John Duncan will be perhaps remembered for all the wrong reasons and he is still regarded as the worst manager to coach the club full time by many Town followers. Although football has moved on leaps and bounds since then, we must still heed the warning signs.
Former Town favourite Alex Mathie told us just before Mick McCarthy left the club that ‘We should be careful who we wish for” and these sentiments have been echoed by a number of football critics – including of course that old Canary adversary of ours Chris Sutton!
In the case of John Duncan, there are striking similarities to Jack Ross and Paul Hurst in that he was another up and coming manager with a seemingly bright future in the game. He was offered a permanent managerial post at Hartlepool but turned it down for Chesterfield, who had just been relegated from the then Third Division. In his first season in charge, his side only finished mid-table but in 1985 he won the Fourth Division title!
For the next two seasons, Chesterfield held their own and even challenged for promotion again, before Ipswich came sniffing and he became Town boss in the summer of 1987 following the departure of Bobby Ferguson. That was the good bit but what was to follow was a huge disappointment for all concerned. The Blues had become spoilt on success at that time and the supporters genuinely hoped that Duncan could be the catalyst to resurrect our fortunes.
In his first season in charge of Town, we managed a decent finish but in truth, we never seriously challenged for promotion. The following season saw some moderate improvement and we missed out on the playoffs by just three points. Duncan’s third season in charge of Ipswich Town started poorly, however, and even some good results near the end of the campaign weren’t enough for a promotion push and Duncan was finally shown the door on the 8th May 1990.
It was not just the results that made supporters feel so disenfranchised though but the quality of the football on show. Sounds familiar? Well, I can assure you it was, and most supporters were glad to see the back of him in the end.
Now, it was admittedly a long time ago, and football has undoubtedly changed in so many ways but we must not expect miracles overnight from either Jack Ross or Paul Hurst because they are still relative novices on the managerial merry-go-round.
I for one, am not expecting overnight success. If Evans, as most pundits expect, employs either of the two above mentioned candidates, then it will be a calculated risk at best. Hiring Frank Lampard would not even be that because he has still to cut his managerial teeth and there is, therefore, nothing calculated about it if we base our judgement entirely on his untried managerial acumen.
FW – editor of Vital Ipswich