North Stander: Town have so much quality - but one key thing is lacking

Kieran McKenna after the draw at Shrewsbury.

Kieran McKenna after the draw at Shrewsbury. - Credit: PAGEPIX LTD

This Ipswich Town squad is bursting with talent, but sadly lacks one vital ingredient - a ruthless, winning mentality. No killer instinct, you might say.

The latest, frustrating example came on Saturday at Shrewsbury. Like so many times before, we dominated the game, took the lead, but then failed to get the second goal and fell for a sucker punch.

It happened numerous times under Paul Cook, and recently it has become clear that the same weakness still exists. Getting rid of it must be Kieran McKenna’s top priority.

The manager summed up the performance at Shrewsbury very accurately and eloquently. “It was as if things were fine and the second goal was going to come to us.”

So, where does that mentality come from, and how do you change it? How do we change this squad into one which enjoys absolutely humiliating opponents? Because that’s what we need if we’re ever going to escape from this dreadful division.

It seems to me that we have a bunch of nice guys who obviously have a good team spirit, and enjoy playing easy on the eye football. It’s probably the most attractive in League One.

We are capable of scoring beautiful goals, putting together slick moves ending with someone simply passing the ball into the net. When it works, it’s lovely. A little bit like a cut-price version of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal Invincibles.

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But, at this basic level, you need so much more than that. You need the ugly stuff as well. We’ve seen it loads of times. Teams sitting deep, wasting time, feigning injury, trying to get our players booked or sent off. Disrupting the flow of play. Hoping to score from a set-piece.

It’s horrible, anti-football, and I’m not saying I want us to resort to that, but we need to be so much better at dealing with it.

I don’t think that will happen unless we change two or three players. We desperately need more leaders on the pitch. Snarling, shouting, confrontational players who are prepared to drive on fading team-mates and get in the faces of opponents.

Sam Morsy on the ball at Shrewsbury

Is Sam Morsy Town's only real leader? - Credit: PAGEPIX LTD

As far as I can see, only Sam Morsy is a natural leader in the current squad. The rest are happy to go about their jobs in a quiet, self-contained way. We need more nastiness!

Some people might say that’s not the Ipswich Town way. I agree, it’s not what we’ve been used to over the decades. But I feel very strongly that, right now, it’s a case of needs must.

We don’t need to recreate the oh-so nasty Leeds side which Don Revie created in the 1960s and 1970s. But introducing a ruthless streak is essential.

Let’s look at the kind of goals we score as an example. We score very nice goals. We don’t score any goals from set-pieces. Fact. Fans have even started chanting about our lack of goals from corners.

Shaun Whalley scores the equaliser against 10 man Ipswich at Shrewsbury

Shaun Whalley fires home a cracking equaliser for Shrewsbury Town - Credit: PAGEPIX LTD

Why is that? Why are our centre-halves not getting on the end of corners? I reckon most central defenders would fancy themselves for four or five goals a season. So we’re eight or ten goals short in a season. It has to be sorted.

Of course, we are woefully short of goals. Averaging a goal a game, which is essentially what we’re doing, isn’t going to achieve a great deal. It means games will always be open, and leaves us vulnerable. We need to find ways to score different types of goals - including really ugly ones. They all count.

It goes against my instincts to say we need to see a nasty Ipswich Town. I’ve watched some thrilling, beautiful football in the last 50-odd years. And I’m not saying we need to abandon all the good stuff. But we definitely need that ruthless, winning mentality.

Finally, a nod to a glorious part of our history. It’s 60 years this month since Alf Ramsey’s team of cast-offs and misfits stunned English football by winning the League Championship at their first attempt.

It still ranks among the most astonishing achievements in footballing history. When you next walk past Sir Alf’s statue, why don’t you pause for a moment, and think about what he did for our club, and for English football? A true legend.