Chelsea 7 Ipswich Town 0
Town were always going to lose this one, but to go down by seven goals for only the third time since the mid-sixties was a bitter pill to swallow for an impressive travelling support. The relief with which many supporters (although not this one) greeted Roy Keane’s dismissal two days earlier will have conveniently masked any awareness that going into successive matches against two of the best teams in the world was the worst possible time to be without a proper manager. In fact, it appears from the outside that having a stand-in who clearly wants to be away even before next Wednesday is probably worse than having no manager at all.
Although Ipswich were totally outplayed in the first half, 3-0 was probably generous to Chelsea, and I find it hard to believe that a few words at half-time from Roy Keane wouldn’t have instilled more pride and commitment than we saw in the second half. And if the manager couldn’t have roused the team, at least one of the senior pros might have risen to the task. But there was nothing there. It was a training exercise for a Chelsea team who we should remember scored seven or more four times in the Premier League in 2010, against much better sides than Ipswich.
And yet… if Leeds can go to Arsenal and give them a good game, why can’t Ipswich at least put up token resistance against one of the big clubs? Unfortunately, we may be about to learn a very hard truth: Roy Keane may or may not have been a decent manager, but the real problem is that the team he’s assembled is simply very poor indeed. I have a friend who comes to many home games who’s a ‘neutral’, and he’s been saying this all season, while (with my blue-tinted specs on) I’ve been arguing that they are a decent bunch of players who just need the right organisation and motivation. Sadly, I think I’ve been overoptimistic. I’m not sure there’s a single player in the Town squad who’d be remotely considered for a Championship Select XI at the moment, and I doubt any manager who comes in is going to be able to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. Is there really a single player who any of us – or the club – would really miss? McAuley maybe, but that’s about it. Wickham has great potential, and for some reason I love Jaime Peters and Troy Brown to bits, but they’re not even regulars.
We had a ridiculously low pitch-level view which doesn’t allow me to seriously give the players proper ratings. Fulop made some great stops in the first half, but miscommunication with his defence was responsible for two or three of the goals. McAuley looked the part, although he was overwhelmed, and Brown kept his head up commendably; Peters produced the only real positive moves of the second half. But I can’t think of anything positive to say about anyone else. In a match where we just wanted commitment and pride, even if it was only to limit the damage, we got very little of either.
The supporters, on the other hand, were magnificent, and deserved much more than a token raised hand-clap from the players, who trudged off without really taking much more than a step in our direction. Can you imagine that from Matt Holland or any other fan-favourite from the past? I remember Town putting seven past WBA in the seventies at Portman Road, and being amazed at the increasingly high spirits from the opposing fans. Today Town’s support was every bit as good as that. If the players cared half as much as the supporters, the scoreline surely wouldn’t have been as embarrassing.