North Stander: 'We will still struggle. But we're not dead and buried just yet'

PUBLISHED: 11:44 13 January 2019

James Collins was immense in Town's crucial 1-0 win over Rotherham. Picture: STEVE WALLER

James Collins was immense in Town's crucial 1-0 win over Rotherham. Picture: STEVE WALLER

© Copyright Stephen Waller

A battle-hardened 35-year-old centre-half could be our most important signing of this traumatic season, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.

Supporters from German side Fortuna Dusseldorf were in fine voice during the match. Picture: STEVE WALLERSupporters from German side Fortuna Dusseldorf were in fine voice during the match. Picture: STEVE WALLER

James Collins was absolutely immense on Saturday. Without his towering and reassuring presence, I’m convinced we would have been blown away in that game.

He was clearly exhausted at the end, but still summoned up the energy to celebrate in front of an ecstatic Sir Bobby Robson stand. It was as if we’d won the league!

There was a certain irony which struck me. The backs-to-the-wall way we beat Rotherham was a throwback to the Mick McCarthy era – and our former manager would certainly love the no-nonsense Collins.

MORE: Stu says - Five observations from Rotherham win

I believe the player affectionately nicknamed “the Ginger Pele” by West Ham fans could play a massive part in Paul Lambert’s rescue operation.

Even though woefully short of playing time, Collins simply looked a cut above. His powerful and calm authority contributed hugely to us keeping a very rare clean sheet, despite being under almost constant pressure for the whole of the second half. We desperately need him to stay fit.

The other new arrivals played their part. Elder was neat and tidy, Quaner put himself about despite lacking match sharpness and Keane impressed in two different roles, as well as scoring the all-important winner.

So the league table looks slightly less frightening now. The new-look team, with its physicality and never-say-die spirit, has given us a glimmer of hope.

Let’s keep it all in perspective though. On Saturday, we squeezed past a side which is fourth from bottom of the Championship. Throughout the whole second half, we were comprehensively outplayed, and only a combination of their wayward finishing and our last-ditch defending secured our third win of the season.

MORE: Andy’s player ratings from Town victory

The new signings have undoubtedly strengthened us, but we haven’t suddenly been transformed into world-beaters. We will still struggle. But we’re not dead and buried just yet. We might – just might – battle our way to enough points.

The atmosphere against Rotherham was fantastic. As many people have said, a crowd of 20,000 for a relegation battle on a cold, dank January afternoon spoke volumes about the undying loyalty of Town fans.

There’s a clear lesson for the Portman Road hierarchy – make the tickets more affordable, and lots more people will come and watch the games.

I know there’s the issue about season ticket holders paying more than fans who turn up on the day. But, in our current desperate situation, I’m convinced that most season ticket holders want bigger crowds and a better atmosphere and would happily accept it.

Longer term, I really hope Marcus Evans and the club look seriously at this issue. There must be a pretty reliable equation as to what happens with the size of crowds when seat prices are reduced.

If you halve the prices, do you double the crowd? I’m sure it’s not as simple as that, but there must be useful examples around the country for the club to learn from.

North Stander Terry Hunt says it's essential that Town find a way to keep boss Paul Lambert, regardless of what happens this season. Picture: STEVE WALLERNorth Stander Terry Hunt says it's essential that Town find a way to keep boss Paul Lambert, regardless of what happens this season. Picture: STEVE WALLER

MORE: Andy’s Sunday snap - Ginger Pele and a moment you may have missed

I saw lots and lots of young kids at the Rotherham game, with their parents, attracted by the ticket offer. They are the future lifeblood of our club, and Town should be doing everything they can to attract them before they become Manchester United or Chelsea fans. Over to you, in the corridors of power...

Finally, a word about Paul Lambert. What a job he’s doing. He hasn’t put a foot wrong. If he gets us out of this mess, he deserves to win Manager of the Year.

As I’ve said before, it is absolutely essential that he stays at Ipswich Town, whatever the outcome of this season.

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