Sunday, 21 August 2011

Where do Town go from here?

The Ipswich Town team seemed to take a while to come out of the dressing room on Saturday evening: what do you think Paul Jewell was saying?

If you were him, what on earth would you have said?

Having not made it to Portman Road yet, this weekend was the first chance I've had to see the rapidly self-destructing side for myself. It's a totally different team from what I witnessed in Bristol, and for 48 hours I have been lost for words.

At first, it all looked hopeful. The players enjoyed a fun warm up: Arran Lee Barrett put some lovely shots past David Stockdale (which he's not really supposed to do!), Micheal Chopra squirted Josh Carson with his water bottle when he wasn't looking, while Mark Kennedy placed his hand on Aaron Cresswell's shoulder - clearly offering him advice and confidence.

This calm side then moved on to the pitch and for the first fifteen minutes we were doing things the Ipswich way: easing in to the game, gaining control and taking shots whenever we could.

Then Andrews scored... and it was down hill from that point on.

It's so upsetting to see the side that filled us with so much hope just a fortnight ago descending into absolute chaos. Every time Peterborough got the ball they scored, and there was seemingly nothing our shaken defence or non-existent midfield could do about it.

The worst thing to watch, though, was the way the players turned on each other, and at some points even the supporters. Chants from frustrated Blues fans of 'you're not fit to wear the shirt' were greeted with unpublishable swear words from Damien Delaney (who I suspect was actually more frustrated with himself than us). I will never condone booing at a match, not even at 7-1 down, but I did approve of this particular chant, this particular weekend - it's a sentiment that's repeatedly being expressed by PJ too.

So I ask again: if you were him, what would you say? How would you set about turning this team around

The obvious answer is to demand Marcus Evans gets his American Express out, but I am a firm believer that throwing money at a problem will not solve it.

We have plenty of perfectly good players in that side, what they need is improved training, better team spirit and a miracle confidence boost.

Two excellent blogs on TWTD have covered this topic very well: 'Is this club rotten from top to bottom?' (which, by the way, it is not), and 'Why the club is not in crisis from top to bottom'.

The former suggests, if a little dramatically, that the club overall is lacking a management strategy - i.e. a structured plan to decide where it is going and how it plans to get there. And the latter highlights the danger of focusing too much on buying in new players and not enough on the team we already have.

The side we have could be good enough - they just need working on. So PJ, I'm asking you: please don't forget that aspect of your job. Because whilst you are insisting on looking for new players the confidence level of our current players is getting lower and lower. They clearly feel they cannot do the job expected of them. In fact I wonder if some might actually be hoping you will buy someone to replace them - to get them out of this hole the easy way.

The sad reality is, there may well be no miracle signing waiting for PJ to snap them up. There may well be no transfer Superman to swoop in to Portman Road and save the day. The buck stops at the players currently taking up residence there, they have to realise they're the miracle we're looking for.

There is no Matty Holland any more, no Marcus Stewart or Finidi George. No Matteo Sereni, or Tony Mowbray, or Johnny Wark. And the chants regarding these Ipswich legends should not be taken as a dig at the poor quality of the current side, but as a direction that the players should be aiming for, the former glory years they should be aspiring to reach.

You know what I would like to see? Some of these former stars coming out and voicing their support for the Blues. Jamie Scowcroft's done so already, simultaneously backing the Blues and speaking the thoughts of many an Ipswich fan on Twitter:

'After yesterday's debacle still fancy Ipswich to do well this season'

Comments like this serve to distract and defuse the negative attention being placed on the club, whilst also giving the fans a boost and some form of reward for sticking with their team. Thanks Jamie!

Incidentally, one Ipswich affiliate I do not want to see go public is Marcus Evans. The entire media world have been waiting for that moment and if he were to make an appearance the attention on the club would be monumental. With the team already failing to live up to becoming the Championship's 'underdogs', I fear they would crumble beyond repair under the pressure that would bring.

When it comes down to it though it really doesn't matter what I say, nor what the former players say, nor Marcus Evans, or even Paul Jewell. When it comes down to it, all that really matters is what the players say and do next.

It's their turn to start giving us answers.

On the pitch.

I'm pleased to see my thoughts echoed by Mark Kennedy today. The defender, who surely ought to be captain next weekend, has been urging players to take a long hard look at themselves:

'We have to take repsonsibility. Any manager can only do so much. The training was good in the week and it is a disappointing situation when we players get on the pitch and don't do what we were told. It boils down to the players.'

While my Man of the Match Stockdale has also been speaking about the need for a new approach from Town players:

'Back from training. Lads are keen to improve and a new outlook. Let's go!!!'

Here, thank god, are two voices of reason from the only side of the story that really matters - the players. Only they can turn things around, so it is fascinating to see what is going through their minds at the moment. I only hope the whole squad are following in Stocko and Kennedy's determined lead.

So, with that we can try to look forward to a new week and hopefully a new chapter in the Ipswich Town history. All this frustration and pain will be worth it when (not if) the boys turn things around. Saturday sees the visit of Leeds, the team all Town fans love to hate - wouldn't it be nice to begin the story of our recovery against them???

In my previous blogs you'll find my call to action for the fans (who, by the way, ended Saturday evening in proud form - many, including me, staying until the very end to clap the players).

Consider this blog a call to action for the players: This is your time.

Promotion will not happen this season, I think the most sensible of Town fans understand that. But it will happen soon and you can be the ones to make sure of it.

The Ipswich fans are willing to give you everything they've got, follow you around the country and sing out and support you, come what may.

Now's the time for you to match that investment and show us everything you've got by putting it into this club too.

I'll leave you with another of Stocko's inspiring Tweets, try and remember it this week to erase the memory of those seven goals from your mind:

'Alot of great fans here at ITFC, so enough of feeling down! Got a game to work for on Sat and back to winning ways!'

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