With a nice mix of youth and experience in the squad, the game against Blackburn Rovers at Portman Road on Saturday could be the start of a new dawn for Ipswich Town football club.
O.K. we know it was only a friendly against West Ham but as manager Paul Hurst has intimated many times already, he does not see any game as ‘friendly’ and his desire to win is second to none. Former boss Mick McCarthy of course always suggested much the same but we all knew what he was really telling us and that was that he did not want to lose. And there lies the difference!
The positivity around the club at the moment is in stark contrast to the end of the McCarthy era when a dark cloud hung over Portman Road and this deep depression sucked the lifeblood out of us all. But the McCarthy legacy continues in terms of the squad itself. The fact that we might get as much as 8 million for Martyn Waghorn when McCarthy acquired him for around 250,000, speaks volumes for Mick’s persuasive powers. The same can be said for so many that have gone before or, who may still leave in the days ahead.
Paul Hurst has been fortuitous in the sense that he has inherited a relatively strong squad with great potential. The fact that we had three teenage midfielders in our ranks against The Irons, was a testament to our youth network and Bryan Klug at the helm. Yet, had Mick McCarthy not given them their first taste of first-team football earlier in their budding careers, they may not have adapted quite so well as they did on Saturday afternoon. This also applies to Luke Wolfenden who made his debut- as did many others, in that League Cup encounter at Crystal Palace, when Town lost narrowly 2-1.
Yet Mick McCarthy was a very cautious coach. He was not a risk taker and consequently, he did not always utilise the players at his disposal favourably. Poor Freddie Sears went from a prolific goal machine to a goal shy novice, whose legs would buckle at the thought of having a pop at goal! His rehabilitation is very much a work in progress and playing Luke Chambers as a wing-back was often excruciating to watch. He was never a wing back and he knew it only too well but he mucked in for the sake of the team. And back again at centre-half and he has regained his defensive composure.
Paul Hurst believes in round pegs in round holes and we are already seeing the benefits of this. He also wants to utilize natural wingers and not ones that have been asked to play there. Players already speak of the new fitness regime at the club and thankfully, without a spate of training field injuries so his coaching staff must be doing something right. They all speak of the intensity of the training schedule and how they all feel fitter for it – so something must have changed!
I expect a healthy crowd at Portman Road on Saturday afternoon and whatever the eventual outcome, I think we are witnessing the beginning of a new dawn.
F.W. editor of Vital Ipswich