THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

14 April ~ Notable mostly for a club record number of draws, it has not been an exciting season for Ipswich Town. Even the threatened drama of a relegation battle never really materialised, and lower mid-table mediocrity is the likely outcome. For a club that has enjoyed an eventful professional career, this could well be the most tedious season ever.

Yet throughout this non-event of a campaign, Town have been the focus of more media attention than in many more successful periods in their history. Except that the interest is not in Ipswich, but in "Roy Keane's Ipswich". If owner Marcus Evans' appointment of a big-name manager was intended to raise Town's profile, its success has been limited, the club having been reduced to little more than Keane's latest project.

The coverage has been less an appraisal of Keane's management than fevered anticipation of his failure. Always rather contemptuous of journalists, Keane's problems have consequently tended to be celebrated by the media. As Town went from week to week refusing to look anything like the promotion challengers they were expected to be, so the Football League Show continued to preface Ipswich games with a shot of the manager glumly getting off the bus to portray Keane's tenure as a disaster, seemingly relishing his struggle and the dismissal or walk-out that was seen as imminent and inevitable. In response, Ipswich's chief executive Simon Clegg has regularly issued statements denying that Keane was on his way, to little avail. To the press, he has remained one more poor result from the sack.

Certainly, it has been a very disappointing season. Keane himself said that any half-decent manager could take a team to mid-table in the Championship, yet he is struggling to achieve that. Many aspects of his management have led to widespread bafflement and raised doubts about his ability to fulfil his ambition to become a "top manager".

Yet the media's apparent eagerness for, and expectation of, Keane's departure is far from representative of the feeling amongst the supporters, the majority of whom are wondering what all the fuss is about. While there is obvious dissatisfaction at the feeble efforts of an expensively assembled team, there has been little thirst for his removal, even during the record winless run at the start of the season. At a club where managers have traditionally been given time to make an impression, the view is that these are early days in Keane's reign. Change was needed following Jim Magilton's ultimately directionless spell in charge and Keane is setting about the task. There is still plenty of patience for an improvement to emerge.

But the disproportionate level of interest continues. On March 31, the Guardian's website trailed an article on why Keane had failed to turn things around at Ipswich. It never appeared. Maybe when he sat down to write it, the reporter realised that Keane's celebrity is now irrelevant and he is just an inexperienced manager learning his trade at a second-tier club that has had an unremarkable season and, as such, there isn’t a great deal to say. Csaba Abrahall

Comments (6)
Comment by Red Adder 2010-04-14 11:36:33

If you take away the first 15 games ITs form was play-off level but at the end of the day the side is no further foward than under Magilton. Keane has trashed what remained of the 2005 FA Youth Cup winners (how can it be that none have made the grade) and imported seemingly dozens of loanees - often Sunderland rejects. He doesn't seem to know who should be in his "A" line up from week to week and players regularly go from the "A" side to being loaned out. None of this bodes well for Keane's long term career as a successful manager with a top side - or the immediate future of Ipswich who will be a financial basket-case if owner Evans looses interest and calls in his loans to the club.

Comment by tratorello 2010-04-14 12:14:59

This is the most tedious period in the 30 years I've been a Town supporter, even more dreary than John Duncan's reign in the mid to late 80's.

Even as a committed Tractor Boy I've struggled to maintain interest in this season. Red Adder makes a great point about the 2005 Youth Cup winning side, so much was expected of them and, for once, there seemed to be a genuine new dawn of (mostly) home grown talent coming through, but all of that seems to have been squandered.

Connor Wickham seems to be the only bright spot on an otherwise fairly bleak horizon, although how much of this is down to Keane and how much is just football, and especially Ipswich's, general malaise I'm not sure.

Comment by onedeadbudgie 2010-04-14 13:41:45

Jim never seemed to know his best 11 and it was impossible to know what the next line up might be. Added to that at QPR he bollocked players in public and overdid the post-defeat dressing room lock ins. With Keane it is not much different except that we are further down the table. Once in favour players like Stead and Bruce are out on loan. An expensive signing like Priskin never had a run in the side and was then sent out on loan. There may be an argument that one year is too short a time and he should be given another season. He has stabilised the defence and we are staying up although we have no one who looks like a serious striker. Most painful is watching our former prospect Jordan Rhodes scoring more than 20 goals at Huddersfield after being cast aside by Keane. Some of the blame must go to our owner who gave Keane the power to do that and appointed Simon Clegg as CEO, a man who can talk gobbledegook, answer a question without telling you anything and did not even know there was a transfer window (when he might have been better placed in his office rather than on holiday). We have an owner and a CEO with no previous experience in football and an inexperienced manager. None have any local history or connections. It is all very symptomatic of being a loss leader business held by a faceless businessman based in Bermuda.

Comment by Phoebe 2010-04-14 17:01:07

Excellent piece, Csaba.

@RedAdder "Keane has trashed what remained of the 2005 FA Youth Cup winners (how can it be that none have made the grade)"

What rubbish - Supple left for non-footballing reasons, Upson was on his way out before Keane arrived, Casement's already been told he's surplus to requirements in Scottish Division one, Haynes hasn't set the world alight at Bristol City, and neither has Garvan (whose attitude has been his undoing this season) - but to put that at the feet of Keane who has used youth, as opposed to Magilton (who went two months without playing a single player who came through the academy last season) is frankly bizarre.

"and imported seemingly dozens of loanees"

Loaning someone for the season, and only paying part of their wages is a much better option than signing them for a fee and then paying Premiership wages - as you say, we're already hugely in hock to our owner

@tratorello "Connor Wickham seems to be the only bright spot on an otherwise fairly bleak horizon, although how much of this is down to Keane and how much is just football, and especially Ipswich's, general malaise I'm not sure."

Keane has treated Wickham brilliantly, and the current crop of youngsters look promising, especially Hyam and Dunbar.

@onedeadbudgie "He has stabilised the defence and we are staying up although we have no one who looks like a serious striker. Most painful is watching our former prospect Jordan Rhodes scoring more than 20 goals at Huddersfield after being cast aside by Keane."

Yeah, that has been painful, but it was made clear to Keane that if he wanted to bring in a forward, he'd have to shift one out permanently, and if Pablo hadn't turned down Swasnea, Rhodes would have stayed. Still, we get to sign Pablo's name for the three goals he's scored in 30 games this season.

Comment by tratorello 2010-04-15 12:09:00

Just to clarify I wasn't slating Keane's treatment of Connor Wickham, just saying that Ipswich seem to me (as someone who follows them from afar) to have a "fairly bleak horizon" but I'm not sure how much of that is down to Keane and how much is just down to the general state of football and previous mismanagement.

Comment by onedeadbudgie 2010-04-15 14:18:14

It is good that Phoebe has mentioned Pablo because he is just about the only class player at the Club who might do the unexpected and one of the few that has any connection with the fans (having been there for more than five minutes). As to his performances, he has not had much of a run in the side and who has one might ask?

Keane does not "do" creativity, the unexpected etc. His football is purely very functional. The players he has signed at great expense are for the most part very dull and it is hard to find anything that mitigates against the steady dislocation of the Club from the fans and the local community.

Before we overstretched ourselves and went into administration we developed our own players and had a limited transfer budget. These seem like pleasurable days in the past to me. It is hard to get excited about our faceless owner, inexperienced CEO and charmless manager producing dull football.

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