North Stander: Right to be positive - but there's still a huge job to do

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna speaks with Bersant Celina during a break in play.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna has a big job on his hands to make up ground on the rest of League One this summer - Credit: Steve Waller - StephenWaller.com

Ipswich Town fan and journalist Terry Hunt gives his final thoughts on the 2021-22 season, and looks ahead to the summer after the Blues beat Charlton 4-0 at Portman Road... 

The feelgood factor is well and truly back at Portman Road- but is it based on solid reality, or is it yet more wishful thinking from fans desperate for success?

The final game of the season was certainly the perfect way to end the campaign - some lovely, easy on the eye football, well taken goals, and yet another clean sheet for our impressive defence.

It has helped to send many fans into the summer feeling that the club is finally getting the jigsaw pieces in place to mount a proper promotion challenge next season, which I’m sure no-one needs reminding will be our fourth in the dreadful third tier.

The optimism is based on a combination of our impressive, intelligent, insightful young manager, and the ambition - and financial resources - of our American owners. 

Fair enough - I really, really hope all that positivity proves to be justified and this time next year we are all cheering the players as they appear on the balcony of Ipswich town hall, just like their illustrious predecessors in years gone by.

But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you) I really wouldn’t be doing my job if I ignored the various elephants in the room, would I? So, here come the uncomfortable home truths....

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For the third year in a row, we have finished in the middle of the League One table. We have never finished in a lower league position since 1953, well beyond the memories of the vast majority of supporters.

We finished a massive 13 points outside the play-off places, and no fewer than 20 away from the top two, which is obviously where we want to be next year.

While only the top three conceded fewer than us, every single one of the top ten scored more than Ipswich. It really doesn’t a footballing genius to work out where we fell short.

The 16 draws tell their own story, especially the ones where we lost a lead. The lack of a killer instinct really has been our ultimate Achilles heel.

So, the harsh realities are that we are very much a humdrum League One team, capable of playing some lovely football, with a rock-solid defence, but short of goals and lacking a ruthless, winning mentality. Over to you, Kieran McKenna!

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton

Ipswich Town CEO Mark Ashton has another busy summer ahead - Credit: Steve Waller

Yes, the manager and chief executive Mark Ashton will no doubt have a busy summer. Not on the scale of “Demolition Man” Paul Cook’s shopping spree last year, but I have no doubt we will see three or four additions to the squad. 

Can McKenna make the team half a division better, because that’s what the fans are expecting? The supporters clearly believe that the manager, working with Ashton, and with the support from the owners, is capable of doing precisely that.

The fans’ support is really extraordinary. A crowd of 26,000 against Charlton, for a meaningless end of season game in the third division is testimony to the loyalty of the fans, as are the incredible attendances at so many away matches. Don’t forget, we haven’t had any meaningful success for more than 20 seasons!

I really, really hope such passion is richly rewarded. Like so many Town supporters, I do feel we are in a much better position than we have been for many years. Not only because of McKenna, but also because of the people around him. It’s a very impressive team.

There is also room for optimism in terms of young, emerging players. Elkan Baggott was calm, composed and assured against Charlton, just as he was on his debut in the hurly-burly at Rotherham. There is talk of a season-long loan. I would question that. I think he’s good enough for League One already.

Cameron Humphreys on a run.

Will Cameron Humphreys secure himself a place in Kieran McKenna's first team plans this pre-season? - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

We also caught an impressive glimpse of the livewire Cameron Humphreys, whose incisive pass set up James Norwood for his farewell goal. Humphreys looks a really hot prospect. I hope we see a lot more of him next season.

So, there you are. Another frustrating season, but there’s been some much better football to enjoy, and lots of hope for the future. We are certainly in a better place.

Enjoy the summer, and see you at Portman Road very soon!