North Stander: 'I really do worry we'll miss out on promotion if squad rotation continues'
PUBLISHED: 12:19 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:19 09 December 2019
There are two sentences I am longing to hear this season, writes North Stander Terry Hunt. The first is "Ipswich are unchanged," and the second is "the Tractor Boys produced a superb 90-minute performance."
There are two sentences I am longing to hear this season. The first is "Ipswich are unchanged," and the second is "the Tractor Boys produced a superb 90-minute performance."
Getting both of those wishes to come true appears to be extremely elusive, but they also seem likely to be very, very important factors when it comes to the final reckoning this season.
I know there will be those who say "stop moaning, you miserable old so-and-so. Look at the league table!"
Yes, they have a point...but also look at our recent form and results. The loss of momentum is worrying.
Let's take Paul Lambert's selection policy first. Yes, the much talked about rotation system.
At the start of the season, I was thinking that the size of our squad was a massive bonus for us. Now I'm wondering if it's a curse rather than a blessing.
The availability of a large number of decent players has led Lambert into an utterly confusing, ever-changing selection policy.
Four changes, five changes, ten changes - never, ever an unchanged line-up.
There are no guarantees - no names which you know are certain to be in the starting 11.
Who is our first choice keeper? Is it Will Norris or Tomas Holy? It seems that saving a penalty means you get dropped. Sorry, maybe I'm being old-fashioned, but that makes absolutely no sense to me.
I'm old enough to remember Town's extraordinary 1980-81 season, when we played 66 games with what was basically a 14-man squad.
That was one extreme - and ultimately our small squad cost us the treble (although we did win the UEFA Cup, of course) - but now we have the other end of the spectrum.
We never have the faintest idea what the team will be until an hour before kick-off, and that lack of continuity, I believe, is starting to cost us.
Performances have dipped. One win in eight (excluding penalties) is not great. At one stage we looked like we were running away with the league. Now we are struggling to hang on to Wycombe's coat-tails - and I'm convinced the perplexing revolving doors policy is a major contributory factor.
I do accept that, in the Mickey Mouse cup competition, we are giving the kids experience of the tough professional environment. The side which won on penalties last week must be our youngest ever finishing 11.
But surely we shouldn't be swapping and changing personnel so much in the vital league games? I simply cannot believe it is the best way to achieve consistently good performances.
Now on to the second big worry - our apparent inability to put together a complete performance. So many times this season we have played well only for 45 minutes. Good first half, struggle in the second half. Or, rubbish first half, really good second half.
Against Coventry, we produced a super first half, but we all knew what would happen after the break. Surprise, surprise - it did, and in the end we were hanging on for a point.
If we don't sort this, it will cost us eventually. Against Coventry, the three points were there for the taking, but we ended up with only one. If you don't take your chances, then you will almost certainly pay the price.
I don't know the answer. I'm sure it must infuriate Paul Lambert as much as it does the rest of us. Tactical changes by the opposition offer part of the explanation, but not all of it. All I know is that we need to change it - and quickly.
Ok, maybe I am just being a grumpy old so-and-so. Maybe I should just sit back, look at the League One table, and believe that everything will be rosy at the end of the season.
But I'm afraid after 52 years of watching Ipswich Town I have too many battle scars and memories of disappointments to be so trusting and confident. Or should I say complacent?
I keep recalling the conversation I had with a crestfallen Pompey fan. After their storming start last season, they lost momentum, missed out on promotion, and now they're mid-table.
I really fear the same thing happening to us. We're now behind Wycombe and looking over our shoulders at the pack. It could be a nervy second half of the season and, on current form, I really do worry we'll miss out.
Obviously I would love Lambert and the players to prove me wrong!