‘Careful what you wish for’
The sentiment which echoed round the Footballing sphere when Ipswich town announced Mick McCarthy would be leaving his post after 5 years in charge. 10 months or so later, Ipswich were condemned to relegation to the third tier of English Football for the first time in 62 years. The sentiments rung again. Memes of McCarthy were popping up everywhere in an attempt to mock Ipswich fans; who you’d expect to bite in response. However, most Ipswich fans knew the egotistic god like complex of McCarthy was slowly sucking the life out of the club and were still glad of his departure.
Before the problems, McCarthy steered around a sinking ship under Paul Jewell. The Irishman helped end a 13 game winless run in his first outing in charge. He eventually led Ipswich away from relegation and secured a 14th placed finish; with the following season placing a respectable 9th in the league.
Ipswich then had their best season in a decade with the club finishing in the play-offs before ultimately succumbing to ‘Old Farm’ Derby rivals Norwich. Despite the (extremely) sour end, Daryl Murphy’s 27 league goals and memorable games at Charlton and Watford away had the Portman Road faithful booming McCarthy’s name. The best season in years had fans thinking that town were in actual fact going up.
Unfortunately, the tide started to shift when McCarthy’s tactics of monotonous ‘hoofball’ which had served him well started to deplete, and the fans were crying out for something new.
In his last season in charge, the atmosphere was toxic at Ipswich with the displays on the pitch being so repetitive and archaic that every misplaced long ball was being groaned at, and cries for ‘ON THE FLOOR’ were becoming all to prevalent. I personally counted 6 kick-offs in a row in which the ball was played to Left-Back Jonas Knudsen for it to be collected by the opposition. The defence was woeful at best, with keeper Bartosz Bialkowski putting in a Player of the year campaign to ultimately save Town from the drop.
McCarthy was given his marching his orders a few games before the end of the 17/18 season and was expected to leave once the campaign had concluded. However, along with Terry Connor, McCarthy abruptly left on the 10th April after a 1-0 win against Barnsley, and his post-match comments highlighted the main reason Town fans wanted him to go; his attitude.
In reaction to a substitute, Town fans booed the boss after taking off young defender Barry Cotter for no clear reason. After the game, McCarthy said ‘I won’t have to listen to that again, I’m out of here.’
Now it may seem like a just and fair comment, but it was the ‘grand finale’ of an ego driven man who disrespected supporters and acted as if every decision he had were the best ideas since Rinus Michels.
The most public display of his disregard to supporters was when Ipswich looked as if they had finally beaten Norwich with a Luke Chambers winner, when McCarthy turned towards the away end at Carrow Road and shouted ‘F**K off’ with malicious intent. To this day, no one really knows why, but it seems McCarthy was trying to make a stance against the fans and implying he was right all along. Ipswich drew the game, and as they had for so many years didn’t end up beating their arch-rivals. It wasn’t the draw that had fans the most disheartened, it was the video of McCarthy’s vitriol which went viral which was the last straw for many Town fans. Paying supporters who have followed the club for years through thick and thin, being told to ‘F**K off’ is just plain wrong. No questions asked.
Previously in the season, McCarthy was quoted in saying that he wouldn’t bring on on loan Attacking-Midfielder Bersant Celina the more fans chanted for him.
‘There’s more chance of him not going on when they start telling me what to do. And yes, I’m a belligerent F**K. Let’s just clear that up.’ McCarthy told the East Anglian Daily Times.
Celina scored the winner in that game which showed the fans did in fact have a clue what they were going on about. But it’s the sheer audacity of a man who’s own self-centred ideology would be bruised to listen to the fans and be at detriment to the team he is managing is quite astonishing.
Several expletive laden interviews throughout his final campaign saw many fans glad to see the back of him when he had left, me included.
To this day I still am, as I believe with McCarthy in charge the style of Football and narcistic attitude would’ve driven the club to relegation. He made a lot of fans find it a chore to support the club they love and attendances dipped significantly; and would have only dropped further.
The reason for Ipswich’s demise this season was definitely not the sacking of McCarthy, but another year of lacklustre investment from Marcus Evans and the appointment of Paul Hurst. The former Rotherham United stalwart came to Portman Road with a good track record securing promotion with Grimsby back to the Football League, and almost doing the unthinkable by taking Shrewsbury to the League One Play-Off finals. His managerial career had been to find hungry players from lower divisions to fight doggedly to prove they belonged at the standard they were playing in. He implemented this tactic at Ipswich, but the Championship was ultimately one step too far for it to work. Replacing Town’s two top scorers in Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner with Kayden Jackson from Accrington Stanley and Ellis Harrison from Bristol Rovers was certainly a doomed move from the outset. With other clubs spending £10 million+ on one player, the combination which only cost around £2.3 million only scored 5 goals between them. Admittedly, it’s harsh on Hurst as every town fan wanted him to succeed, but the complete squad overhaul with lower league and loan players meant Ipswich were languishing in relegation when Hurst was sacked.
Paul Lambert, who became the first manager the first man to manage both Norwich and Ipswich, took the reigns in November but couldn’t steer the ship and Ipswich were relegated to the third tier. However, under Lambert, the club regained its sense of togetherness which had evaded the club under McCarthy towards the end of his tenure. Constant support for Lambert and the players on the pitch uplifted the club despite the inevitable drop, and the future looks seemingly bright.
The fans are now back onside with an optimistic manager, who has history of getting out of League One, and the Tractor Boys are looking to make an imminent return.
Mick McCarthy to the outside world looks like the man who held Ipswich together, but he was infact an adhesive slowly degrading a club into disarray.
Ipswich Town will be back; whether it’s next season or not.
But I for one am glad it won’t be Mick McCarthy at the helm.
Ipswich fans, what do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image credit itfc.co.uk