Opinion: What a difference a day makes
Our new columnist, Matthew Francis, takes a look at the latest going ons at Portman Road in a regular feature for TOTT.
What a difference a day makes
Friday night’s Valentine’s agenda wasn’t exactly centred on the romanticisms of the occasion, rather I spent it deliberating how Ipswich could get out of this God-awful league with Lambert at the helm, much to my partner’s pleasure. Twitter feuds, fake protests, talks of Connor Wickham and compilations mocking players left a burning question on the tongue: have we all been driven to insanity?
Town’s slog in Wimbledon… Kingston… Sorry, Kingsmeadow, was enough to send most fans over the edge. With Burton’s visit on the horizon and mounds of doubt lingering on the mind, it was all set to be an interesting week as an Ipswich Town fan.
The Reign of Terror
Marcus Evans isn’t so much a polarising character; he’s either hated or viewed as a necessary evil. For a man worth nearly £1 Billion, his investment level at the club has been, ironically, poor. His failure to invest in the squad this January compounded the frustrations of many fans, with Town slumping to three straight defeats directly after the end of the transfer window. Whilst Lambert wanted a striker, Evans rather fancied a lick of paint in the kitchen.
It wasn’t always like this. Evans, at the inception of his reign, gave money to his managers… It’s just a shame those managers were Roy Keane and Paul Jewell. Ultimately, it’s Marcus Evans’ naivety and decision making that makes him a target for frustration. Only one manager, hired and fired by Evans, has gone on to have another managerial role at a league club: Paul Hurst… Who has just been sacked by Scunthorpe.
Evans isn’t a footballing man. What he lacks in knowledge of running a club, he makes up for in business acumen, but Ipswich Town Football Club isn’t a business, or at least, it shouldn’t be run like one. Sustainability within the EFL guidelines is vital, but so too is keeping a fanbase happy. Fake or not, the ‘protest group’ set up on Twitter this week raised an important question: should Marcus Evans still be here?
We can’t knock the fact that Evans has kept the club afloat, as well as taking on the ever-mounding debt. But is it enough? I think we all feel a little better about our owner when he speaks to us, however, that occasion is all too rare. His puppet, Lee O’Neil, is nothing more than a younger model of Ian Milne; neither of them are footballing men. What Evans needs is someone at his side, like a Butcher, or a Mills, or a Burley: someone with a knowledge of the game who can make calculated, educated suggestions on how the club should step forward, rather than someone that rolls over whenever Marcus asks.
It’s been well over a decade since Evans took over as Town owner and the facts are simple, we have regressed exponentially over that time. Whether that regression is solely down to Evans himself is a difficult question to answer, however, it is likely causation of poor decision making, naïve recruitment and a lack of communication with the people at the heart of the club… The fans.
Brewing the Storm
‘Storm Dennis’ didn’t just threaten some fans’ pre-match pint in the FanZone, it also threatened to nullify Town’s plan B, hit and hope. It would have been perfectly understandable had Thomas Holy scored a remarkable own goal by lumping it long, only to see the ball loop over his head and into his own net. Thankfully, no such disaster took place… Not until the 6th minute at least, when Burton sliced Town open like a fine angel cake and slotted the ball home to make it 1-0. The collective groans and screams of “who was marking him?!” seemed to suggest that Town were in for a long afternoon.
I must give credit to this group. Last week, I questioned their mentality, and going a goal down inside 10 minutes after a baron run of form was as stern a test of their mental strength as they were ever going to get. Ultimately, inspired performances by Judge and Jackson led Town to a 4-1 win, just the tonic after a frustrating few weeks. Sure, we could have scored 10, but 4 is certainly better than the nothing we’re used to.
Saturday’s win was an important reminder of the talent this group possesses. Whilst it may only have been Burton, Town still had to show professionalism and class which, in the end, they did. Kayden Jackson may be kicking himself that he didn’t come away with the match ball, but at least he got back on the scoring charts. To some, Jackson presents himself more as a sprinter than a footballer and whilst I understand the sentiment, Jackson offers a presence that no other player can. His movement, pace and passing have all improved in the past 12 months; full credit to him. Alan Judge also thrived in his advanced central position… Who would have thought it?
Make no mistake, this result doesn’t mean we’ll be singing in the streets come May, but it is a kick-starter; a reminder to fans and players just what we can do when we all pull in the same direction. Regardless of your stance on the manager or the owner, there’s 12 cup finals left this season and we all have a duty of responsibility to back these players and hope they return the favour. Let judgment reign at the end of the season.
I would be remiss this week if I didn’t mention the Ipswich Town Women’s team, who were sadly knocked out of the FA Cup this weekend by Manchester City. It may have been closer to a rugby score, but the result seemed academic. Rather, it was what these women achieved beforehand that deserves the praise.
Storming the league and scoring goals for fun, (could give the men some lessons), is one thing, plying your trade on the world stage against higher-level opposition is another. The FA Cup is known for underdog stories and the Ipswich Town Women’s team created their own this season. With impressive performances against the likes of Portsmouth and Huddersfield, Joe Sheehan and his side battled away and moulded themselves as a terrific advert for the women’s game.
From those who have forgotten what an FA Cup win looks like, to those who remember Town lifting the trophy in 1978, the Ipswich Town Women’s team have made the fans, the club and the town proud. An inspiring cup run that will act as a valuable lesson for young women hoping to make it in the game.
There’s no shame in losing to the best.
The rot is over; Town have bounced back from a poor run of form with another 4-1 win at Portman Road. If history is to repeat itself, Town will edge this game 1-0. However, it may not be that easy.
Oxford pose a threat; whilst their league position may not appear too terrifying, we must remember that they have had plenty of cup games to contend with. The U’s have proven stern tests for both Newcastle and Manchester City this season, so Town won’t be in for an easy ride this weekend. With pace and skill in abundance, it’s Oxford’s midfield that will prove the toughest area to contend with. Arise Sir Flynn, who will have a key part to play if Town are to come away with three points.
After Saturday’s impressive display against Burton, the Town players should be brimming with confidence. Whilst this game may not be so open, I have a feeling Town will nick it and continue the steady build of hopeful momentum.
Prediction: Town 2-1 Oxford