Ipswich Town must learn from Norwich City’s errors

Crowds at Portman Road have dwindled as the club continues to struggle in the Championship under Paul Jewell. Crowds at Portman Road have dwindled as the club continues to struggle in the Championship under Paul Jewell.

Friday, October 12, 2012
4:06 PM

Don’t you just love the way football fans can find a shred of comfort in the most difficult of times? Norwich fans on the way back from Stamford Bridge last weekend were offered some free emotional soothing, thanks to Ipswich Town’s 2-1 home defeat by Malky Mackay’s Cardiff City.

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Just as City are struggling, the Tractor Boys are too – but while it’s heresy to compare the two clubs, the manner of Town’s struggles do ring a very noisy bell. A manager who hasn’t perhaps gained universal popularity with supporters, a chief executive who holds a similar position in the polls, and a squad that is being increasingly added to by the presence of loan players.

For Paul Jewell, Simon Clegg and co, read Glenn Roeder, Neil Doncaster and co.

City, in attempting to reverse what was a steady decline into obscurity, went for a ‘name’ manager who ended up being a square peg in a round, rural hole, attempting to rescue perhaps his own reputation as much as his own club’s cause with a succession of decisions that proved only to be a case of stepping in one cow pat after another.

Roeder’s loan policy was more miss than hit – it kept City away from the bottom rung once, but for every Leroy Lita goal there was another poor Antoine Sibierski performance, and when the jaws of relegation opened again, Roeder was told to leave before the situation became irretrievable.

That was in January, 2009. Whoever makes the decisions at Portman Road would do well to consider what happened that season.

Bryan Gunn was brought in on a wave of emotion that it was assumed would create a sleeves-rolled-up work ethic that would pull City out of trouble.

But Gunn had no track record to point to when it came to such situations and his own loan signings served only to take City in the opposite direction. Chris Killen, Alan Gow, David Carney could not be expected to have a commitment to the Norwich City cause that would mirror the needs of the supporters. They weren’t Darren Huckerby or Iwan Roberts.

Are Ipswich on the same course? The suggestions that loan players are a short-term fix is an incorrect one... fix means mend, and that isn’t always the way. Jewell had a plan for long-term security, but in a time of crisis has tried to add experience and leadership, on a temporary basis.

Danny Higginbotham and Richie Wellens have joined for a month, Southend United centre-back Bilel Mohsni for three, a signing that took Town to seven loan players. Fortunately (or otherwise), the rules say all seven can feature on a match day because a couple – St Etienne’s Guirane N’Daw and Celtic’s Daryl Murphy – are with foreign clubs.

The abandonment of his policy leaves Jewell with a mish-mash of players who, just as they get to know their team-mates’ names, are back at their parent club, caring little about whether Ipswich go down or not. And if you are struggling to coach a stable squad, what on earth is going to happen when instability creeps in?

The question, of course, is do Town stick with Jewell or do they get rid of him before it gets any worse? Neither guarantees success.

Six months after Roeder left, Gunn left too. So did Doncaster, and his chairman. In came David McNally as chief executive and Paul Lambert as manager. No one needs to tell Ipswich fans what happened next.

And before anyone says, “yes, but City are struggling as well now”, think again. They are playing some of the best teams in Europe, they have restored financial stability off the field and they have rescued a tarnished reputation.

Things could be a lot worse for Norwich City.

• NOT SUCH A FUNNY GAME

I suppose it was inevitable, but Chelsea fans’ vocal support for John Terry last weekend proved that while there are many ills in the game, the obstacle of sheer, blind faith is one that will be difficult to overcome.

One assumes that not all those who sang Terry’s name were endorsing his stance on his racist abuse case which has cast a desperate shadow over football this year. But their support does prove that even those principles which many adhere to can be cast aside on a Saturday afternoon.

In another walk of life, a work-mate ‘convicted’ of racist behaviour might well be given the cold shoulder.

Meanwhile, Anton Ferdinand – the ‘victim’ – can expect dog’s abuse any time he goes near a Chelsea fan. I hesitate to say it’s a funny old game, because it clearly isn’t.

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