Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: Was this all part of the master plan? If so, we owe Lambert an apology
PUBLISHED: 14:15 26 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 26 January 2020
Ipswich Town have are back at the top of the League One table following yesterday's 1-0 home win against Lincoln City. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Sometimes you just get a sense that things have clicked and that something special is brewing.
I can't remember a more positive start to a calender year for Ipswich Town. Normally, this is the stage of the season when underdog exertions start to take their toll and things slowly begin to unravel. This time - fingers crossed, touch wood etc etc - the platform to kick on appears to be a lot more solid. The Blues will hopefully be fresh as others fade.
Squad rotation is so 2019. Paul Lambert has found his formula. Key men are finally finding full fitness and form. Chemistry and cohesion is growing by the game.
It's when you see little patterns of play repeatedly coming off that you know a team is truly gelling. Will Keane holds it up, Alan Judge scampers into the corner, Luke Garbutt arrives in support to whip in a cross. Luke Chambers or Luke Woolfenden give and go, striding forwards to create the overload. Sometimes it leads to a chance or a corner, if not then team-mates are alert to the counter threat.
We always knew this was a very strong collection of players for League One. Now it's beginning, ominously, to look like a very strong team.
If this was all part of the master plan then those of us who struggled to see the vision owe Paul Lambert an apology.
When the team was not getting wins, not playing well and not creating chances it was hard to see any method in the seeming madness of constant chopping and changing. We expressed concerns only because we cared.
However, if the trade off for slowly getting Emyr Huws and Will Keane up to speed was a winter wobble then so be it. Maybe Lambert could always see that, just as he always knew relegation was something that had to happen for there to be true progress. Short-term pain for longer-term gain. It takes a brave man in football to follow that path.
Or maybe that much thought didn't go into it. Even it's that's the case, Lambert still deserves credit for adapting. It would have been easy for him to double down. Instead he provided his players with an open forum to air their views.
It's said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Sometimes the best ideas come in the midst of war. Taking the shackles off Chambers and Woolfenden has certainly been a genius piece of in-season adaptation.
Not so long ago the squad was bloated and we were talking about square pegs in round holes, little identity and limited on-field connections. All of that has been addressed. It's a healthy squad size now, there are interchangeable pieces for the jigsaw and a set of players feeling confident (but, just as importantly, not too confident).
Nothing to fear? That's the worst mind set the players could take now. There's still a long way to go. The picture could quickly change.
As encouraging as the last few weeks have been, the fact remains that Ipswich still haven't beaten a team in the current top eight.
The next three games are huge, we know that. The main thing is that Town go into these vital fixtures against promotion rivals Rotherham (a), Peterborough (h) and Sunderland (a) in a good place.
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We've come a long, long way together. Through the hard times and the good.
Whether you've ridden the rollercoaster from the halcyon days to now or only climbed aboard in more recent times, Ipswich Town fans should be savouring this moment. Without you the club is nothing.
Shots at promotion or silverware don't come along very often for most. For Ipswich, it happened once in the previous 14 years (and that was a different kind of pressure). Take a look at that table. Breath. Top of the pile with 17 games to go. This is what football is about.
Paul Lambert is right when he says it's important to never forget where we've come from. For so long, the depth of Town fans' love was tested. Death by a thousand cuts was killing us softly.
That back story must always be kept it mind when you consider the current position. History, stadium, fan base, budget... That counted for little really when the reset button was hit last summer. To go from relegation with only five wins in 46 to topping a table with 13 wins from 27 is quite something. It must not be underestimated.
We have a dream. With the young ones blossoming, there's no limit to what can be achieved this season.
Forget Joey Barton trying to throw shade on Ipswich and Sunderland being at this level. That wouldn't matter a jot to Blues fans if there was a promotion party come May. There would still be dancing in the streets. The Class of 2020 would roll off the tongue for years to come. Be this season's hero and Town fans will always love you.
So pump up the volume, pump up the tempo and put on that Itsy Witsy Teenie Weeny Yellow Polka...
Okay, confession time. With Town on top again, I've been researching the list of UK number ones on the day Town players were born. None of them were even on this planet when Mick Mills was lifting the FA Cup and UEFA Cup. Another reminder that was then and this is now. Success is success, whatever level.
Oh, and if you're into omens, here's something that caught my eye. No.1 on Luke Chambers' most recent birthday? Take Me Back to London... I've said it before and I'll say it again, something about a Wembley return 20 years on has a certain fateful feel about it.
Town can go up automatically. Of course they can. I just wonder if there are a few more twists and turns to come.
NUMBER ONES ON THE DAY TOWN PLAYERS WERE BORN
Never Forget, Take That - Will Norris
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me - Tomas Holy
How Deep Is Your Love? Take That - Kane Vincent-Young
I'd Do Anything For Love, Meat Loaf - Janoi Donacien
Dancing in the Street, David Bowie & Mick Jagger - Luke Chambers
Belfast Child, Simple Minds - James Wilson
Girlfriend, Billie - Luke Woolfenden
No Limit, 2Unlimited - Gwion Edwards
Five Live, George Michael/Queen - Luke Garbutt
Gym & Tonic, Spacedust - Josh Earl
Breath, Prodigy - Myles Kenlock
Boom! Shake the Room, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince - Emyr Huws
Praise You, Fatboy Slim - Flynn Downes
Living Doll, Cliff Richard & The Young Ones - Cole Skuse
Deeply Dippy, Right Said Fred - Jon Nolan
Swear It Again, Westlife - Andre Dozzell
Orinoco Flow, Enya - Alan Judge
Killing Me Softly, Fugees - Teddy Bishop
I Have A Dream, Westlife - Jack Lankester
Without You, Mariah Carey - Kayden Jackson
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weeenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Bombalunica - James Norwood
I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston - Will Keane
You Got It (The Right Stuff), New Kids on the Block - Freddie Sears