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Newcastle today welcome a returning hero and record-breaker

4 years ago
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In Toon Today: Ipswich Town. Home of a Record-Breaker.

Who Manages Them?

Welcome back to Ipswich Manager Mick McCarthy, respected at SJP for his record-breaking achievements in Monkwearmouth.

His managerial career at Sunderland is described on the Ipswich Town FC website as “took Sunderland into the Premier League as Championship Winners”, which is a positive way to describe his time in Mackemland, more positive than they remember it I’m sure.

What really happened was that his first season saw his team relegated with what was at the time the worst record in the history of the Premier League. His third season saw them promoted, his fourth and last season saw them return to the Championship as record breakers again.

‘Mick McCarthy: 15 points is all we’ll need’

Mick’s Mackems got only 15 points in 2006, a then Premier League record, beating the one they had set three seasons earlier, for that he will always be welcome on Tyneside.

He has been under a bit of pressure this season at Ipswich though. The midweek victory over Burton was their first after five consecutive goalless efforts and to say the relief was evident is an understatement, even for a man with coming up to 900 games as a boss.

After the game he prattled:

“Did someone say we are three points off the play-offs? I was s**t yesterday, I couldn’t do my job and I needed to be out the door! It’s bonkers. That doesn’t bother me by the way, it’s just a matter of fact. It’s a crazy old league and we’ve got a lot of games to play.”

The man who Roy Keane once famously called “an English ***” after a bust up during an Irish World Cup training camp is coming to the end of a 40 year career in football.

As a player McCarthy was a massive centre half who took no prisoners and one we were constantly linked with signing as he moved from Barnsley to Man City to Celtic, Lyon and Millwall. There were times during his 500 game, 15 year career when he was exactly the sort of player we needed.

Just like Steve Bruce he was a formidable opponent, who would have graced our defence for a small fee and just like Steve Bruce he would have loved it up here and gone on to become a legend. Just like Steve Bruce, on more than one occasion we should have signed him and rued the day we didn’t. Still, every cloud has a silver lining. What we missed out on as a player, we gained in management.

Clubs love to bring back former good players as managers and just like Steve Bruce, I’d hate it if he managed us. His boring, attritional vision of football played purely on a survival basis rather than actually bringing joy and entertainment isn’t why I go and watch football. Which is one of the reasons he has taken a lot of stick from the Ipswich fans this season. If the football is average but you are winning then fans generally stay off your back, but once you start losing then the lack of quality makes it even tougher to watch.

Because of his general achievement, honesty and approachability, McCarthy is probably more deserving of a long managerial career than the likes Neil Warnock, Steve McClaren and Owen Coyle who have wormed their way back into the Championship in the last few months.

Having saved the Tractor Boys from relegation in his first season, they have since finished 9th, 6th and 7th but this season have struggled to put together any sort of form. No surprise then that despite recently signing a new contract, the pressure was on the Yorkshireman’s head after a poor start to this season. After the midweek home win against Burton McCarthy said:

“I don’t think I’ve suddenly become a bad manager, they might think it’s not the bloke they want here anymore, but not a thing I can do about that.”

Well he could try winning some matches for a start. That generally helps.

‘Mick McCarthy: Not feeling the pressure at all’

Who Have They Signed: 

And that I suppose is why Ipswich and McCarthy have struggled this season, their £1.67million summer outlay might have been a big deal a few years ago but now it is dwarfed by some Championship teams, including us. That only two of those players cost money tells its own story and both of those players should feature today: centre half Adam Webster, just shy of a million quid buy from Portsmouth and young Spurs midfielder Grant Ward who cost about 700k.

Ward is the Tractor Boys top scorer this season with 4 goals, although all of those came in August, including a debut hat trick after coming on as sub against Barnsley on the opening day of the season. Left out of the Burton win for tactical reasons, since August he has struggled, but not as much as Ipswich themselves, only 10 goals all season and no one else has scored more than once.

Not surprisingly three of Ipswich’s other signings have been attacking players but none of them have come off yet. Tom Lawrence is on loan from Leicester, the Welsh international played against us last season at Filbert Street in our annual desertion of FA Cup duty. He didn’t score that day, he hasn’t scored this season either, he’s only scored 8 goals in his professional career so describing him as an ‘attacking midfielder’ is a bit like calling Vurnon Anita ‘on the small side for a defender’.

Another titchy tot, also Welsh, also couldn’t hit a sheep’s arse with a leek is loanee Jonathan Williams from Crystal Palace, he made the Welsh Euro 2016 squad and whilst the 23 year old didn’t score any goals, he certainly ran around a lot. He was like an empty quaver packet in a strong wind in the games I saw in Euro 2016, he was all over the pitch in random and ineffective bursts of pattern-less scarpering. He should play today, he was missing midweek due to a thigh problem, which was probably that he couldn’t find it, he hasn’t got a lot of distance between his knee and his hip.

(Photo at top ‘Jonathan Williams with the Wales Euro 2016 squad.’)

Who Have We Seen Before:

The Portman Road goal drought led to the signing of Leon Best on a free transfer earlier this season after he was released by Rotherham.

Best is now starting to make the centre forward slot his own since arriving in East Anglia at the end of August and although he hasn’t scored yet, I’m sure his work rate and all round energy has made up for any shoddiness in front of goal. That’s how it was in his short time at SJP.

A £1.5million signing he initially struggled in the Championship as Carroll and Lovenkrands shot us to the title but his first season in the Premier League showed that he had heart. Although he was always on the verge of his next injury, a hat trick against West Ham and the second goal of our 4 against Arsenal in ‘that game’ are not forgotten and neither was his commitment to the cause.

After 42 games, 10 goals and 18 months he was gone, to Blackburn for £3million. The injuries have followed him wherever he went, loaned to Wednesday, Derby and Brighton before arriving in East Anglia and though the goals have not flowed for him at any of those places, he’s always given his best!

‘The Best of times’

How Will They Do This Season? 

It is hard to see Ipswich finishing as high as they have done in the past two seasons. Their lack of funds is apparent, the competition is financially much stronger this year and it has been an up and down season already.

After McCarthy called a 1-1 pre-season draw with Cambridge, described by McCarthy as “garbage”, Ipswich promptly thumped Barnsley 4-2 in the opening fixture of the season but hadn’t scored more than once in a game since that day until the midweek 2-0 defeat of Burton. Only 4 goals were scored in-between and much of the scoring burden will fall on players who have not got a great goal-scoring record including ex-Hammer Freddie Sears, who scored his first goal in 38 games midweek.

At the back Ipswich should be better, they have only conceded 9 goals so far, the joint best defensive record in the league with Brighton. In the run up to this game, McCarthy heaped praise on centre half Christophe Berra and his defensive partnership with rookie Webster will be worth watching, the rest of the team don’t look as if they will be.

“Berra is the best defender in the league, for me, without a doubt,” McCarthy told BBC Radio Suffolk. “He’s just outstanding, he’s big and powerful and wins it in the air, he’s quick, he blocks things and is good at defending corners.”

He’ll need to be today.

Are We Going To Win?

Presuming we don’t succumb to the same ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ nonsense that blighted us against Wolves, we should have enough in the tank to take three points today.

If Ipswich’s strength is defending then an early goal would help, or two like against Brentford and the statistics tell us that if we score two, then we will win. They work hard though Ipswich, they give it their all so the longer this game goes at 0-0 the harder it’ll get.

Rafa may be tempted to chuck Mitro into the fray from the start, continue with the out of form Perez or Diame or perhaps throw in £2million Daryl Murphy against his former team, his loss another reason why Ipswich have struggled to score this season.

It didn’t seem like it from his pre-match chatter, it sounds like we will stick to our tried and tested formula of just doing what we do and beating the team in front of us.

Having beaten one team from East Anglia 4-3 already this season, I’m not expecting another classic goal-fest, Ipswich Town just don’t do that, but you get the same amount of points for a 1-0 as you do for a 4-3, it just generally isn’t as much fun.

Howay The Lads.

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