The View From Churchmans

Ipswich Town home match reports from just another season-ticket holder

MATCH REPORT

Ipswich Town 0 Reading 3

Where do I start? Shocking. Everything was wrong: the application, the
tactics, the individual performances …this was just horrible to watch.

Losing at home to the best team in the division is acceptable. But the
manner of doing it was not. This is not my team at the moment. People argue
that a club cannot have a “style”; how is a “club culture” possible in a
business where the personnel and management change completely every few
years? But they’re missing the point. Supporters grow up with a club over
many, many years and they follow the club because they enjoy its style, its
culture, and its attitude. What we’re seeing now is not the way Ipswich
supporters have ever wanted to see the club develop. Position is not
everything.

Ten years ago, Messrs Sheepshanks and Burley took a club which had had the
stuffing knocked out of it and rebuilt it in a way the supporters wanted.
We’re patient people in East Anglia, and they knew it. We all remember what
happened: they (and we) got rewards in 2000-2001 of which we could never
have imagined. Sure, it didn’t last, and we found ourselves back in the
situation we’d been in a few years earlier, this time with a financial
cock-up to add insult to injury. But now the board panicked. It had tasted
the high life, and wanted it back, quickly, and badly. Instead of starting
again, it brought in the most experienced manager it could find and seemed
to set him one task only: get us back in the Premiership immediately, at any
cost (to the club’s heritage that is, there was no money). Many supporters,
including this one, were disappointed with Royle’s resurrection from
semi-retirement, and said so. In retrospect though, I guess what we were
disappointed with was not the choice of manager, but the type of manager and
the reasoning that led to that choice.

Did he get us back to the Premiership? No. But he developed a bizarre
goals-aloud strategy which amused everyone so much that it was difficult not
to warm to the guy. I’ll admit I was not disappointed when he got a second
season to try again. And that one was fun too, even if it didn’t work.
Again.

Yes, Royle had rather won this particular supporter over: I’ll always go for
entertainment over success, and anyway, finishing in the playoff spots is
hardly unsuccessful. OK, they gave him a third try. I wasn’t not comfortable
with what they were doing to our club, but hey, the football was fun. And we
thought it might just work this time.

It didn’t of course, even though we had more fun on the way. Now it’s time
for a fourth attempt, and we’re now all realising we could have had a
Sheepshanks/Burley “five year plan” all over again instead of a series of
self-contained failures. The board bet the farm on gung-ho tactics, and they
lost. Sure, Royle has to take a huge responsibility for the shambles we saw
last night, but he’s a symptom of the malaise at the club, not the cause.
I’m on the board of a business, and like any board member, I know it’s a
board’s task to define a strategy and employ professionals to execute that
strategy. It’s often the case that the strategy is right, but the people
brought in to carry it out might fail. When the strategy is wrong in the
first place, however, don’t point the finger at the employees. Joe Royle has
made a decent attempt at executing flawed policies. However, now the results
haven’t been achieved, the business is in a completely different situation,
and a new approach is needed. There’s no reason why he’s the right man for
that new approach. Sadly, we’ve got a chairman who has become so defensive
that I’m not sure we’re going to get a new approach anyway.

Let’s just step back a little and look at the starting lineup last night.
Just three home-grown players in the side, and only two of them home-grown
youngsters (Price and Richards)? In a club which has no money for buying
players? And nobody can say “we’ve sold all the good ones” because only one
of the four “big names” which went in the summer grew up at Ipswich. Only De
Vos (and perhaps now Naylor?) has played more than 50 league games for us in
their current role, yet the average age of the lineup was well over 25.

Nothing could explain the teamsheet though. It certainly got everyone
talking before the match, even if the typical conversations around me mainly
involved bemused shrugging of shoulders. What was Joe thinking? Sure,
Reading are probably the team of the moment, and clearly they’re better than
we are, but five in midfield and a lone striker? At home? Sorry Joe, but it
was one of those teamsheets which would have caused 20,000 people to have
been gleefully emptying their wallets if Ladbrokes had been offering odds on
“this is going to be a disaster”. And guess what? It was. So much so that in
the first half – *in the first half* – we found ourselves bringing on a
35-year-old out-of-favour defender to sort things out, and stuck the
centre-half up front. It was the sort of farce you’d have expected if Mike
Bassett had been in charge, or the amateurs on the terraces like me. Not one
of England’s oldest and most experienced club managers.

When I said at the start “everything was wrong” I meant it. Not only was the
teamsheet so out of character for this club, but the players seemed to lack
any motivation or urgency, the crowd were irritated and unsupportive, and
wouldn’t you know it, the opposition were pretty useful too. Three-nil?
Three was a bit of a let-off. We were lucky to get nil, as they say.

Match Ratings:
Excitement – 2/5
Town Performance – 1/5

More Godardesque Player Ratings (1-5 for style, 1-5 for content):

PRICE 7 (3/4):
Not Lewis’s fault he had to pick the ball out of the net three times.
Probably the only criticism you can level at him was that once or twice it
might have been nice to have seen him come off his line more quickly, and on
occasions he hoofed it clear when he might have been a little more measured.
But this is just the sign of a young keeper being advised conservatively and
wisely, and I’m not complaining. Three or four good saves made him easily
our man of the match.

SITO 6 (3/3), DE VOS 4 (2/2), NAYLOR 5 (3/2), McEVELEY 4 (2/2):
Jason was ponderous and at fault for much of the defence’s ineptitude, which
was largely papered over by Fab’s usual madcap performance when brought on
to allow Bam-Bam to go up and show how a real attacker should play. Sito was
the pick of the bunch by doing the simple things well, although sometimes
even the simple things were more than Darren Currie’s brain could cope with.
Bam-Bam was struggling at the back and may have been relieved to have got
the call-up to go forward.

WILLIAMS 4 (2/2), JUAN 4 (2/2), HORLOCK, RICHARDS 4 (3/1), CURRIE 4 (2/2):
Five in midfield? It might as well have been none at times. They were all
over the place, even when reduced to a more conventional four of them.
Nobody seemed to know what was expected of them, where the others were or
how to play sensible passes forward. Nothing, but nothing went right for
Matt all night, but at least he kept his head up until the end when others
had faded away. Gavin Williams and JJ were largely anonymous; Darren got a
bit more involved but his crosses were dreadful and his dead-ball attempts
consistently disappointing for someone of his ability. Kev Horlock, before
being sacrificed for the team’s rearrangement, was probably the pick of the
bunch although he was so overwhelmed in front of defence that I can
understand some people not seeing it that way.

PARKIN:
Ah Sam, ain’t it sod’s law, I actually thought you were the one player who
looked up for it, then you went and got crocked. Bam-Bam went up front when
it was clear Forster wasn’t going to be a like-for-like replacement, and for
a moment he set the place alight, before fading into obscurity as the match
went on and the service failed to materialise.

Subs – FORSTER 4 (2/2) took over from Parkin but didn’t offer much threat to
Reading’s defence; he got off most of our few shots of the evening but never
troubled the keeper. WILNIS 5 (3/2) didn’t particularly shore up the defence
but he certainly seemed like a man on a mission at times, and I still think
he’s as good an option as we have in that position. WESTLAKE was as
anonymous as Jimmy Juan had been.

The REF had a quiet night. They must find it a break when the focus of a
crowd’s annoyance is on the team rather than them!

The CROWD will probably get criticised by the club for being negative and
ironically cheering when we actually strung two passes together or had a
header. But the crowd also forked out what, a quarter of a million quid,
half a million quid to watch this rubbish, not to mention driving miles in
the freezing fog. So we can react how we want. Now it’s past midnight and
I’m off to bed. I’ll read this in the morning and see if I’m still as
irritated with what some people are doing to my team.

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