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