Tuesday 20th March
International break should mean a quieter week on the field and online in the world of Ipswich Town, and quite frankly I’m grateful for it. The feeling around the club recently has been fairly wretched and we could all do with a break. Besides, there’s a Test match and the new Formula 1 season starting in the next few days (take a look at my season preview), so there’s plenty to keep me entertained. The England football team is apparently playing, but I admit I have no idea when or who they’re playing. I’m sure it will be super exciting.
Looking back to last weekend, there has been plenty of chat online on the subject of a potential new manager. Chief exec Ian Milne spoke with a number of fans in a pub in Bristol, and there is a sense from those conversations that the decision has already been taken to let McCarthy go at the end of the season. This in turn sparked speculation about who could potentially take over. The list of names I’ve seen mentioned on various websites would make a handy five-a-side team: Tony Mowbray, Sol Campbell, Laurent Blanc, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
Clearly, only one of these suggestions is even vaguely sensible, the rest of them are absurd to differing extents. Tony Mowbray has a mixed record as a manager but is doing an excellent job at shoddily-run Blackburn Rovers, sitting at the top of League One with nine games left, and of course as an ex-Town player he would have the approval of the fans. There may be others, however, that would prefer a younger, less ‘old-school’ style of manager. It would seem unlikely that Evans would go down the ‘famous player but inexperienced manager’ route after having his fingers burned by Roy Keane, but as he never speaks to us it’s impossible to know what he’s thinking. Still, it’s fun to speculate and there may be plenty of opportunity to do so in the next couple of months.
Thursday 22nd March
Ipswich fans have become accustomed over the last couple of years to seeing players appear in youth international sides, and this has continued with both Flynn Downes and Tristan Nydam called up to the England under 19 squad, although Nydam had to later withdraw through injury. Downes played the full 90 in a 4-1 win over Hungary, and given his form at Luton you would expect to be a regular in our match day squad next season.
There have also been a number of call-ups to full international sides – Bialkowski (Poland), Carter-Vickers (USA), Celina (Kosovo), Knudsen (Denmark) and Kevin Bru (Mauritius). Bart and Knudsen still have a chance of appearing at this summer’s World Cup, so hopefully they will impress over the next couple of weeks and become the first Ipswich Town player at a World Cup since Tommy Smith represented New Zealand in 2010.
Other than that, it’s been a quiet week at Portman Road. One further piece of positive news is that Andre Dozzell is on track to be fit for pre-season, which would be a good recovery given the seriousness of the cruciate ligament injury he suffered in August. In Dozzell, Nydam and Downes, the club has a very promising trio of central midfielders – hopefully the club can bring them through in the right way over the coming years.
Saturday 24th March
Friday was a tame evening of international football, but from an Ipswich perspective it was fantastic to see Bart make his Poland debut, coming on in the second half against Nigeria. His performances for the club in the last three seasons have been magnificent, he has been voted player of the year for the last two seasons and looks likely to win it again this year. He has some stiff competition, in particular from Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, so he almost certainly won’t start at the World Cup but he still has a chance to get in the squad as third choice goalkeeper.
Sunday 25th March
Just when you thought we were having a quiet week, today has come along and blown that out of the water. I spent most of the day avoiding social media until I had watched the F1 race, and when I finally came online at 5 there were two main topics of discussion.
Firstly, it had been claimed that Steve McClaren is being lined up to take over from Mick McCarthy in the summer. This story came from The Sun on Sunday, so I’ll wait until a reputable source prints this before paying too much attention, but it would fit the profile the manager that Evans has appointed in the past. The news unsurprisingly invoked a mixed reaction on social media.
Let’s have a look first at the arguments in favour of ‘Shteve’: he has a Dutch title to his name from his time at FC Twente, and was known for playing an attacking, attractive style of football while manager at Derby County. One of the supporters’ main issues with McCarthy has been the style of play, so in this respect McClaren would be a step in the right direction.
However, what he achieved at Derby was done on a much larger budget than he’s likely to get at Ipswich, and ultimately he couldn’t get promoted, which is regarded as a failure by many Rams fans. McClaren’s ability and willingness to work to a tight budget remains unknown. His time in charge at Newcastle and his second spell at Derby did not go so well, lasting less than a year at each and managing a total of just 60 games. There will of course be a few that can’t see past his disastrous spell with England, culminating in a 3-2 defeat to Croatia and earning him the nickname ‘The Wally with the Brolly’.
Two other names were mentioned in the report – Jaap Stam and Tony Mowbray. We discussed Mowbray earlier in the week, while Stam is an unsurprising link given how Reading performed during the last campaign. His Royals side became renowned for their patient, possession-based style and came within a penalty shoot-out of promotion last season, but results have tailed off drastically and a run of just one win in 19 games saw him sacked only a week or so ago. Personally I found Reading’s style of play very tedious to watch or the couple of occasions I saw them under Stam, and it would be such a contrast from the current style and the squad would probably require a complete overhaul, for which there almost certainly isn’t the budget available.
The other story emerging from today was that a few eagle-eyed fans spotted on Ipswich’s ticketing site that the season ticket prices had been posted, and the news appears to be that prices have been reduced by about 10% across the board. This will be welcomed by the supporters, many of whom were unhappy about the price increases for the current season, which led to a drop in season ticket sales of 15-20%. We’ll have more of a look at season ticket prices when they are officially announced, but if true this will be the most significant price cut since Evans bought the club in 2007, and might be enough to persuade some to renew.
We are expecting official news to arrive in the next few days. Will they also give us an update on McCarthy’s future? All will (hopefully) be revealed soon…