Nine games is a very long time in a season, but what a change in fortune the last nine have had for Ipswich Town and indeed, a previously beleaguered Paul Jewell.
When I finished my last blog, basking in the light of a superb 5-1 home win over West Ham, I promised another entry before the Hull City away trip on March 10. Unfortunately, external factors have limited my blogging opportunities as well as my chances to watch Town in action.
Thankfully, Town have been less than tardy in going about their business of late and the recent run of results (one defeat in nine) is a welcome relief to the Blue and White faithful, who it’s fair to say have endured somewhat of a frustrating few seasons.
While the recent upturn in form means Championship status appears secure for another season, some fans will be wondering yet again, how has this club underachieved in a division where it should realistically be challenging the top six?
The last ten games will be accompanied by the all-too-recently-familiar ‘playing for league position end of season pride’ feeling. Perhaps the explanation for another year of mid-to-lower-table obscurity lies at the feet of the club’s management. What are Paul Jewell and his backroom staff not doing to identify the players and coaches with the potential to take the team back to the top flight?
Or perhaps, the fans should take a portion of the blame? Continued home attendances averaging around 18,000 in a 30,000 capacity stadium can hardly do much for creating an atmosphere or inspiring the players. Those who continually stay away – and this includes me for reasons such as distance and financial constraints – will quite rightly argue little has been done to entice them back to Portman Road more regularly.
This farcical situation reared its head last month during the abandoned Middlesbrough home game when the mid-winter temperatures plummeted to record lows. Quite rightly the game was called off, but the way in which Chief Executive Simon Clegg handled the refund policy in the days after was shameful.
I went to that game along with a group of five others, who were all flabbergasted to hear they would have to pay again to watch the rearranged fixture. This looks like being my last visit to Portman Road this season and it’s hardly one I will hold fondly among the memories of the last 20 years of watching the club. Sadly, Ipswich will face Boro on Tuesday March 27 for the new date in an even more subdued atmosphere, as no doubt dozens others like myself can’t get to the game or are unwilling to shell out even more for the privilege.
Going back to the question about Paul Jewell and his long-term strategy for the side, how much more will he be backed by the owners this summer in the transfer market? This presuming he is still in the job beyond the end of the season – remember how Jim Magilton was jettisoned so abruptly by Marcus Evans?
A huge turnover of players has taken place in the last four seasons and there are hardly any survivors from the pre-Roy Keane days. Some new additions this season have been a success like Michael Chopra, others hit and miss, such as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and the rest, complete flops, in the form of former Wigan striker Nathan Ellington.
However, what has been central to the upturn in form since late January has been the resurgence of players from the pre-Jewell days. Lee Martin, Luke Hyam and Tommy Smith are three of those who’ve rediscovered their form and taken their respective opportunities to nail down regular places in the starting line-up. Add another name to that list in Andy Drury – scorer of some superb goals of late – but still you’ve only got one of Jewell’s signings making a significant impact.
It’s been a torrid 14 months in the job for Jewell really, form has never been conistent, the defence has been far from secure and he has arguably avoided the sack by 45 minutes on at least two occasions. Come May, will the mysterious Marcus Evans decide to part company with him and plump for another candidate? Or, having learned his lesson from the ill-fated Roy Keane experiment, will he stick with the man in the hot seat for one more season?
Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger
Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams