Ipswich Town have been rooted in the second tier of English football for an incredible 15 years, and next season will be Town's 16th campaign. Any football fan can see that Ipswich are too good to go down but at the moment they are nowhere near good enough to compete to go up into the Premier League. I interviewed three passionate lifelong Ipswich fans to go alongside my own thoughts as to why Town seem to be stuck in slow motion.
Jacob Ottaway, lifelong Ipswich fan and former season ticket holder:
Jacob makes it very clear that he's not manager Mick Mccarthy's biggest fan or a great supporter of owner, Marcus Evans, either. For him, the blame lies upon the shoulders of these two men for Ipswich's lack of progress.
McCarthy's style of play has been vocally criticised for a long time by the supporters and the 'boring' style of football often draws a lot of potential fans away, hence the poor attendances and massive blocks of empty seats, a common matchday feature at Portman Road. Jacob labels Mccarthy as 'uni-directional', favouring one style of play, with 'big strong long balls' to lads up top, and running for around 90 minutes. However, Jacob feels this type of play is not suited to many of the players and cites Pitman's exit as an example and whom 'openly admits the playing style didn't suit him.'
The fact that many Town fans want McCarthy out isn't just because of play style and lingering in the lower mid table area, but at the heart of the matter is his disrespect for the supporters. Jacob comments how, 'many Ipswich fans feel his sheer disrespect for them, having a dig numerous times, and even suggesting the more the fans chant for a certain sub, like McGoldrick, the less likely he will be making an appearance.' It certainly doesn't help create the essential bond needed between fans and manager to achieve successful outcomes when tales of disrespect and disharmony circulate as a result of the manager's patronising attitude.
However, Jacob does acknowledge that McCarthy has made some shrewd signings, but not all have been hits. He argues, 'Some of the frees/loans we've taken have thrived under Mick, others have underwhelmed.' With a lack of serious investment in this football economic climate it can be a mammoth-like task to be successful with just cheap loan and free deals. Jacob concedes, 'It could well be argued that it is tough for Mick with a lack of transfer fluidity, and it's no secret we've missed out on transfers, such as Danny Ward and Marley Watkins.'
Jacob then went into his thoughts on owner, Marcus Evans. 'It does appear there is more transfer activity this year, which is promising, but in my eyes I'm not seeing much of a long term picture. Many short contracts and loans which could leave us in a tricky transfer land if the pinnacle of the premier league hits us. Fair play to Marcus, he saved us, but we haven't moved on, transfers have been minimal, season tickets are overall more expensive, and attendances are dwindling.' For Jacob, it's a club that could be run far better, and he feels that 'many could argue the club is not going in the same direction as Marcus' 5 point plan.' He credits Marcus for his investment but argues, 'Surely, a multimillionaire with successful business ventures could show his face more, invest, see eye to eye with fans as Mick needs to. Moreover, Jacob questions the financial incentives of the club in having their shirts sponsored by the club owner and wonders whether more money could be made by having a separate sponsor? Essentially, Jacob feels the club lacks some direction and commented, 'If this doesn't change this season, I wouldn't mind seeing new management. After all, Mick has short time on his contract, and he isn't getting any younger. As for the owners, Jacob shares that he would like to see some willing investment in the club, but feels it's more than likely that Marcus will be leaving with a loss of profit, and if this is the case, it could be a difficult situation for players and fans alike should he ever wish to sell.
Michael Minter - former season ticket holder and lifelong fan:
Michael, in contrast to Jacob, adopts a more positive outlook on the team and to my surprise, Mick McCarthy. 'I think you can't pinpoint a disappointing season on the manager, not without accounting for the players and Evans. Every year we're told about how short our budget is.’ He suggests that for the club to progress forward, Marcus Evans cannot be part of its future.
Michael is actually a big fan of McCarthy, which I must admit was surprising as I thought the overall consensus was that Town supporters despised Mick and his playing style. Michael says, ‘I think Mick just has the little star factor and experience about him to bring players to the club, and over the years we always have become known as the "hoof team" that can't make a few passes.' Michael explains how McCarthy's tactics have been subject to change over the season and for him, ' switching the formation when it wasn't working before was the right move. I just don't think Mick is the one to go, because we won't find a better replacement that easily.’ Michael is correct as McCarthy is certainly a recognisable figure due to his managerial days for Sunderland and Wolves in the Premier League. This in itself, should attract big name players, however, without the financial draw that Ipswich currently lack, McCarthy’s name just isn’t enough.
Michael ends the interview on a positive for the upcoming season stating, 'We've had a good few transfers so far this summer though, so I'm hopeful we'll do well.’ Which is heartening to hear from a fan whose club have had a difficult season.
Jordan Hammond - former season ticket holder and lifelong fan:
Jordan feels as if the playoff semi-final loss to bitter rivals Norwich, two seasons ago that saw Norwich go into the Premier League, was the pivotal point in a loss of momentum for the blues. He feels his beloved Ipswich just haven’t done enough since to really challenge at the top, and finding themselves lingering in the bottom half of the Championship table.
Jordan shared his thoughts saying, ‘Mick did extremely well to save us from relegation and we did well to push for promotion but that near miss should have given us a boost to push ourselves just a little bit further in order to achieve promotion, which we didn't do.’
Jordan believes there is a huge lack of talent in Ipswich’s squad and criticises McCarthy’s playing style and tactics, deeming them too negative. He argued, ‘Whether that's his fault or not in regards to buying new players, I'm not sure, but our quality at most times seems way behind other teams and I think that's partially due to the style of football that we play, which is very negative and boring to watch.’
He believes there are signs of talent within the squad but not on a consistent basis and realises Mick doesn’t have enough resources to change things. For Jordan, all is not lost as he explains, ‘There are glimpses that we have talent, but I don't think they play the right style. So, I think he is partially to blame but to put it all on his shoulders would be unfair because I don't think he's been given much to work with.’
In my opinion, the points made by these three passionate and informed fans are valid and make for interesting reading. However, what I have realised is that a certain commonality is formed by them and for change to occur, and most importantly Ipswich to go up, Marcus Evans has to leave. For me, it seems clear he either doesn't have the funds or the will necessary to make the investment in the club, both fans and players desperately need. Although, as Jacob explains, should Marcus leave he would be doing so with more than likely a loss of profit. Therefore, progression under him is very unlikely unless he is willing to open his wallet more.
I myself, have visited Portman road a few times over the seasons with friends who are Ipswich supporters, and every time I go I’m repeatedly disappointed by the lack of atmosphere inside the ground, lack of belief and continuous moaning amongst the supporters. However, in researching and writing this article, I’ve come to realise how boring the football is under McCarthy and a contributing factor putting many loyal season tickets fans off going. For a club of Ipswich’s size to be in the top six playoff spots just three times in fifteen years is frankly close to a joke. I can now see why Town fans have been put off going as there is clearly very little to get excited about.
Is this spot on Ipswich fans? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!