Mick McCarthy’s reign as Ipswich Town manager has just reached its two-year anniversary. Two years as football fans very well know, is an awfully long time in the game. During those 24 months, McCarthy has taken hold of a club which was in a state of absolute decay, hauling it from the Championship basement to safety initially and then within a sniff of the play-offs.
There was a sense of almost perfect symmetry at Blackpool on Saturday as Ipswich defeated a side bottom of the table and clearly spiralling into a dangerous decline off it. While Town fans left the seaside pleased with another three points, many probably recognised the desperate situation Tangerines find themselves in.
It’s a turbulent, fickle world Championship clubs operate within. The turnover of managers is frightening and McCarthy now finds himself one of the division’s longest-serving. From a less than in-depth scan through the table, I make Eddie Howe at Bournemouth more or less level with McCarthy on time in current employment.
So, with that and Howe’s seemingly midas touch on the south coast at present, surely Mercurial Mick deserves some sort of anniversary gift from the owner for his services to Ipswich?
Much has been written recently about how the current squad has been assembled by at a combined cost of just £10,000, paid to Chippenham Town for one Tyrone Mings. I acknowledge the recent critiques of this figure that significant amounts will have been spent on high-profile loan deals for the likes of Johnny Williams, but still it is a quite unique stat.
But, for me this is a barrier the club must break through if it’s to be realistic about challenging for promotion this season. I seem to remember writing a blog in December 2012 talking about how McCarthy needed to be allowed some spending money to strengthen and this was after the deal for Mings had been done.
Last season, the team overachieved and we loved it. A number of seasons watching attritional, one-dimensional, quite frankly at times, appalling football under Messrs Keane and Jewell had finally made way for a refreshing brand of hard-working performances, rewarded with deserved victories. Supporters finished the season with the peculiar contentment of having competed for a play-off place, but falling short in the closing games. There was a clear realisation we had nowhere near the squad capable of competing in the top flight.
Fast-forward to this season and there have been some strong signs last season has been a springboard and we can be realistic promotion competitors. Repeatedly conceding leads late-on is what keeps us out of the top two, never mind the top six. But, while praise has been dished out for the thriftiness shown in assembling the starting XI (it actually cost nothing against Huddersfield when Mings was suspended), it has to be time to dust off the cheque book and show how serious we are.
Forthcoming matches against Wolves, Watford, Bournemouth and Charlton will illustrate exactly where we stand alongside our competitiors. This is our 13th consecutive season at this level and I feel for the younger supporters out there who will have known nothing other than Championship football. We deserve to have a serious crack at promotion for their sakes more than anyone else.
Graham Blackburn, host of the extremely entertaining and informative Naked Football Show on Ipswich Community Radio, made the point recently after the 3-1 defeat against Cardiff City that The Bluebirds (sorry Vincent Tan!) had the ability to bring like-for-like quality players off their bench to rotate their key players and ultimately win the game, something sadly we do not possess. Take a quick scan of all three squads from last season’s relegated Premier League sides and you’ll see how they’ve spent their parachute money on proven Championship quality.
Will mysterious owner Marcus Evans realise the need to do the same come January and loosen those tightened purse strings? I appreciate to buy, we will probably have to sell or trim down the squad, but I think supporters would, on the whole, realise that. I also recognise that both Middlesbrough and Wolves have deservedly made their way in to the top six without breaking the bank, so perhaps there is method on the “madness”. While we keep a close guard on our pennies, at least we are sticking to the Ipswich way of promoting talented youngsters. Promising performances this season from home-grown midfielders Luke Hyam and Teddy Bishop have been enough to make this 30-something Ipswich Town cynic smile while I long for the day of a “statement of intent” signing.
Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger
Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams