It’s hard to know what to say about the start to the season Ipswich have had. With Roy Keane at the helm, the bookies had them hotly tipped for a return to the promised land of the Premier League. But 11 games into the season though, things look far from rosy at Portman Road.
Keane was brought in late last season with a track record of having already achieved promotion from the Championship with Sunderland. With the summer period to make his own changes to the squad, the Irishman’s side were expected to take shape and make the push up the table. Thus far, expectations have not been met and many are already there are suggestions that Keane is on borrowed time. Questions have been asked on his future, with the Irishman refusing to make any comment thus far on the subject. He should be grateful perhaps that he has not yet had the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ from his board.
There are other factors that should be considered before any such rash decisions are made. First off, it should be noted that despite a disappointing negative goal tally, the Tractor Boys have shown a lot of fight in their last two matches. Last Tuesday, they came close to snatching all three points from the visit to Sheffield United, leading 3-1 only to be denied by a very late strike from Chris Morgan. Not many sides will take points from Bramall Lane this season and although it would have felt like a defeat for the travelling fans, it should be seen as a more than creditable draw. Saturday’s result was another cruel blow in Yorkshire, as on this occasion Keane’s men returned home with no points thanks to another injury-time goal, this time courtesy of Barnsley’s Jon Macken.
The point is, Ipswich have not been far off getting positive results and Keane has been in this position before. Take into consideration the Sunderland job. When he took the helm at the Stadium of Light, the Black Cats were in dire straights, apparently readying themselves for a long season at the foot of the table. Keane arrived and not only steered them away from the basement, but indeed led them on a charge which ultimately ended in promotion, an outcome that no pundit could have forecasted when he was appointed.
Ipswich will not get relegated. This writer doesn’t buy into the argument that some teams are “too big” to drop out of a division (we can all agree that there are plenty of examples to disprove any such naive theory). However, there are worse teams in the Championship than Ipswich and Keane must be given more time.
Further down the football league it’s refreshing to see teams who have faced the adversity of points deductions in recent seasons fairing well. Leeds are presently leading the way in League One, whilst in League Two, it is Bournemouth and Rotherham who currently top the table. Alan Pardew’s Southampton side have already reached a positive points tally too it should be noted.
This writer can appreciate that if there are financial irregularities at clubs then they need to be punished in some way, as it simply isn’t fair that certain clubs try to seek an advantage off the field in such a manner. However, do points deductions suit the manner of the crime? It is important to remember that these clubs are already in a tight spot. It is this that has led them to try and gain some kind of advantage. Points deductions only hurt a club further and it is ultimately the fans who suffer.
Unfortunately, is there a better solution to this conundrum? It is a matter which should be addressed. Relegation from League Two was pretty much decided before a ball was kicked last season for Luton after they were dealt the crippling blow of a 30-point penalty and Bournemouth only escaped the jaws of the drop zone with a few games to spare. Conversely, Darlington still appear to be struggling after their deduction last season. That said, judging by the stories coming out of the north east club over the summer, Quakers fans may well consider themselves fortunate simply to still have a club to support.
With many clubs thriving and some unexpectedly struggling, the managerial merry-go-round has already started in the football league. It appears as though we have another exciting season of ups, downs and surprises galore ahead of us. Long may it continue.