Decision Time

Some choice words by Gavin Barber.

According to Albert Camus – just about the only notable goalkeeper not to have been linked with a move to ITFC over the last six months – “Life is a sum of all your choices”. Decision-making was one of the many woeful aspects of Town’s play during Saturday’s miserable defeat by Sheffield Wednesday, though in truth there haven’t been many good decisions made at Portman Road, on or off the pitch, for about the last five years.

Which is one of the reasons why so many fans are, to say the least, sceptical about Marcus Evans’ and Simon Clegg’s capacity to get right what may prove to be their most important decision yet – the appointment of a new manager.

After Saturday’s game, I heard (courtesy of a fellow train passenger who hasn’t yet had the invention of headphones or volume controls brought to his attention, and evidently felt that everyone else in the carriage really, really needed to hear Radio Suffolk’s post-match phone-in) several Town fans, and Mick Mills, talking about Mick McCarthy as the sort of manager who was needed, to give our current selection of under-achievers “a kick up the backside”. It’s a tempting view – performances have, to general astonishment, got more and more spineless over recent months, to the point where we are now pretty much putting out a team of invertebrates every week (in a figurative sense, of course – real invertebrates are much better at keeping their shape). McCarthy isn’t a man who tends to inspire a great deal of affection, but if his methods could produce a team that actually displayed some kind of resilience or determination, it would certainly represent an improvement.

But having reflected on it further, it strikes me that we need to appoint a manager who we’re confident will be the right choice, not for the next five matches or even the next five months, but for the next five years.

As several supporters have pointed out, short-term thinking has played a large part in getting ITFC into the mess we’re currently in. Thinking back to the previous managerial appointment, there was an urgent need to bring in someone who could harmonise what appeared to be a divided and disaffected dressing room – a blokey sort of a bloke who’d provide some form of relief after the players had failed to respond to the somewhat more singular motivational strategies of Roy Keane. And it worked, up to a point – we didn’t get relegated that season and some players seemed to respond quite well. For a bit.

But that was as far as it went. It was an appointment for that moment, but not for the times that followed – Jewell didn’t have the tactical nous, or the willingness to update his thinking, to compete with more astute contemporaries such as Brian McDermott or Nigel Adkins: and you can only tread water in this league for so long.

So whilst it’s certainly appealing to think that Jewell’s successor might be the sort of person who would bring managerial boot into rapid connection with pampered player’s arse, Evans and Clegg need to be thinking beyond the immediate need. There’s a risk that a manager whose main attribute is being “no-nonsense” (surely the adjective most commonly applied to McCarthy – incidentally, what does it even mean? Does it imply that other managers preside over dressing rooms rife with quirky surrealism and non-sequiturs?)  could deliver enough strategically-placed rockets to get Town scrambling away from the bottom of the league, but if that’s all he can deliver, then we’ll end up stagnating again within a matter of months, and the whole sorry spiral of decline will start again.

We may, therefore, have to be prepared for things to get worse (I know, I know) before they get better. Which is not to say that I subscribe to the “maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for us to get relegated” school of thought. Ask Coventry fans for their views on that. It would be a disaster – Championship survival has to be an imperative for the next occupant of the manager’s office. But we need someone whose remit, and capability, extends beyond those immediate imperatives.

Albus Dumbledore – a more accessible literary figure than Camus, though by all accounts not quite so handy between the sticks – said that “It is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities”. If Marcus Evans won’t show us his face, it’s time for him to use this moment of choice to show us what he really is.

5 Responses to Decision Time

  1. I disagree that McCarthy simply offers safety. His record on getting teams promoted is second to none, while Jewell’s was mixed (especially recently).

    If it gets worse than it already is then that means just one thing—relegation.

    If MM were to take over, keep us up and get us promoted he’d be the best long term appointment imaginable.

    • gavinbarber says:

      Hi Leon – I wasn’t necessarily trying to say that McCarthy personally would be a bad choice. Clearly, any manager who got us promoted would be an inspired choice. Whether McCarthy could do that, I have no idea.

      I was just trying to say that the choice needs to be based on something other than the immediate need. Of course our players need a kick up the arse, but if that’s the limit of the new manager’s attributes – whoever he is – it won’t get us too far in the long term.

      So I’m just saying that Clegg & Evans need to think about not only what happens next, but what happens after that. If McCarthy can deliver – great. I just don’t want us to be tempted into thinking – again – only of the immediate imperatives. Given their track record so far, it’s hard not to be dubious about Clegg and Evans’ capacity to get it right.

  2. Izzy says:

    Do you think the root of all our problems are just the manager?

    It seems to me that – on paper – we’ve had a good team for the last four or five years, but they’ve not delivered on the pitch. In that time, we’ve had a huge turn-over of players, and two managers. As you say, Keene and Jewel had very different management styles, but they had the same problem – they could not get 11 men to work together as a team, and become more than the sum of the individuals.

    I reckon there is more going on behind the scenes than we know about and, whatever it is, it is disturbing the players.

    • gavinbarber says:

      “Do you think the root of all our problems are just the manager?”

      No I certainly don’t. I agree that our problems run much deeper – hence my doubts about whether Evans and Clegg will get it right this time. I hope they can though.

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