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‘This is a club fragile beyond belief... And so despondency prevails’

PUBLISHED: 11:00 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:02 18 March 2020

Portman Road won't see any football until at least April 4

Portman Road won't see any football until at least April 4

PA Archive/PA Images

MARK TUXFORD is a committed Town fan. Here are his thoughts on the current situation at Portman Road.... We welcome your posts

Paul Lambert takes a sip of water during Town's 1-0 defeat against Coventry City at Portman Road. Everyone's an expert, especially about his job. Photo: ROSS HALLSPaul Lambert takes a sip of water during Town's 1-0 defeat against Coventry City at Portman Road. Everyone's an expert, especially about his job. Photo: ROSS HALLS

Ipswich Town is a League One club with Championship and beyond expectations – but who is there to provide solutions?

There appear so many issues.

As the weeks roll by and the results fail to materialise, what looked like the start of something beautiful has quickly turned into an unmitigated failure for Ipswich Town this season.

The target of a top-two finish – the minimum requirement for the club that structures its business around Championship participation – looks to have been missed. That’s a low bar given Town’s previous successes, albeit a distant memory now.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill have much to discuss. Photo: Steve WallerIpswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill have much to discuss. Photo: Steve Waller

There are fans who think it will get worse before it gets better; that the likes of Oxford United, Accrington Stanley and Fleetwood Town are primed to overtake and have even managed to take points of us during this campaign.

In my opinion, it was vital that the club were promoted at the first time of asking this season. Unlike Sheffield United, Southampton and the Leicester City’s of this world who could afford to remain in League One and find out just how difficult this league really is, Ipswich on the other hand, have neither the luxury nor funds to allow us to do this.

Failure to gain promotion this season means it could be decades before we ever get back to the Championship, potentially losing a generation of young fans and most certainly our best assets. What child wants to grow up supporting an underwhelming football club?

Current assets such as Flynn Downes and Luke Woolfenden will likely be the latest to be sold – but will it go into the transfer kitty?

This season was the one that counted on the pitch to take us where we want to be and give this club a platform to move forward and have something to cheer about for once.

But it’s not just on the pitch where the club is failing.

As owner Marcus Evans pointed out when we were painfully relegated last season, “there will be cutbacks” – can we expect the same quote at the end of this season if/when Town officially fail to get promoted at the first attempt?

The club itself may struggle to attract and retain sponsors – it becomes more difficult, the lower down we are.

Town fans, including myself, are furious.

A team full of buzzwords such as ‘talented’ and ‘experienced’ players have failed not only to maintain a title bid, but also holding their own in the play-off spots has proved to be somewhat a shock.

Who would have thought that in August when the birds were singing in the trees (no canaries!) and the tractor engines were reving, we would be sat 10th in League One, seven points off the play-offs and with eight games to go?

There were always going to be ‘bumps in the road’ that Mr Lambert predicted, but we were TOP of the table (or at least flirting with it) until January.

January was the ideal time to fill up the tank for the rest of journey ahead, it was time to pull over, albeit on top of a League One hill – we all thought reinforcements would come along to get us home, as Lambert peered through the open transfer window, looking up and shouted “we need some help!”

We didn’t get it.

It was another mistake that nmakes for depressing reading in the League One standings, due no fault but our own, especially when we had it all in our hands.

Town’s lack of recruitment and inability to act in important transfer windows means signing new players has been an epic failure too often.

Although the academy are always prepared to promote inside talent and things are improving below the first team, it’ll take time.

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If you are struggling to find the common denominator over the last decade then it is surely Evans.

There are some fans that still believe in Lambert’s philosophy, and hope he can be the man to reverse Town’s fortunes, but there’s an increasing sentiment that the club have appointed the wrong man.

As I mentioned on social media, after our latest demise to table-toppers Coventry City, “I’m a big fan of Paul Lambert & what he has done for the club OFF the pitch, but the job he’s responsible for is getting the results ON the pitch... 10th in League One is simply not good enough for this club, something needs to change before things get even worse.”

Lambert is a decent guy, I’m sure I could go down the pub with him and he would buy me the first beer and treat us to a nice glass of Scotch. But let’s be clear, Lambert looks like he has failed the task of getting this club promoted back to the Championship at the first time of asking.

First and foremost, he is the football manager and not a PR man - he’s better than that. I appreciate all he has done to get the fans onside and the club back in the community, which by the way, should not have not let slip in the first place, but regardless of opportunities or resources Evans gives him; Lambert is the man that picks the team, the formation and implements the tactics to beat an opponent.

Nonetheless, few complained when the former Norwich boss brought the fans together and gave Evans a few home truths in terms of his involvement on a day-to-day basis or when we were riding high at the start of the season. Then again, us Ipswich fans have become specialists in hindsight haven’t we?

The connection between fans and the club looked to be improving, but as we all know, bad results cloud everything.

Chances are given season upon season, but fail to perform, and this season’s embarrassment will be a non-event to rival the lap of dishonour after the Fleetwood game - even manager, Joey Barton felt sorry for us.

Seven defeats from the last nine games is a wretched record.

Fans see no light at the end of a very dark tunnel and whichever way you look at it, Lambert has a monumental job on his hands for however long he remains Ipswich Town manager.

Yes, the club are operating against far wealthier rivals in the league above and within the same budgets as Sunderland or Portsmouth to dominate League One.

While this may be true, the more I hear Evans or Lee O’Neill speak about the club, the more I think there are too many excuses.

Perhaps a sporting director would sharpen up that side of the operation, but such an appointment should already be in place to plan for next season.

Rather than harp on more about transfers or investment within the squad, another point is that the current squad is comprised of players brought in by three different managers. How many of those signings had been targeted to fit into a system, rather than players bought in part because of their availability and ability to ‘do a job’?

One of the most successful clubs the footballing world has ever seen: Real Madrid change their manager every eight minutes, but they always have an underlying structure led by a sporting director.

To conclude, I personally think Marcus Evans has a lot to answer for.

The only way he will listen to fans’ frustrations is through an organised protest or voting with your feet by not attending matches - not renewing season tickets...

Nonetheless, I realise not attending games at Portman Road is easier said than done - we are there to support the club, not so much the regime.

But this is a club fragile beyond belief... And so despondency prevails – something needs to change.

This is Ipswich Town in 2020, where will be in another few years and where do we go from here?

Mark Tuxford

- We welcome your posts.... e: mike.bacon@archant.co.uk

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