Date:Thursday November 25 2010
We caught up with Vital Ipswich editor and general good-egg Darren C ahead of this Sunday's East Anglian Derby to get his views on the game, his thoughts on Agent Keane, and which Tractor Boys to keep an eye on at the weekend...
Sunday is the first 'real` East Anglian derby for over 18 months, and the first at Carrow Road for very nearly two years. Be honest, have you missed us?
But of course - after all, who wouldn't miss an extra six points in a season...! Nah, in all seriousness, I think the Championship loses a little bit of spice for both sides any time the rivalry goes on hiatus, much like it did the last time the two were separated in those dark, dark days of your top-flight spell in 2004/05! It makes for good entertainment though, and as American writer Gene Fowler once said: 'Everyone needs a warm personal enemy or two to keep him free from rust in the movable parts of his mind'...
When Marcus Evans bought the club the expectation was that he`d pump millions into the club and a return to the Premier League was only a matter of time. So, in short, what happened?
Er... pass? To be honest, as much as Ipswich Town forever owes a debt to Marcus Evans for the way he gave us a financial lifeline, I always felt that we actually had more about us back in the days when we were scrimping and saving with a shoestring budget and letting our football do the talking.
Teams without money can only be successful through team spirit, togetherness and good old fashioned hard work, and that can be a far greater motivator than money can - just look at Blackpool. As far as the millions are concerned though, many Town fans will probably tell you that Keane has wittered it all away on poor signings. I wouldn't say I agree with that, but some of those he invested in haven't exactly given him a matching return up to now (*cough* Lee Martin *cough*).
What do you think of the job Roy Keane has done so far? There is talk that Sunday could be his last game in charge?
I think those who are labelling Sunday as Keane's 'make or break' game are probably those that were saying the same thing when we played at Peterborough back in February. We lost 3-1 that night and slipped into the bottom four but there was no axe-wielding by the chairman.
It seems the media and some of the fans are prepared to trial and execute him far more readily than either Evans or Simon Clegg - be that through remarkable patience and sheer optimism or just a lack of bottle in the eyes of some - and whatever the result is, I find it unlikely we'll be seeing any decisions made on his future just like that. Nor would I approve of it, given that I am one of those still clinging onto some faith that Keane will rediscover that Sunderland formula in the near future.
There can't be any hiding from it though - he has not done a good job by any means; not when you take a team that was previously finishing in the top ten and have them scrapping for their lives against relegation until March the following season. We have learned things and improved in that time, but from someone who notoriously claimed that 'any half-decent manager' could guide a team to a top-half finish in the Championship, this is not where we should have been after 18 months with him in the job.
What do you make of Norwich`s return to the Championship so far?
Quietly impressive - but whilst I should probably be making jabs that it'll all inevitably go thrupenny bits-up by Christmas, I have to confess that I did somewhat see it coming. I think Leicester City demonstrated last season how a team that has gone stale and lost its way in the Championship can actually benefit from a drop down to make a fresh start and boost confidence before coming back with renewed momentum.
Only time will tell whether the consistency and quality is there to keep it up in the same way the Foxes did under Nigel Pearson, but after everything that has happened to both clubs in the past 2 years, there'll be hell to pay at Portman Road if Norwich make the playoffs before Town do...
Where do you think Ipswich will finish this season?
At the start of the season, given how we had barely made any signings and didn't look destined for a big improvement on last season, I predicted we would finish in 10th. Then we started the season really well and I thought I might have judged them too harshly. Now inconsistency has reared its ugly head again and I think my original prediction is probably the best we'll manage.
I genuinely don't believe that this team is bad enough to wind up in another relegation battle - and if it did, Keane's head would most definitely be on the block - but we've got to stop the rot quickly if we're to have any hope of anything better than mid-table mediocrity.
Ugh. Pass again! There's certainly enough to suggest that you've been able to re-establish yourselves at this level again, so regretfully I can't see a return to the triumphant days of that air-kicking hero Bryan Gunn...! (Is it wrong that I sometimes feel the tiniest bit sorry for him?).
To be fair, given a good start followed by a recent slump, I think both teams are having a similar season up to now - albeit a far more impressive thing for your boys than it is for ours considering where we started - so I'm temped to say we'll probably remain largely joined at the hip for the remainder of the campaign. I've said Town in 10th, so... 11th? (*winks*)
Looking toward Sunday`s game, are there any Norwich players that make you nervous?
You must be joking! Although, being serious for a moment, there are a few that I feel we shouldn't underestimate. Obviously Grant Holt is continuing his form from last season, but above that, I have always felt a bit uneasy about Wes 'Hula Hoop' or whatever his name is.
In truth, given our lack of goal threat in recent times - especially from midfield ever since Tommy Miller first went a-wandering 5 years ago - the forward drive and eye for goal that Hoolahan offers you is the kind of thing we could do with every so often. Then again, if David Norris gets his fitness back...
Which Ipswich players do you think we should be keeping our eye on?
Given some of Keane's recent selection choices it's difficult to know who on Earth will be lining up for us on Sunday. There are several that could be worth keeping an eye on if they are picked; I'd be quite keen on seeing our on-loan Tottenham winger Andros Townsend back in the lineup given the pace and trickery that he offers on both wings, and there's probably few these days that haven't yet heard about the bubbling pot of potential that is 17-year-old striker Connor Wickham - though he hasn't yet found his goalscoring touch from last season.
More than anyone else at the moment though, I'd be wary of Tamas Priskin (stop sniggering at the back!). He was probably the joke of the Ipswich team last season and ended up being farmed out to QPR despite us spending £1.7 million on him in August 2009, but his confidence has started to grow this season and he is offering much more in the way of attacking threat - and indeed goals.
In a team crying out for that bit of inspiration recently, his popularity has been growing with some good performances. The way the boos rang out when he was bizarrely substituted while we were 3-0 down at home to Barnsley two weeks ago, it's a wonder you couldn't hear it from Carrow Road.
What starting eleven do you think Roy Keane will go for, and what sort of formation do you expect him to play?
There's been a lot of criticism lately about negative tactics from Keane. I've never been a fan of the 4-5-1 system for a team like Ipswich - even Jim Magilton should have learned that this doesn't work - but it makes particularly little sense playing with a lone striker when your biggest weakness has been finding someone that can get the ball in the net.
Call me old fashioned but I would always rather see a 4-4-2, and given what has arguably been a bit of a lack of imagination on the manager's part, this is what we'll probably resort to if Keane wants to make something of this match. I couldn't believe Priskin was left out of the starting lineup against Hull last week so I would be expecting him to return, possibly with Jason Scotland up front.
I'd also be surprised if the likes of Norris, Grant Leadbitter, Damien Delaney and Tommy Smith aren't involved. We've got quite a few injury concerns elsewhere on the pitch though so it's anyone's guess really.
What`s your score prediction for the game?
Given how much the team - and the manager - desperately need the result, and seeing how this is after all the big battle we've been waiting over a year-and-a-half for, I cannot bring myself to say anything other than a 2-1 win for Ipswich, probably with heaps of controversy for the TV pundits to mull over just like it was in 2005 (God bless Danny Haynes' left arm!) But optimism is scarce around Town at the moment and suffice to say, I daren't tell you what I really think...!
You can catch up with all the latest news from Portman Road if you are that way inclined by checking out the excellent Vital Ipswich site here (I particularly recommend the the 'East Anglian Derby Buildup - From The Other Side' article, but I'm biased).
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Date:Thursday November 25 2010
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