Dave Gooderham: We have the squad to cope with a cup run and promotion push – so let’s try to win the EFL Trophy!
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Next May, the Ipswich Town community will come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my favourite game, writes Dave Gooderham.
Not quite old enough to appreciate Robson, Beattie, Muhren and the rest, the stars of 2000 are the ones I relate to the most. I am of course referring to Holland, Stewart, Reuser and the rest of our play-off heroes. Ipswich Town 4 Barnsley 2. 28th May 2000. 'Premiership'. Pure bliss.
There is a reason behind my nostalgia, even though I am aware many former players - more from Sir Bobby's era, granted - feel it is time for the current crop of Town sides to start making their own memories, rather than fans having no choice but to live in the past.
Sunday 5th April 2020. Another date that may not be quite as significant in the yeas but still one that could see thousands of Town fans descend on the 'new' Wembley Stadium for the first time.
The Leasing.com Trophy, a ridiculous name for the EFL Trophy, might not be the ultimate prize this season but surely watching your club at Wembley - in any final - is a lifetime highlight.
Winning some laughably-named trophy after beating some Premier League kids is hardly up there with Richard Wright's penalty save or Richard Naylor's heroics at the other end, but it would still be a great day out.
So forgive me if I dare to disagree with manager Paul Lambert when he questions the point of the EFL Trophy, as I will call it from here on in.
Ipswich made quite hard work of beating Tottenham's promising kids on Tuesday night, but there were some real moments of positivity to continue the wave of positivity.
Emyr Huws and Jon Nolan cantered through the game, but the fact they got through the game, the whole 90 minutes, points to encouraging times ahead. Get them fit, and keep them off the treatment table, and both will be in Lambert's matchday squad.
Jordan Roberts grabbed some much-needed goals and Gwion Edwards was almost the most impressive performer on the park. I say 'almost', because, of course, the glare of Tuesday night football shone brightest on Armando Dobra.
Did I know much about our diminutive Albanian before the season started? I'd be lying if I said I did.
But Dobra continues to take his chance and one hopes his impressive performances won't be stunted too much by the wealth of midfield talent at Lambert's disposal.
At the very least, the manager knows he has a growing jewel in the Portman Road crown. And whether it is the tenacity and energy of Flynn Downes, the ups and downs of football courtesy of Teddy Bishop or the coolness personified of Cole Skuse, 18-year-old Dobra simply has to look across at the dressing room to pick up good practice.
Aside from a walk down Wembley Way in April, the EFL Trophy is surely a much better test for Dobra than a Under-23s match at the training ground. One look at our strength in depth suggests we can cope with a decent cup run and 50+ games this season. Even if Lambert doesn't want to admit it.
Of course, the man in the dugout can do little wrong at the minute and should rightfully pick up the inaugural Manager of the Month award. But aside from Norwood's goals and Downes' response post-Cambridge, to name but two, arguably the most encouraging thing for Ipswich fans is that the squad hasn't yet hit top form.
There have been patches in every game, but Lambert is still working out the best way to deploy his squad rotation and, indeed, his best team. While Tuesday's night 3-5-2 could solve problems in fitting more midfielders in, Ipswich still looked shaky at the back. Maybe the international break can help decide whether that is a genuine option or indeed the solution.
There is also a growing feeling that the footballing Gods are currently residing over IP1. Let me give you an example. Ipswich beat Bolton kids 5-0 to go top of the league with a healthy goal difference. A little over a week later, Bolton thankfully survive and then sign nine players on a red-hot deadline day - including Josh Emmanuel and Daryl Murphy of course.
It may not be enough to reign in the rest of the league, but I can't see them losing many more games 5-0. Usually so quiet and unopinionated, Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony was one that loudly voiced his disapproval at this situation. And he has a point.
But I'm sure Ipswich Town fans won't be losing any sleep as we move into month two.