The announcement that long-serving manager Mick McCarthy will be leaving Ipswich in the summer has been the dominant news from Portman Road in the past couple of weeks.
As the club meanders towards the end of another mid-table season, the thought that there will be a new man in the hotseat for the first time in six years in the summer is a novel one for fans.
McCarthy and Town owner Marcus Evans decided that a change “was in the best interest of all parties”.
McCarthy added: “I had a good discussion with Marcus and we feel this is the right thing to do for me and for Ipswich Town.
“I won’t be leaving with any regrets. I have given everything for Ipswich Town and I will see out my contract in the same way.”
However, there must be a question mark as to whether McCarthy will leave before the end of the season as, after Monday’s 2-2 draw with Millwall, he said his position at the club was like being in a “driverless car” and that he was no longer enjoying the job.
“I’m still in charge of it but I’m not in total control of it,” he added.
It has been another disappointing season for Ipswich, who are the Championship’s longest-serving club – having been relegated from the Premier League in 2002.
Their 2-0 win over us in August was their fourth in a row from the start of the season but their form quickly evaporated and seven defeats in their next 10 games dropped them from promotion contenders into mid-table, where they have remained ever since.
Their form picked up a bit as November became December with three wins in four matches, but they have been inconsistent since then and have failed to win any of their last five matches.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Mick McCarthy will lose his status as the Championship’s longest-serving manager, and eighth longest-serving in all four divisions, when he leaves Portman Road when his contract expires at the end of the season.
McCarthy replaced Paul Jewell as Ipswich boss in November 2012 and has led them to three top half of the table finishes in his time at the helm.
Those included sixth place and a spot in the play-offs with us in 2014/15, although they lost to East Anglian rivals Norwich in the semi-finals.
Before taking over at Portman Road, he was in charge at Wolves for nearly six years and had a similar amount of time as Republic of Ireland manager with three years at Sunderland sandwiched in-between, while his managerial career began at Millwall.
His managerial achievements include leading the Irish to the 2002 World Cup finals and taking them to the second round and leading both Wolves and Sunderland back to the Premier League as champions of the Championship.
As a centre-half, Mick won 57 caps for the Irish while playing his club football with Barnsley, Manchester City, Celtic, Lyon and Millwall.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
John Egan marked his home debut with two second half goals as we beat Ipswich 2-0 on their last visit in August 2016.
Egan headed in a Lewis MacLeod centre for the first in the 48th minute and doubled the lead from a rebound seven minutes later to give us our first home win over Town since 1955.
We drew the return 1-1 in March after Nico Yennaris equalised Emyr Huws’s opener for Ipswich just before half-time to leave both teams in mid-table.
Our miserable start to this season continued at Portman Road in August as we stretched our winless league run to four matches with a 2-0 defeat, which dropped us to the bottom of the table.
Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner scored either side of the break, with the second goal confirmed by the new goalline technology after Nico Yennaris had cleared the ball, as Ipswich moved up to second.
Q – How would you assess Ipswich’s season so far – what was expected at the start of the campaign?
A – Being realistic, I don’t think we were really expecting play-offs or beyond this season. Fans would have largely settled for an improvement on what was a dour campaign last time around with some very dull encounters on the field. We were all pleasantly surprised initially, as Ipswich went off like the clappers in August and scored plenty of goals, with a number of new signings all gelling really well.
Since December, though, things have taken a turn for the worse again, and Town have lacked creativity and end product. The negative atmosphere has returned to Portman Road with a vengeance, with Mick McCarthy bearing the brunt of the wrath of supporters.
Q – What is the feeling about the decision for Mick McCarthy not to have his contract renewed – was this a surprise or expected?
A – No surprise at all that he and the owner decided on a parting of the ways. I think even some of McCarthy’s supporters at Ipswich are relieved, as it paves the way for the club to unite around a new man next season and potentially bring back a much needed feelgood factor.
Q – Given the quotes from McCarthy after Monday’s game with Millwall, what are the chances of him walking away before the end of the season?
A – In the 18 months or so since the first calls for him to be sacked appeared on message boards and were shouted from the stands, McCarthy has been adamant he will be seeing this contract out. I 100% expected him to do so, until Easter Monday. His comments and body language reflected a man who doesn’t want to be here, so an early departure would not be a surprise.
Q – How would you assess the job he has done at the club, given the reported lack of transfer funds he has had?
Contrary to what many of his critics say, McCarthy has also given some of the club’s academy players a chance in the first team. Since the highs of the play-offs though, an often cautious approach to team selection hasn’t helped the manager in the popularity stakes. He has also suffered horrendous luck on the injury front, particularly this season, meaning he hasn’t once been able to go with his best 11. In summary, the new manager will be dealt a far greater hand at Portman Road to that which McCarthy received when he first took over.
Q – What sort of manager do you think the club will look for next – tried and trusted British, young up-and-coming British or foreign experienced or inexperienced person?
A – The Marcus Evans way has been to go with experience. With that in mind, if he really is determined to get the club into the Premier League, he has failed with all three appointments. He has to get this one right. A figure that would unite the club and bring them the entertainment they crave is borderline essential. Tony Mowbray would be a popular choice, but would he turn his back on the excellent job he appears to be doing at Blackburn? Evans would do well to at least consult some of the club’s legendary figures (Mick Mills, Terry Butcher, George Burley) before making any appointment, but I’m not convinced he will.
A – I don’t think there will be huge changes to the squad during the summer, but it would probably be worth a director of sorts with a strong football background joining the club. I say this as Mick McCarthy has been the only real figurehead for more than five years now with any real knowledge of on pitch matters, so with that in mind, he has fielded more interviews and press conferences than necessary. An extra pair of hands could help take some of the heat off the new boss.
Q – What are the chances of Ipswich mounting a promotion push next season?
A – Well things can change quite quickly. With the right manager and a loosening of the purse strings, there is always a chance.
Q – Which Ipswich players should we watch out for?
A – Bartosz Bialkowski is a Premier League goalkeeper in waiting and Ipswich will do well to keep hold of him this summer. Cole Skuse works tirelessly and is an unsung hero in this team. Martyn Waghorn has had an impressive debut season at the club, and is looking like a goal threat once again. Arguably the most gifted player in the squad though is the Manchester City loanee Bersant Celina. On his day, he can produce something very special, but sadly, he’s not had many of those days in recent weeks.
Q – Which Brentford players will you be wary of?
A – John Egan for sure after his brace in this fixture at the beginning of last season. Neal Maupay is something of an obvious choice, but he’s been in the goals lately and will definitely have to be watched.
Q – Finally, are you able to give me a possible Town starting line-up and formation too please?
A – It could be tricky, given this is a third game in quick succession, and that there is another one on Tuesday night. McCarthy though has gone with wing-backs of late in a 3-5-2 so something like this:
Bialkowski, Carter-Vickers, Chambers, Webster, Spence, Skuse, Connolly, Carayol, Knudsen, Waghorn, and a full debut for Folami.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Ipswich fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.
There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.
The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).
Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.
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