Diary of a Tractor Boy: 23rd – 29th April

Tuesday 24th April

The current Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett is the latest name to be linked to the vacant manager’s role at Ipswich. The former Millwall and Wolves man would potentially be seen as a safe pair of minds but would be an uninspiring appointment, particularly off the back of five years under Mick McCarthy.

One left-field option that has emerged today is the current Taiwan manager Gary White. Few people in Suffolk will know much about him but he has gained a reputation abroad for taking countries to their highest ever FIFA ranking and he spoke well in an interview with the EADT, stating he would aim to get Ipswich in the Premier League “within two years”. He has been handpicked to take a two-year elite coaching development programme so he must be highly thought of within the FA, and with twenty years of coaching already under his belt this might be the right time for him to break into English club management. It would be a risk but he certainly talks a good game and might at least be worth an interview.

The much-anticipated interview with Marcus Evans will be released at midday tomorrow. What will he say? Is he even a real person? We’ll find out very soon.

Wednesday 25th April

After more than ten years of owning Ipswich Town, Marcus Evans has finally appeared on camera for the first time in an interview conducted by the club. The half-hour long chat was published on the club’s YouTube channel today and covered a range of topics. My initial reaction was that, while elements of the conversation appeared to be a bit scripted and robotic, Evans was generally very honest with his answers and didn’t avoid any awkward subjects. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised if he appeared a little uncomfortable – after all, he is clearly a very private man and has up to this point not been keen on making public appearances. This was never going to be Frost/Nixon but those who were hoping for something more off the cuff would have been left a tad disappointed.

Evans repeatedly referred to his ‘five-point plan’, which was brought out last year as an attempt to clarify the long-term strategy of the club. To be honest I’ve always been a little cynical about this apparent plan, I presumed it was something that had been quickly scribbled down in an attempt to appease those fans that were becoming restless. However, his repeated references to it suggests that it is taken seriously within the club, although it was hard to see how McCarthy could never fit in with such a strategy.

Evans was clearly well-prepared for the interview and was knowledgeable about both the current playing staff and the academy. Some fans have accused him of being out of touch with the fans, but he was clearly well aware of the schism that had developed between the club and its fans, and also of how the playing style was having a negative impact on attendances and the atmosphere. His statement that he didn’t consider offering a new contract to McCarthy was telling.

It would be easy to be cynical about this interview, given the lack of communication between Evans and the fans over the past decade, but he should be given credit for fronting up on some awkward topics, such as the accusation that he has been using the club as a write-off against tax, and whether he had considered selling the club. The simple fact that he has directly communicated with the fans is a step forward – the interview has helped to humanise him and should be a starting point and rebuilding the relationship with the disillusioned portion of the fanbase.

His most interesting comment was towards the end of the interview – when asked about the next managerial appointment, he said “we’re going to try something different”, implying a move away from his previous strategy of appointing experienced managers with previous promotions to their name. This would rule out the likes of Tony Mowbray and Alan Pardew and opens up the possibility of a change in structure, such as the appointment of a director of football.

Whoever comes in next, many fans have got what they wanted – Mick has gone, Evans has spoken publicly and season ticket prices have been cut. This is an opportunity to start afresh, with a new manager, a different plan and a more positive atmosphere around the club. It’s now up to us as fans to back whoever comes in next because it won’t be an easy job – the club’s budget will still be much smaller than the biggest sides in the league, so it will take smart management to even finish in the play-offs. The line has been drawn under the McCarthy era, it’s time to look forward with hope for something better next season.

Thursday 26th April

I was slightly concerned to see Harry Redknapp put himself in contention to be the next manager, in an interview with Talksport today. The former Spurs manager is known to be a friend of Marcus Evans and is thought to have previously recommended Paul Jewell, which turned out well…

It’s hard to tell whether Redknapp was being serious or not, either way if I was Evans I wouldn’t be rushing to call him. Chris Coleman has also been linked to the job in this morning’s papers, despite his disastrous spell as Sunderland boss. Evans said in his interview that an appointment is most likely to be made at the end of May, so we have a whole month of further speculation to look forward to.

A small bit of contract news – the club have taken up their option of a one-year extension to Teddy Bishop’s contract, but there is still no word on whether Hyam or McGoldrick will be kept on for next season. Bishop had a superb first season in 2014/15 but has struggled terribly with injuries ever since. Next season could be his last chance to prove himself at Ipswich, especially with so many injury-prone players currently on the club’s books.

Friday 27th April

The final away game of the season sees us travel to the Madejski Stadium to face a struggling Reading side. The Royals were a penalty shoot-out away from promotion in May last year but their fortunes have turned dramatically since then, with Jaap Stam eventually sacked in March after a run of one win in 18 league matches. The patient, possession-based style that served them so well last season has proven to be ineffective this campaign, though interestingly many of the stats from 2016/17 suggested that reaching the play-offs was a huge overachievement. Paul Clement has come in and while their form hasn’t improved dramatically, a point tomorrow will probably be enough to preserve their second-tier status for another year.

Luke Woolfenden has been recalled from his loan spell at Bromley and will most likely go straight into the matchday squad for this weekend. Adam Webster is fit enough to be included once more, which will add a bit of experience to what is expected to be a very young team. Results aren’t hugely important at this stage but it would be a good morale boost for everyone if they could bounce back from last week’s 4-0 hammering.

The rumour mill has been very busy with this week, with Sol Campbell and Scott Parker the latest to be named as potential candidates. Campbell is set to be interviewed by Evans, according to The Daily Telegraph, at some point over the next few weeks. He has been very vocal in recent months about his desire to get into management and was recently interviewed by Oxford United. It’s good to see Evans casting the net wide in his search for a new manager but I would question whether the club needs another egotistical former top-level player after the Keane disaster.

Scott Parker has been recommended by David Pleat according to TWTD, who is a known long-time associate of Evans. Parker would most likely be appointed alongside a more senior figure in a director of football-type role. Evans has previously opted for managers with previous promotions from the Championship but as he said in his interview the other day, the club is now looking to try “something different”. One of the options would be to appoint a director of football and a head coach, a structure that is common in Europe and is increasingly prevalent in English football.

Shefki Kuqi is now the bookies’ favourite following Lincoln’s announcement of a new deal for Danny Cowley, though given Evans’ comments on the likely timing of an appointment I think the odds are fairly meaningless at the moment.

Sunday 29th April

Incredible – after being on the wrong end of a 4-0 defeat at home last weekend, this time the roles we reserved and we’ve delivered a hammering of our own, putting Reading to the sword with four goals in the final twenty minutes. This equalled the biggest win of the whole McCarthy era – the 4-0 home win over Middlesborough – and even that match was managed by Terry Connor as Mick missed the game due to illness.

Klug named a young side, giving first Championship starts for Folami and Woolfenden, and recalling Carayol in a 3-4-3 formation. The first half was not a classic with limited chances for both sides, and Town mostly playing on the counter. Carayol was causing the Reading defence a few problems but pulled up injured, yet again, and was replaced by Freddie Sears.

Bialkoswki made an excellent save to deny Swift after a swift counterattack, and shortly afterwards the floodgates opened. Waghorn struck from close range after 70 minutes with the Reading defenders appealing for offside. From the replays they may well have had a point, but after that they completely collapsed, and Ipswich took full advantage. Jordan Spence cut in from the right and shot through the keeper’s legs a few minutes after Waghorn’s goal, and in stoppage time both Sears and Connolly took advantage of some shambolic defending to seal our biggest away win in seven years, a week after our biggest home defeat in seven years.

Much like the Villa defeat we shouldn’t read too much into the result, but it was really pleasing to see such a positive performance against a team that still has plenty to play for, especially with such a youthful team. Kenlock, Woolfenden, Nydam and Folami will all have learned plenty from yesterday’s win, and it was great to see us kill off what was a pretty poor Reading side. Under the previous manager we would probably have sat back and tried to hold on to the one goal lead, but yesterday we were confident and positive enough to take advantage of the opposition’s mistakes. There was also some excellent passing play yesterday, showing the influence that Klug and his team have had in their short time at the helm. Martyn Waghorn should also get a mention – with 15 goals and ten assists, he is the only Championship defender to reach double figures for both goals and assists this season.

Overall there is undoubtedly a much more positive feeling around the club at the moment, and this weekend’s win will only add to that. There were so many positive from Saturday – a clean sheet, four goals away from home, finally winning at Reading, a first goal of the season for Sears and a more attractive style of play, to name a few. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going for next weekend and beyond, whoever happens to be the manager.

 

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