Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ipswich fans divided through tough times

When times are hard at Ipswich Town, it's often the angriest voices that seem loudest.

That's why, when I read East Anglian Daily Times columnist Karl Fuller talking passionately about why he feels Mick McCarthy should be relieved of his duties, I felt compelled to write a response.

Since my own article appeared in the paper on Friday a few people have contacted me to ask if they can read it online. Unfortunately, it isn't available on the website so I thought I would issue a more detailed version here on my blog.

Because, although I'm equally frustrated with our current form I don't think things are as bad as some fans believe. I also thought it was important to highlight that not all fans are calling for Mick's head.

I recently ran a poll on Facebook and Twitter asking who believed McCarthy should leave and who wanted him to stay: with almost four hundred people taking part, 51% voted for him to stay. That provides a decent guide to how split the fan base is currently.

Karl's 'Fuller Flavour' piece last Monday contained a letter from fan Mark Holdaway who summarised the reasons he feels McCarthy's time at Ipswich should be at an end.

Whilst I respect Mark's opinions, I do not entirely agree with them, here I have picked out the main points:

'The partnership of Skuse and Douglas does not work.'

The midfield partnership - affectionately known as Skuglas - does frustrate at times due to a lack of creativity. The two are very similar players and fielding them together generally results in a defensive performance from our side.

But, it is no coincidence that whilst the duo were in the side we had the second best defensive record in the league. Furthermore, it is telling to me that with Skuse unable to play against Newcastle we conceded three goals. While during our home victory over Burton, with Douglas absent, we reportedly allowed the opposition more opportunities to score.

For me, playing defensively is not an issue. In fact, it is going to be essential to us having any success this season. But I do understand this results in less entertaining football and agree that sometimes it is appropriate to set up the team with a more attacking approach.

'I also see a captain played out of position just to accommodate him a place in the team...'

Luke Chambers has received some stick for his success (or lack of) at right back for some time now, but it feels somewhat harsh.

Again, I agree he is not productive to an attacking formation and is prone to errors, but he has appeared in the EFL Championship team of the year several times. Only last week, following that home win over Burton, he was named in that team again, which has to suggest he isn't all bad, surely?

'...And one striker up front at home'.

I agree without reservation that a formation with two men up front would suit our current squad best. Neither Sears nor Best have shown themselves capable of producing the goods alone, so my preference would definitely be to play them together.

But without a main striker, like Murphy or McGoldrick, confidence in playing an attacking game will be low.

The sale of Murphy came very, very late and left us little time to sort a replacement. Whether you agree with Evans refusing to pay the increased prices demanded for our planned replacements or not, I personally do, turning down the high sum for Murphy would have been ludicrous.

The welcome return of McGoldrick should lift the pressure, giving us a player who can create chances and intimidate the opposition. But, he will need time to return to full match fitness and I suspect McCarthy will continue with the defensive approach until then.

It's daunting playing in this tough league without a first choice striker and it's understandable that McCarthy has reverted back to a 'tight at the back', defensive approach to games, at least until that situation is resolved, hopefully in January.

The sale of Murphy came very, very late and left us little time to sort a replacement. Whether you agree with Evans refusing to pay the increased prices demanded for our planned replacements or not, I personally do, turning down the high sum for Murphy would have been ludicrous.

When it comes to Mick, I am yet to be convinced that the time has come for him to move on, though I am not unsympathetic to the opinions about why he ought to leave.

At the beginning of the summer I said he ought to be given time to show what he can do in the transfer window and then we should wait and see how the 'improved' team were doing come the end of October.

As we near that date I find I have wimped out of reaching for my pitchfork and chasing him out of Suffolk, but for good reason. Until the final week of the transfer window, McCarthy made some good purchases, bringing in some potentially exciting youngsters (something most Ipswich fans were calling out for last season, but few seem to be acknowledging this season) and a couple of wingers too.

Add to the sale of Murphy the list of injuries that we've experienced, it's clear McCarthy has been put in a difficult position and is making the best of what he has available.

Of course, these are all simply my opinions and being able to discuss different points of view is one of the joys of being a football fan in the age of social media. Less enjoyable is the tendency to criticise those with opposing opinions.

Karl and Mark have been branded disloyal because they have criticised McCarthy and that is not fair. Fans like Karl, who travel the country to watch our team play, should never be made to feel inferior to any other fans. In fact, the same should be true for any person who still cares about this club after nearly fifteen years in the Championship - whatever their opinions on McCarthy and Evans.

That includes those who, like me, understand and support the decisions made by our manager and owner. I don't think any of us are happy with the current run of performances, but to be called 'deluded' on a daily basis is frustrating when I too simply want the best for our club.

Last week I saw fans ridiculed for being stuck 'in the dark ages' because they defended our performances, as I have here. Equally, the names thrown at McCarthy, 'dinosaur' and so on, are unhelpful.

The mood and attendance at Portman Road will improve with better performances and results, should we really allow it to become quite so toxic in the meantime?

We all want what is best for our club; the fact we disagree on how that should be achieved does not mean we should be at loggerheads all the time.

That's not the Ipswich way.


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