Staggering symmetry between McCarthy’s great escape and Lambert’s rescue mission... but will the result be the same?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 November 2018
Six years ago to this day, Ipswich Town appointed Mick McCarthy to get them out of trouble. STUART WATSON looks at the symmetry between then and now.
Paul Jewell was sacked on October 24, 2012 the day after a midweek defeat to Derby County (2-1 at home).
Paul Hurst was sacked on October 25, 2018 the day after a midweek defeat to Leeds United (2-0 away).
On October 27, 2012, Ipswich Town lost their single game under caretaker management – Chris Hutchings – by a score of 3-0 (at home to Sheffield Wednesday).
On October 27, 2018, Ipswich Town lost their single game under caretaker management – Bryan Klug – by a score of 3-0 (at Millwall).
On November 1, 2012, Mick McCarthy took over a team that was bottom of the Championship table and five points adrift (seven points from 12 games)
Six years later, to the very day, Paul Lambert is in charge of a team that also finds itself bottom of the Championship table and five points adrift (nine points from 15 games).
McCarthy’s rescue mission started with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Birmingham City on November 3.
That just so happens to be date Lambert takes charge of his first game – the Blues hosting fellow-strugglers Preston on Saturday.
By the way, back in 2012 (when the season started later because of the Olympics), Town were still bottom and five points adrift after 15 games too.
Mick’s rescue mission
It was a mixture of pure grit and good fortune which saw Town win 1-0 at St Andrew’s in McCarthy’s first game in charge. The Blues defended manfully following DJ Campbell’s eighth minute opener, but also had Nikola Zigic to thank for missing two sitters.
Two heavy away thrashings – 5-0 at Crystal Palace and 6-0 at Leicester – then came either side of a vital 2-1 home win against Burnley, Campbell scoring an 87th minute winner.
Come the start of the new year, Town had won seven of their 12 games under McCarthy to climb to 19th and eight points clear of the drop zone.
Despite that, the relegation fight – one of the most keenly contested in recent memory – went right to the wire.
Every week Town won so, it seemed, did their rivals. In the end they finished 14th with 60 points. Peterborough went down a with record points tally of 54, along with Wolves and Bristol City. Just eight points ended up separating 10th to 22nd.
McCarthy until New Year in 2012:
W 1-0 Birmingham (a)
L 5-0 Crystal Palace (a)
W 2-1 Burnley (h)
L 6-0 Leicester (a)
D 1-1 Peterborough (h)
W 3-1 Nottm Forest (h)
W 2-1 Bolton (a)
W 3-0 Millwall (h)
L 2-0 Leeds (a)
D 1-1 Bristol City (h)
W 2-1 Charlton (a)
W 2-0 Wolves (a)
Lambert until New Year in 2018:
West Brom (h)
Bristol City (h)
Nottm Forest (a)
Sheffield Utd (h)
Back in 2012, the ‘emergency’ loan window was still available to Championship managers.
After signing left-back Kelly Youga on a free transfer (he never played), McCarthy brought in right-back Bradley Orr from Blackburn, as well as striker Tyrone Barnett from relegation rivals Peterborough.
That option is not available to Lambert following 2016’s rule changes. If he wants to strengthen his squad before January it will have to be free agents.
Strikers Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonlahor are both without clubs and both played under Lambert at Aston Villa. Bent did say recently that he would love to finish his career at Town, the club where it all started for him, but the fact he fell out with Lambert at Villa Park makes that move highly unlikely.
McCarthy then signed David McGoldrick, Richard Stearman, Anthony Wordsworth and Patrick Kisnorbo in January, adding Reece Brown and Jay Tabb to the squad later in the campaign.
The team that started McCarthy’s first game in charge was: Stephen Henderson, Carlos Edwards, Luke Chambers, Danny Higginbotham, Aaron Cresswell, Lee Martin, Guirane N’Daw, Nigel Reo-Coker, Richie Wellens, DJ Campbell and Daryl Murphy.
He only made two changes from the previous match, dropping homegrown youngsters Luke Hyam and Josh Carson.
Tommy Smith soon replaced the ageing Higginbotham in the side, Orr came in at right-back, while midfielder Andy Drury got a fair amount of game-time. In general though, it was a pretty settled side.
Murphy was moved from left-wing to striker, while skipper Edwards was pushed forward from right-back to right-wing.
Michael Chopra and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, previously key men, were marginalised and moved on come the end of the season.
Town squad Nov 2012: Henderson, Loach; Chambers, Cresswell, Higginbottom, Smith, Mohsni, Hewitt; Edwards, Reo-Coker, N’Daw, Drury, Martin, Wellens, Emmanuel-Thomas; Campbell, Murphy, Chopra, Scotland.
Current squad: Bialkowski, Gerken; Donacien, Spence, Pennington, Chambers, Nsiala, Knudsen, Kenlock; Skuse, Nolan, Dozzell, Chalobah, Downes, Huws, Bishop, Edun, Edwards, Ward, Graham, Rowe, Lankester, Roberts; Sears, Jackson, Harrison.
Lambert is equally experienced as a player and manager to McCarthy, but there are several factors to take into account when considering whether he can repeat the feat of 2012/13.
Is this current squad better or worse than the one which beat the odds back then? Put together a ‘best XI’ and make your own mind up.
DJ Campbell scored the goals (eight in McCarthy’s first 12 games) which turned things around. Will a goalscorer step up from this current crop? That’s a major concern.
And is the Championship, in general, a stronger division than it was? You’d have to probably say yes.