The bookies expect Ipswich Town to be relegated from the Championship... but that won't faze Paul Hurst
PUBLISHED: 06:00 09 June 2018 | UPDATED: 06:27 09 June 2018
Ipswich Town are being tipped by the bookmakers to finish in the Championship's bottom three next season.
Ipswich Town are being tipped by the bookmakers to finish in the Championship’s bottom three next season.
That won’t faze new manager Paul Hurst, though. He’s been here before.
While the appointment of the former Shrewsbury boss has brought a new wave of optimism among Ipswich fans, enthused by a fresh start under a new man, that level of excitement has not translated onto the national stage.
The five bookmakers currently offering odds on the teams to go down next season all place Ipswich in the bottom three, alongside newly-promoted Rotherham and Bolton, who survived on the final day of last season.
The Blues, meanwhile, finished 12th in the Championship, with those tipping Hurst’s side to plummet to such depths adding to the ‘be careful what you wish for’ rhetoric which has quickly spread following the departure of Mick McCarthy.
The former Blues boss is, perhaps rightly, viewed to have overachieved during much of his Ipswich career as he operated on a restricted budget, with Hurst now expected to do the same following his appointment on a three-year deal.
But this will not be the first time the 43-year-old will have entered a season with bookmakers expecting a campaign of struggle for his side.
Roll back 12 months and his Shrewsbury team were tipped to go down by pundits and bookies alike, with Hurst’s side having only narrowly avoided relegation the previous year. Indeed, it was Hurst’s arrival in October 2016 which sparked a revival when it looked as if the Shrews were heading through the trap door and into League Two.
But the new Ipswich boss used those predictions to his advantage, pinning the predicted table to Shrewsbury’s dressing room wall with the message ‘we are rubbish’ scribbled below it.
What followed was a club record–equalling 16-game unbeaten run, which saw the relegation favourites storm to the top of the League One table.
“When I first went into the changing room, the gaffer had put that table up of where we were expected to finish and under it said ‘we are rubbish’. I think that really stuck in a few people’s heads. It definitely stuck in mine,” said on-loan Norwich City striker Carlton Morris.
“Then the first 16 games we went unbeaten, so you could walk past that every day and have a little smile to yourself.”
It was surely that run which catapulted Hurst into Ipswich owner Marcus Evans’ thinking as it became clear McCarthy’s future would be a major talking point during the majority of the 2017/18 campaign.
What followed made him a front-runner from the beginning of Evans’ recruitment process, with retrospect making it clear the Blues owner’s timeline of an appointment at ‘the end of May or beginning of June’ was set in order to accommodate Hurst.
Shrewsbury remained in League One’s top two for 200 days of a season which kept on rolling and included two trips to Wembley. Both the Checkatrade Trophy and League One play-off finals ended in defeat, but nothing should be taken away from what remains one of the great campaigns in club history.
Of course it is possible Hurst’s Ipswich might find the going tough next season, just as it would have been possible had McCarthy continued as Ipswich boss, with recent history showing plenty of so-called ‘big’ clubs struggling at the wrong end of the second tier table when reputation says they should have been battling at the top.
But the new man at Portman Road inherits a strong spine of a squad which at times flirted with the promotion race last season and will also be able to call on a host of players returning from injury, whose absences hamstrung McCarthy at various stages during his final year in Suffolk.
The beauty of the summer months and the countdown to the new campaign is that anything is possible. Few Shrewsbury fans will have dared to dream of two Wembley appearances and a promotion challenge last season, but look what happened.
While Hurst will be all-too aware that football is a results business at its bottom line, there is no immediate pressure to perform wonders in his first season in charge, with the majority of fans just wanting to enjoy the experience of watching their team again and to feel part of a side making strides forward. The feeling of being as one.
That is how Hurst will be judged during his first few months at Portman Road, not against predictions from pundits and betting organisations alike.
You get the impression he holds little regard for those, in any case.