Stability is something that is rare in football, particularly in the Championship. It is also something – along with money – that is held up as the blueprint for success.
There is a time, however, when stability turns to stagnation and it is often very hard to spot when that point has been reached. There are many at Portman Road who feel that they have already arrived at this point, and for the team to progress, big changes need to be made.
When Mick McCarthy took over the Reins of the Suffolk club on the 1st November 2012, the most likely way of losing their championship status was via the trapdoor. The Yorkshireman turned the club around guiding them to 14th before gradually improving year on year, getting them into the playoffs two years later. From there it looked likely that they would be able to push on, but things didn’t turn out that way.
Last season their 7th place finish belied the fact that they were never realistically in the hunt for the play-offs, and the transfer of talismanic striker Daryl Murphy – just three days before the transfer deadline last summer – signaled to many fans a lack of ambition from the club.
Those frustrations have grown, and with another season of championship football guaranteed next time round, there are more and more calls for owner Marcus Evans to do something to pull the club out of the state of inertia and stagnation it appears to be in.
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
You can understand the fans anger and frustration. Ipswich Town is a club with a glorious history. It has given the country its two most successful managers, produced arguably one of the finest club side the country has seen, and boasts the record (31) for the most games unbeaten at home in Europe.
It is that history however, that weighs heavily in the memories of the fans old enough to remember it. And for those who are not, which is an increasingly high percentage, only have a playoff final victory and George Burleys remarkable first year in the premiership when they finished 5th to cling onto.
The longest serving team in the championship by a distance, Town have not even looked like getting out for the majority of that time. Since two successive playoff defeats in 2003/4 and 2004/5, the club has finished between 13th and 15th six times.
All the other times but once when they were 6th, they managed 7th, 8th or 9th. The current odds on bookies BetStars indicate that it’s going to be the regular story this year. And if you look up mid-table mediocrity in the OED, it will be Mick McCarthy’s team staring dolefully back at you.
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Added to that is the style of play. Talk to fans of the club, and many will concede that where results and progress out of the division is something more or less out of the clubs control, the style of play is not. People would be more likely to accept a mediocre league position if they could see firstly entertaining, attacking football, and secondly, that there seemed to be progress, or at least the plans for progress.
Both those were sadly lacking, and coincided with dwindling attendances, and audible dissent from the stands. At the turn of the year it looked like McCarthy’s tenure at the club which is the longest in the division, could very well be coming to an end.
Since then things have turned around. Bolstered by some canny signings in the window, he has found a new style of play that is not only pleasing on the eye, it is also achieving results on the pitch. With talented youngsters coming through the ranks, it should be an exciting time for Ipswich fans, but they have seen far too many false dawns before. Getting out of the championship is an incredibly difficult task.
Doing it with less money than the vast majority of the league makes it all the harder. Town have turned to stability to help them achieve it. If they do decide that it isn’t working and they need fresh blood in the summer, they will be relying on something else, asking a manager to squeeze something out of the players and Mick McCarthy’s squad, that he was not able to.
If stability and money are the two best ways of achieving success, throwing one of those away when there is the absence of the other would be a brave and risky option. What else are you relying on, luck?