North Stander: ‘Come on Mr Evans, time to show the fans how much you value us’
© Copyright Stephen Waller
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that there are loads of problems to sort out at Ipswich Town - both on and off the pitch, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.
First and foremost, there’s the playing squad. As we all know, we have far too many players, many of whom will need to be jettisoned at the end of this season.
On the more positive side, there is also a bunch of promising youngsters who can play a big part in the rebuilding job which so desperately needs to be done, hopefully by Paul Lambert.
I’m delighted to see that Teddy Bishop, Jack Lankester and Luke Woolfenden have signed new contracts which should keep them at Portman Road.
Bishop’s return to fitness will go down as one of the highlights from this most wretched of seasons. To see him play 90 minutes on Saturday, making several of his trademark mazy runs which cause such panic among defenders, was really exciting.
Then there are the more experienced players who we want to keep. At the top of that list must be Alan Judge. What a difference he has made. At last, we have an attack-minded player in midfield.
He’s always there, either on the ball or supporting the player in possession. He’s full of energy and enthusiasm, his set-piece delivery is excellent, and he looks like he’s got a goal in him as well.
He would be brilliant in League One, assuming we’re relegated. But can we hold on to him? Paul Lambert talks worryingly about possible issues with wages. Well, I would say Judge is worth breaking the salary structure for. He is clearly our star player.
Also, isn’t it great to have a proper right-back for the first time in almost a decade, since the appropriately named David Wright played his last game for the Blues?
After a slightly shaky start, James Bree now looks just what we need in that role - a decent defender who gets forward and links up well in attack. But again, can we keep him?
The same question applies to Will Keane. I really like him as a centre-forward.
It’s no secret that the club’s finances will be under severe pressure if and when we go down. The wage bill will presumably need to be cut severely, as will all other costs.
For me, it will be a question of Paul Lambert clearly prioritising the players he wants and paying them accordingly. We need a much smaller first-team squad, getting rid of the rubbish (we know who they are) and focusing on our youngsters and selected experienced performers.
Lambert will already know who he wants to keep and who he will gladly wave goodbye to. He needs support from the owner to make it happen.
Off the pitch, there are also challenges, not least how to build on Lambert’s brilliant relationship with the fans. Despite the results, the manager has performed miracles getting the Blue Army back on board.
Again, he needs the backing of Marcus Evans in that respect. Normally, the season ticket campaign starts well before the season ends. Obviously that’s a little tricky this year, because we’re not certain which division we’ll be playing in.
But let’s face it, relegation is pretty certain and, when it is confirmed, the club needs to look after its most loyal supporters, the season ticket holders.
I’ve had a season ticket for 18 seasons, cheerfully paying out my £500-plus each year, and I have no problem with all the cut-price offers to attract fans this season. I fully support them, because we desperately need a big crowd creating a good atmosphere.
But I would make this point: The loyalty of our thousands of season ticket holders needs to be recognised and rewarded.
When the prices for next season are announced, assuming we’re in League One, we need to see a very significant drop. Not five or ten per cent. I would expect my ticket to cost around £300.
And how about something like a ‘no claims bonus’ equivalent which rewards continuing loyalty? So maybe long-term season ticket holders get another £50 discount.
Come on, Mr. Evans. You’ve seen this season how much difference the fans can make. You need us on board. Now’s the time to show how much you value us.