After the malevolent nature of Mick McCarthy’s departure at Ipswich Town, there was an unusual air of freshness and optimism that ascended over Portman Road.
Packaged as a bold new era, Paul Hurst was appointed as McCarthy’s successor and he was the beacon of hope those of a blue persuasion were hoping would lead them to a bright new future. Hurst’s job at transforming Shrewsbury Town was nothing short of remarkable, excitement was at fever pitch prior to the season beginning.
Many in Suffolk would have seen him as the man to insert a bold new philosophy and drive them away from McCarthy’s negative, anti-football and pragmatic approach.
Despite this being published on a Norwich City site, this isn’t one clouded by rivalry or bitterness, but simply because the Ipswich Town case study is both intriguing and fan driven.
Hurst’s Ipswich are in a period of transition.
For spells in games, they look threatening, self-assured and competitive. For others, they press sporadically, are littered with individual errors and still operate with a very direct approach. This isn’t a side who are an opposite to McCarthy’s organised yet uncreative outfit.
Despite the spells in games, Hurst’s reign to date will be overshadowed by the fact Ipswich are yet to record a competitive win during his tenure.
Two months into Ipswich’s new era and the only thing they have to show for it is 11 games without a win, eight goals scored and sitting in the relegation zone.
After letting a two-goal advantage slip against Birmingham City last Saturday, Hurst was quoted as saying it is simply to early to judge his graft at this stage. Moving away from five stable, if unexciting years under McCarthy’s stewardship was always going to take time.
Similar to Norwich, they have ripped out both staff members and cultural approach in search for excitement and grass significantly greener.
Loud mouth pundits have criticised their divorce with McCarthy, and this isn’t an article designed to boast about how change isn’t always for the better. If Hurst doesn’t happen to be the man to lead Ipswich into a new era, then someone else ultimately will be.
McCarthy’s belligerence towards supporters won him no friends.
He is one of football’s oldest characters, one who doesn’t understand how football is evolving and craves the power to live by his decisions. His value, though, is rising with every Ipswich performance, and somewhere he will be sitting smugly, smiling because at the moment, the job he did at Ipswich is looking rather remarkable.
The supporters drove the agenda for change.
City supporters can sympathise from watching Chris Hughton’s lack of experiment and bland style of football whereby opponents where respected and entertainment invisible.
Ipswich resembled Mick McCarthy, run down, negative and uninspiring.
For a club who mentions history at every opportunity, for the highlight in the last five years to be a home win against Newcastle and an equaliser against Norwich to top the list displays how the mighty have fallen from their cup winning exploits decades ago.
Embracing history is expected, most football clubs will display statues or memorabilia to those gone before, but history alone doesn’t translate to results currently. Ipswich need reviving and modernising. They are club living on those great highs and not in the moment.
Financially, they have nothing, on the pitch they lack quality and the outlook, which was previously clear skies, has transcended into murky, deep waters.
Attendances are dwindling, expectations lowering, quality lacking, and, make no mistake, this is a club regressing rapidly. There is no joy about the above on my part. Ipswich and Norwich should be competing on the top level.
Ipswich resemble Norwich’s 2008-09 side. Devoid of quality, leadership and passion.
There is an apathetic cloud over Portman Road that they don’t seem able to shake, despite their positive spells and nice phases of play, they lack cutting edge and punch.
That winless weight is getting heavier.
Against Middlesbrough, they looked comfortable playing in front of Tony Pulis’ organised side. Boro didn’t have to use quality or slick play to deconstruct a defensive shape. It was individual error and then Luke Chambers showing Stewart Downing on his right foot, when it is almost universally known Downing is predominantly left-footed.
For what it’s worth, I think Ipswich will stay up.
The longer they go without a win, however, the more confidence will get sucked out of their play, the more negative they will become. When consuming Ipswich against Norwich, they didn’t play with the aesthetically pleasing philosophy so many of their supporters expected.
They should have beaten Norwich, Blackburn and Birmingham, and had they of done, Hurst’s side would be operating with self-assurance as opposed to self-doubt.
That said, however, Ipswich were unbeaten in three (until last night), are somehow creeping up the table despite not winning games, are hard to beat, are certainly not being blown away in matches and are not yet detached in the relegation zone as a result.
Progress can get overlooked when results aren’t being recorded, and signs of improvement are tangible.
Supporters campaigned for change. They voted against McCarthy unanimously with their feet and verbal chants witnessed at Carrow Road. So no, perhaps the grass isn’t significantly greener, but there is an argument that the seeds haven’t yet sprouted.
And so, they must see this through to its conclusion, be it positive or negative.
That’s drinking from a very different glass to most.
Hurst’s Shrewsbury side would most probably beat his Ipswich one. They played with discipline, courage and togetherness. Currently, it feels as though Hurst is throwing his cards into the air and hoping they land.
He looks broken already, bereft of ideas and bemused as to why his team isn’t responding to his methods.
Change can be a positive thing if embraced successfully. Hurst has set upon constructing an Ipswich Town so far removed from Mick McCarthy’s model that he has lost his own way, and the players that remain that championed their ex-manager’s belief are simply unable to produce.
Leading their line is Kayden Jackson, a player who was operating as a winger for Accrington Stanley in League Two last season. He has looked promising in spells but looked suitably out of his depth in others.
This was always going to be a long-term project. It was always a voyage into the unknown once it became clear a change was needed at Portman Road after nearly six years of Mick McCarthy.
Those signs of progress need to be translated into results. Baby steps need to be turned into significant strides.
To progress to the second international break minus a win would be considered a disaster. Ipswich are being watched by those campaigning for change all over the division, and so far, there step in the unknown has proved unsuccessful.
Change isn’t always for the better and the grass isn’t always greener, but Ipswich required reviving from McCarthy’s monotonous reign. It remains to see whether that means continued regression or eventual progression.
Alex B says
A vert interesting read and analysis on the Blue Noses
Last season there was calls for Farke to depart city and Hurst was a few supporters choice to replace him would those same people want him now????
IPSWICH owner will soon have to make a vital decision to stick or change yes there will e the usual names Moyes, Big Sam, Lambert, Pardew and now the new man looking for his 9th position and once of Carrow Rd the one and only Steve Bruce.
Would he have the bare faced cheek if offered the position to actually take it, yes they have employed an excity player before as manager in Joe Royle and he had limited success but I think the owner would turn all the supporters against hiself if he were to get Bruce and his backroom staff.
A very fair and considered piece about out current travails. The comparisons to our teams different eras albeit 12 months apart, are quite striking and like for you last season (and this) patience and hoping for the better has become a key element for supporters.
Hurst was doing fine until Waghorn wanted away, and then Garner too. He then attracted further angst by not playing youngsters and sending some out on loan, and still playing some of MMs lieutenants instead. The knives were then suddenly taken from their sheathes. Losing Walters has not helped, neither as not being able to get Huws and agent Ademyi anywhere near the pitch. I know injuries hit every team but those two in particular are partly responsible for our current plight, as well as the last managers demise
Was he right, has it all been too much too soon? Like you I think he has panicked a bit lately, but hopefully he is learning as well as some of his signings. Hopefully he learns quickly.
I do worry about the drop, it is not inevitable, but as it stands one place above at the end of the season will do me now. I look back to our latest derby where most comments both sides of the divide said that the gap between us was non exsistent now. Since then we are literally a league apart. Hopefully we can go on a similar run.
Thanks for your comments, not a gloat to be seen.
martin penney says
A fine comment indeed. and total respect for it.
Strikers who make and create chances make poor sides average, and average sides good. Until Pukki embarked on his scoring run many good observers were worried about City. In a virtual instant (I am thinking about the Middlesbrough game), City’s season turned. They now look accomplished and confident. Daniel Farke’s star is in the ascendant. The slick performance at Derby epitomised the transformation.
At Derby on Wednesday night I was watching Lawrence, Waghorn, and Jack Marriott warming up from the bench and my mind wandered to thoughts of Ipswich. All three players have appeared in the blue of Town, and all three are good enough to ‘do a Pukki’, and transform a Championship season.,
And therein lies Town’s biggest problem. They will be a potentially average young side, looking poor and struggling, until they find a Pukki. The chances of Jackson doing it are low. He is brave and willing, but looks like a Championship striker who will notch one goal in three or four games at best. Sears could be the man to hit a hot streak, but not on his own up front. I would actually go as far down the list as Ben Morris to find the man most likely, and he is extremely young, and away at FGR in any case. (I bet Steve McGavin has got his eye on Ben’s progress btw).
I have seen most Championship sides this season in the flesh, and Ipswich have been the poorest. They are in real trouble and need a season-changer. They are struggling to find it. In the eye of the storm, Paul Hurst is looking more the victim of circumstances, rather than the master of them. The bizarre thought hits me that they could do a lot worse than take Nelson Oliveira off City’s hands when the opportunity arises, and hope that a hero emerges to save their season.
ITFC fan says
Excellent analysis of the current situation at ITFC. Regardless of how the Hurst era pans out, McCarthy had to go. Whether we appointed the right replacement remains to be seen, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that change needed to happen.