Mick McCarthy exits stage left ... so is the future brighter at Ipswich or Norwich?
PUBLISHED: 12:26 30 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:26 30 March 2018
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In normal circumstances, Norwich City fans would probably be doing what football fans do - laughing at their nearest and dearest rivals.
When Mick McCarthy’s very near future was revealed by Ipswich Town on Thursday (he hasn’t got one), it should have been the time for the type of celebration that years of finger-pointing triumphalism encourages.
Except it’s not quite like that. Is it?
McCarthy’s record in East Anglia derbies was appalling: not a win in eight attempts, but at the moment City and Ipswich are locked in a battle for the final top-half-of-the-table place (I am trying to sugar-coat this but, basically, 12th). There is a danger City will finish behind Town for the first time in years. Not only that, Ipswich’s mid-table mediocrity that City have scorned for years is fast becoming a reality at Carrow Road. Let’s face it, neither side has warranted anything other than that this season.
There are issues which suggest the future may well be brighter for City than it is for Ipswich, but as we stand today, it’s hardly a barrel of laughs being a Norwich fan either.
There is nothing about what is left of the current season that appears particularly appetising.... but there is hope.
Norwich look likely to be dispensing with the services of their last remaining genuine hero in Wes Hoolahan. Remember when Darren Huckerby left Carrow Road? It will be like that, only without the indignity. Alex Tettey may also be on his way after five seasons of sterling service.
There will be no guaranteed excitement between now and the end of the season, no big matches to look forward to, not even a derby.
And the optimism that has done so well to keep its head above the water line will sinking if City can’t produce good performances and good results on a consistent basis. Fortunately, we are pretty good at accepting it is a work in progress (one of the few bright points we have) but football fans go to watch a match and be entertained on the day - not next month or next season. We all know it may get better, but it is all about immediacy. You are only as good as your last game and all that.
But is it any better being an Ipswich fan given they have decided to make a change after a McCarthy era that lacked anything approaching glory – losing a Championship play-off semi-final to your nearest and dearest just negates that whole season for them.
No more stars on the shirt, not a derby win in sight. Just a crowd that is dwindling by the game - 13,000 fans inside a 30,000-seater stadium is incredible. You just can’t dress it up into anything else.
This is where the optimism in these parts comes back into play: you can see that attempts are being made to improve the lot of Norwich City FC. There is a business plan in place, a plan for the future when it comes to breeding its own players that appears to acknowledge its failings in previous years. And there have been glimpses of the future - young players on the early steps of the learning curve like Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey.
What you do know at Norwich is that there is a plan, and most of the supporters buy into it. Crowds at Carrow Road aren’t exactly dwindling in the same way, which is testament not only to their resolve, but the promise of something better to come. A belief. Yes, season ticket sales could be better, but I fancy that if the plan comes to fruition, it won’t take long for the full signs to go up again
And what of Town?
Much depends on what Marcus Evans does between now and the end of the season. Will he be as radical as Norwich have been? Will he do something to excite his own fans , and lord knows they deserve a bit of excitement. Or will he stay put and appoint another Championship usual suspect? If you are a Town fan, the precedents set by Evans aren’t encouraging.
Finishing this season above the Canaries might be all you have for a while.
Taking the Mike
The ball tampering controversy involving Australians Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft appears to have put a smile on the face of every England cricket fan... and many more besides.
There’s a feeling that finally those arrogant Australians have got their come-uppance. Australians, you see, seem to excel in every sporting arena. And we dislike them for it. Which is a bit rich coming from someone from the most hated country in the world (pre-Trump).
The ball-tampering plan devised by the aforementioned trio was so poorly executed as to be laughable. In front of TV cameras, they thought it was possible to use a piece of sandpaper on the ball to affect its swing. Without anyone seeing.
Seriously? They need banning from the game on the grounds of stupidity alone. What they have actually got are 12 month bans for Smith and Warner and nine months for Bancroft, said throughout the whole episode to be the junior partner-in-crime. Truth is, Bancroft is a 25-year-old cricketer with eight Test matches on his CV. He is no wide-eyed newboy.
He, like Smith and like Warner, is a cheat.
What the future holds for them when their bans are up who knows?
Second chances? Apparently, everyone is entitled to one - and it’s here where you might want to consult Mike Atherton, infamously involved in a ‘dirt in the pocket’ incident in 1994 as England captain against South Africa.
TV cameras caught him appearing to use dirt from his pocket on the ball, although the player said he had “put some dust in my pocket from a used pitch... to keep my hands and the ball dry”.
Atherton said he was in fact preserving the state of the ball... but was still fined £2,000.
In the aftermath of sandpaper-gate he was asked his thoughts and made this comment on the ‘sin’ of ball tampering.
“It has gone on since the year dot... the level of moral indignation is always slightly out of kilter with the offence. If the condition of the ball is changed, you get a five-run penalty and change the ball. That hardly sends the message that this is a heinous crime.”
Says it all, really.