Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: Town may well lose relegation battle, but Lambert is winning the war
PUBLISHED: 15:22 13 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 13 January 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town beat fellow Championship relegation-battlers Rotherham United 1-0 at Portman Road yesterday. STUART WATSON has his final say of the weekend.
Winning or losing the toss is only really meant to matter in cricket.
Rotherham forcing Town to switch ends and attack the Sir Bobby Robson Stand in the first half backfired on them badly.
The collective will of those packed behind that goal seemed to play just as big a part in keeping the ball out of the Ipswich net during that increasingly intense second half bombardment as the indomitable spirit of James Collins and co.
Supporters and players united as one. What a powerful thing it is.
Paul Lambert and his assistant Stuart Taylor (don’t underestimate the role he’s played) jumped for joy at the final whistle.
The Blues boss gestured that all the applause should go in the direction of his players. That didn’t stop the love being sent firmly in his direction though.
After years of grey Town fans are experiencing the full spectrum of colour again. After years of numbness and apathy, they feel fully engaged once more. That’s down to Lambert.
Celebrating a backs-to-the-wall win against fourth-bottom Rotherham – a team who have yo-yoed between the second and third tier, a team who have now gone 39 away matches in the Championship without a win – didn’t sit right with some.
So that’s okay now when it wasn’t good enough under Mick McCarthy less than a year ago? There were a few sneering comments on social media to that affect.
Yes – and I’ll tell you why. Because we’ve seen some bold, entertaining football from young, fearless sides under Lambert. Minimising risk and turning every game into a fine margins battle is, quite clearly, not his modus operandi.
Now we’ve seen fight and discipline following the injection of some much-needed experience. The potential for those two qualities to work in tandem is exciting.
As the love for Lambert grows, so too it seems does the hate for Hurst.
There was no permanent signing from the Blues boss’ ill-fated 149 days in charge in the starting XI yesterday. ‘How did he leave us in this mess?’ was the general consensus.
Unpopular opinion time: There has to be some sympathy. Off the back of James Collins’ outstanding debut it’s important to remember that Hurst came close to signing the 51-cap Welshman back in September. He also saw Jonathan Walters suffer a season-ending injury that very month.
How different might things have been with their combined experience and leadership for the majority of the campaign? We’ll never know.
McCarthy and Hurst are both in the past. Attempting to unpick their end days is, in truth, a meaningless mission. It is what it is. Lambert’s the leader now.
The reason the atmosphere was so good on Saturday was not just because of the result, but the feeling of reconnection under the infectiously positive Scot. He has claimed hearts and minds.
Fans now have a manager who wears his love for them, for the badge, for the community and the history of the club on his sleeve.
Meeting legends, supporters’ groups and staff/players at all levels has not been a one-off PR move. He’s done it time-and-time again to really get into the fabric of this club.
Here is a man willing to put pressure on owner Marcus Evans; less loans, less sticking plasters, less treading of water. We’ve had death by a thousand cuts. Now it’s time to build something of substance.
Town live to fight another day. Six or seven wins from the last 19 games is still a huge ask. The Blues took 45 matches to claim that many wins prior to the weekend. There’s a reason they are 1/6 to go down.
In many ways though the relegation battle is a sub-plot. Lambert’s war is bigger than that.