line-up for the game against Harry Redknapp’s side.
If he sticks to his word, then individual performances against sides that will offer more of a challenge – some players, like Peterborough’s ex-Ipswich striker Jack Marriott, maybe with a point to prove – could be significant.
“Of course, there are some you can hang your hat on and there are some that you’re not so sure about and there are some where you might have to change your mind that probably haven’t been playing,” he explained.
“And I am prepared to change my mind, so it’s up to the players to come back, if I’ve got any doubt over anybody, they have to change my mind.
“Whatever I had my doubts about, they have to do it differently, they have to do more, run more, play better, whatever it might take. They’ve got to change my mind.”
The Football League opposition in front of Town will have the same low-key mindset as McCarthy, as they prepare for their own campaigns.
However, the pace of the games will crank up a notch. After all, so much emphasis is placed on “match-fitness” and Benjamin Franklin once famously said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Yes, the results don’t count, but the process does and McCarthy and his coaching team won’t miss a trick.