The four wins that gave Ipswich Town such an excellent start to the season generated high levels of expectation in Suffolk, but since then form has been unpredictable. How have the last few months been at Portman Road?
Mick McCarthy has been here for five-and-a-half years now and his contract is up in the summer. Expectations were low heading into the season after finishing 16th last term. They were fifth favourites for relegation, so to win those opening four games really lifted morale. I don’t think even at that stage people were expecting them to be genuine Play-Off contenders because of the continually limited budget that McCarthy’s had. What they were hoping for this season was a bit more excitement: more attacking play, for the football to be easier on the eye, for young players to be given a chance and to get one over Norwich City. None of that has transpired. It’s been the annual FA Cup Third Round exit - they’ve not won in that competition for nearly a decade now – and the draws against Norwich mean that it’s nearly ten years since they’ve beaten them, too. They find themselves in mid-table, which is probably par for the course considering their budget, but Ipswich fans are craving a little more entertainment value - the fact attendances are dwindling to nearly 20-year lows reflects that.
The top six has been within touching distance on several occasions, but it’s fair to say that any real Play-Off hopes petered out around the turn of the year. What do you think Ipswich need to give them that cutting edge in future?
I think the debate always comes back to a lack of creativity in midfield, which has been an issue for a number of years now. Emyr Huws joined from Cardiff City for £1m in July and the hope was that he was going to add a bit of forward thrust and creative spark, but he’s barely kicked a ball because of a combination of achilles and knee injuries. Tom Adeyemi has also barely played due to injuries and Andre Dozzell did his cruciate ligament in the very first game of the season. It may have been a different discussion had some of those players been available, but they haven’t. They are pretty tight at the back and aren’t conceding many goals, but they aren’t scoring many either.
Do you think the decision to part company with McCarthy is the right one?
It’s very much a risk-versus-reward situation. I think Ipswich will end up mid-table this season, but McCarthy brings a lot of stability to the club and I couldn’t see a situation where they were relegated under his guidance. On the flip side, Ipswich have been treading water for a while and next year will be their 17th successive season in the Championship. There’s a sense that they need a change to freshen things up and McCarthy has probably not helped himself with the fans this year – he’s had a pop in some of his press conferences about some of the things they’ve been chanting and there was the infamous gesture at Carrow Road a few months back. The relationship with the fans has turned a bit sour. Although most people have sympathy for McCarthy, some have realised the relationship is beyond repair and a change of direction is needed.
Earlier in the season you said David McGoldrick would be the player Brentford should be most wary of, but who has been the danger man at Portman Road in recent months?
He’s one of the many who has been ruled out for the season, with his last game coming at the end of January. It’s another injury for a player who is out of contract in the summer and it looks like he’ll be moving on. Martyn Waghorn has been a success story this season after his £250k move from Rangers - he’s got 12 goals and looks a real bargain buy. He’s a real bright spark with his set-pieces and also his goals from open play, so I would say that he’s the danger man at present.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
The one thing with Ipswich at the moment is that they aren’t scoring many or conceding many, so it’ll probably be a low-scoring draw I would’ve thought. I’ll say 1-1.
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