Highlights, lowlights, ‘best of’ and the flops... A look back at Ipswich Town’s worst ever decade
PUBLISHED: 08:25 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:08 01 January 2020
The 2010s has to go down as the worst decade in Ipswich Town’s history. STUART WATSON looks at highlights, lowlights and offers up a ‘best of’ team for debate.
DECADE OF DECLINE
A 5-3 defeat at Lincoln seemed a fitting way for a dismal decade of decline to end.
We all know the death by a thousand cuts tale. Money squandered by Roy Keane and Paul Jewell, Marcus Evans' investment reduced, Mick McCarthy's short-term pragmatism, apathy grips supporters, attendances slide, Paul Hurst gamble backfires, relegation to League One.
The decade started with an FA Cup win at Blackpool. Little did we know it would be 3,610 days until the next victory in the competition.
It started with rivals Norwich in the third-tier under the management of Paul Lambert. It ends with them playing in the Premier League and Lambert in charge of the third-tier Blues.
Average league finish: 13th. Promotions: None. Trips to Wembley: None. Goals per game: 1.3. Wins against Norwich: None (in 12). Highest finish: Sixth. Number of times knocked out of cups by lower league opposition: 10.
The worst decade in the club's history? It's got to be. The '50s included two Division Three South titles. The '60s started with back-to-back titles and Ipswich being crowned champions of England. The '70s had several top-six finishes in the top-flight and an FA Cup victory. The '80s started with title pushes and a UEFA Cup triumph. The '90s had a promotion, relegation, the annual drama of play-off pain but a sense something was building. The '00s began with promotion and an unlikely fifth-place finish in the Premier League.
When Evans arrived in December 2007 it was meant to herald the start of more excitement for a grand old football club. That, sadly, has not been the case.
Memorable moments are few and far between.
Tamas Priskin scoring in the 1-0 home win against Arsenal in the League Cup semi-final first leg back in January 2011 - that seems a long time ago now. Or the Paul Anderson and Tommy Smith goals against Norwich in the play-off semis of 2015 - they too ultimately counted for nothing.
Then we're talking about a 5-1 thrashing of West Ham in 2012, the Noel Hunt and Richard Chaplow last-gasp winners at Charlton and Watford respectively either side of Christmas 2014 and Emyr Huws' sealing a 3-1 Easter Monday win against Newcastle in 2017.
Two games at Brentford stick in the mind - 4-2 on Boxing Day 2014 put Town top, while the 2-2 there on the opening day of 2015/16 suggested the Blues were ready to kick on. Both of those occasions proved to be false dawns. We've had a few of them.
Take your pick. Roy Keane gesturing to Town fans to be quiet prior to getting sacked (and later revealing he never liked the colour blue anyway), Paul Jewell 'watching back the DVD' prior to his departure, or Mick McCarthy shouting **** off towards supporters at Carrow Road before announcing his exit with a thump of the desk two months later.
Mick's protracted messy divorce was a sad state of affairs. His transformation from well-loved, quick-witted, budget-beater to stubborn, cantankerous, fed-up fan fighter was an unfortunate by-product of no grand plan at the top.
Simon Clegg and Ian Milne have come and gone from the boardroom. It was only when relegation looked on the cards that Evans decided to become more hands-on and visible.
The terrestrial televised FA Cup defeat at then non-league Lincoln was probably the beginning of the end for McCarthy. In terms of Jewell, everyone remembers the 7-1 defeat at Peterborough, but it was the 'spineless, gutless, pub team display' in a 4-0 loss at Burnley which should go down as the most abject display of the decade. That was a disgrace.
Last season, obviously, was full of low points too. The limp 2-0 home loss to Middlesbrough effectively sealed Hurst's fate. The 3-2 home defeats to Bristol City and Millwall under Lambert effectively sealed relegation.
By my reckoning, 203 different players featured for Ipswich Town over the decade.
Only 13 of them - Gerken, Hyam, McGoldrick, Sears, Cresswell, Edwards, Knudsen, Bialkowski, Berra, Murphy, Smith, Skuse and Chambers - started more than 100 games. Almost half (98) tarted fewer than 10 times.
More than a quarter (59) were signed on loan and never saw that deal become permanent. That's not helped with the connect between turf and terrace.
Twenty of them saw their contracts prematurely ended by mutual consent. A further 72 left for nothing. Only 11 were sold for profit - most notably Wickham, Mings, Cresswell, Murphy, Moore and Waghorn.
There have to be regrets about letting go Matt Clarke and Jack Marriott. Of the 41 homegrown players to feature, only 14 have made it into double digits for starts,
TEAM OF THE DECADE
If you were to put together a team made up of the players with the most starts to their name it would look like this:
Keeper: Bartosz Bialkowski (177). Defence: Luke Chambers (338), Tommy Smith (239), Christophe Berra (184), Jonas Knudsen (165). Midfield: Carlos Edwards (155), Luke Hyam (118), Cole Skuse (260), Freddie Sears (130). Strikers: David McGoldrick (126) and Daryl Murphy (207).
The fact that Chambers is at right-back and Sears is left-midfield speaks volumes about the continual round pegs in square holes.
If you were to tweak that team to make it the 'best' of the decade then there are few conundrums - and not the good type of headache.
The only real debate of quality is left-back - should it be Aaron Cresswell or Tyrone Mings? Cresswell for me.
Do you put Adam Webster in ahead of Tommy Smith at centre-back? Quality probably beats longevity there. Does Martyn Waghorn's single 16-goal season or DJ Campbell's important loan spell do enough to dislodge McGoldrick given the latter's injuries and inconsistency? Not for me. McGoldrick was a joy to watch in his Portman Road pomp.
Then you get to the areas of debate which underpin the long-running weaknesses in the team.
Right-back... You can either include David Wright (13 appearances in 2010) or Kane Vincent-Young (he's played nine games in League One). In between we've had Edwards and Chambers filling in there, plus a hotchpotch of flops. I'd be tempted to go with Chambers based on overall contribution. He did play four seasons there.
Wingers... Reluctantly, you'd probably have to pick a couple of loan players. Ryan Fraser, definitely, and arguably Tom Lawrence too. Either that or it's Paul Anderson and Jay Tabb - both solid servants, but neither set the world alight.
Centre-midfield... The fact that Skuse, Hyam, Grant Leadbitter, David Norris, Kevin Bru and Jonathan Douglas lead the way in terms of starts says everything about the lack of goals and assists from the middle of the park over the last 10 years. Teddy Bishop, Jimmy Bullard, Jonny Williams and Keith Andrews have all injected something in that regard, but sadly their contributions proved all to brief.
This would be my 23-man squad. Starters with an asterisk.
KEEPERS: Bialkowski*, Fulop.
DEFENCE: Chambers*, Smith, Berra*, Webster*, McAuley, Cresswell*, Mings.
MIDFIELD: Skuse*, Norris, Andrews, Williams*, Fraser*, Lawrence*, Anderson, Tabb, Edwards, Bullard.
STRIKERS: Murphy*, McGoldrick*, Waghorn, DJ Campbell.
FLOPS OF THE DECADE
Worryingly, this is a harder team to pick. Not because of the dearth of options, but because of the number of contenders.
In terms of bang per buck, Leon Best and Cameron Stewart are nailed on starters. Both were on a good wage and contributed next to nothing.
Nathan Ellington, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Ivar Ingimarsson and Nigel Reo-Coker all looked past it, while Balint Bajner, Larsen Toure and Piotr Malarczyk never looked up to it.
Wingers Tommy Oar and Dylan Connolly came with a degree of hype but both ended up leaving homesick, while Jordan Graham and Alex Henshall were also part of the winger churn. Meanwhile, the likes of Elliott Hewitt, Reece Wabara and Freddie Veseli were part of the failed search for a right-back.
Tamas Priskin, Lee Martin and Paul Taylor all failed to justify seven-figure transfer fees, while fellow £1m+ men Michael Chopra and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas were quickly moved on by McCarthy.
Tom Adeyemi and Giles Coke could never get out of the treatment room. Jonathan Douglas and Jordan Spence played a lot of games, but are synonymous with stagnation and relegation.
This would be my 23-man squad. Starters with an asterisk.
KEEPERS: Lee-Barrett*, Loach.
DEFENCE: Hewitt, Veseli, Spence*, Ingimarsson*, Malarczyk*, Sonko, O'Dea, Fryers*.
MIDFIELD: Toure*, Taylor, Adeyemi*, Reo-Coker*, Douglas, Coke, Oar, Stewart*, Graham.
STRIKERS: Best*, Ellington, Bajner*, Ebanks-Blake.
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