Stuart Watson’s Verdict: Come on Ipswich Town, make us truly buy into the plan

PUBLISHED: 09:53 29 January 2018

Stephen Gleeson and Ruben Neves hit the ground after a full-bloodied 50/50 clash from which the Town man was controversially booked. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Stephen Gleeson and Ruben Neves hit the ground after a full-bloodied 50/50 clash from which the Town man was controversially booked. Picture: STEVE WALLER

© Copyright Stephen Waller

If the key protagonists at Ipswich Town truly believe in their long-term strategy then they better start making everyone else buy into it too.

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy. Photo: Steve WallerIpswich Town boss Mick McCarthy. Photo: Steve Waller

If the key protagonists at Ipswich Town truly believe in their long-term strategy then they better start making everyone else buy into it too.

The Blues lost 1-0 at home to Championship table-toppers Wolves on Saturday. Mick McCarthy’s men played with typical spirit, but the gulf in class was evident.

So close, but yet also so very, very far is a recurring theme. That’s now just three points gained from a possible 33 against the division’s current top eight.

Yes, the unrealistic talk of an under-funded and injury-stretched squad somehow sneaking into the play-off places can be put to bed. Mid-table and a 17th successive season in the second-tier beckons.

It is what it is and Ipswich Town are what they are – a provincial football club whose former glories are but fading memories for some and mythical tales for others.

They are not alone. Leeds, Derby, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday have been outside the top-flight for a decade or more. For further context, just look at the mess that the likes of Portsmouth, Blackpool, Charlton and Coventry all got themselves into.

Not everything is broken. Far from it. This is a relatively stable club in a bewildering era of boom and bust. And it has a group of players who represent the town with pride on and off the pitch.

Football is about much, much more than the black and white of league tables and results. It’s about an intangible sense of belonging. It’s about being emotionally invested in the badge.

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Contrary to what some might say, owner Marcus Evans’ ‘five-point plan’ was not hastily scribbled down on the back of a beer mat. It makes sense, it taps into the club’s DNA and there has been evidence of it in effect since it was made public little more than a year ago.

The club’s impressive Category Two academy is very much in fine fettle after a lengthy fallow period. Several homegrown players are in or around the first team, the Under-18s are into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup, while there’s an exciting crop of players emerging behind them.

Purchasing players in the early stages of their career and developing them can bear fruit. Adam Webster and Emyr Huws have already shown signs of a steep upward trajectory before cruel injury set-backs.

‘Maintaining a stable management and coaching team’ is a stance fans should be proud of amidst this crazy, short-termist, hiring and firing world of football. This is a club who have only had 15 full-time managers in their entire 82-year professional history, less than some have had since 2000.

When everyone is fit, there are technically-gifted players at this club who can play the ‘attractive and exciting football’ the owner desires. The increased goals and entertainment earlier this season, before injuries really began to bite, suggested a shift in that direction.

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Do I believe in everything just written? In all honesty, no, but I could be convinced. Surely it’s the duty of somebody at the club to be shouting such things loud and proud from the rooftops, reinforcing the message at every given and sought-out opportunity.

This club needs positive, passionate figureheads who can inspire, galvanise and unite an increasingly disillusioned, cynical and fractured fanbase.

Instead, Evans insists on staying firmly out of the limelight, while McCarthy has often lost goodwill when adopting an unnecessarily sarcastic, defensive and dismissive tone.

Managing director Ian Milne is accessible and upbeat, but the overriding mood is set by owner and manager.

McCarthy insists the only thing he can do to re-enthuse people is winning games, but what he says is important too. That is, undoubtedly, where some of the damage has been done.

We’re getting close to season ticket renewal time (that’s usually at the start of May). The club, as a whole, needs to start convincing fans just what they are part of.

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