An Interview With An Ipswich Fan
Ahead of our clash against Ipswich we spoke to Darren C of Vital Ipswich Town.
With thanks to Darren.
1) Is the season going as you expected and what has been the highlight and lowlight so far?
I suppose it's going as expected now... in that we've been expecting to finish in mid-table again! It's certainly not what we had envisaged at the start of the campaign though; Roy Keane's first season at Town was diabolical for the most part but optimism was high of a major improvement this time around, especially when we started so well that we were keeping pace with QPR and Cardiff.
Then in the autumn, it all crumbled into dust. We momentarily recovered from a run of three straight losses in October, only to then go on a horrendous 6 match losing streak throughout November and December that saw us plummet from 6th to 18th - a run that ultimately cost Keane his job. In particular, seeing us suffer our heaviest ever East Anglian derby defeat 4-1 at Norwich - live around the world on BBC TV to boot - was probably our lowest point not just of this season but for many, many years. Even getting hammered 7-0 by Chelsea in the FA Cup in January wasn't as painful as that day at Carrow Road!!
So that was our league campaign in tatters for another year, but if there's one thing we really did get right this season, it was the Carling Cup. Back when we were scraping our way through in extra time 3-2 at Exeter in the First Round, few could have predicted we'd go all the way to the semi-finals. The peak of that amazing run - and surely the highlight of our season - came in the first leg at Portman Road, when Tamas Priskin scored to give us a memorable 1-0 win over Arsenal. We then went 60 minutes without conceding at the Emirates to come within half-an-hour of Wembley... then the Gunners finally tonked us 3-0! Still an absolutely magical ride though, and it made the whole season seem just that little bit more enjoyable.
2) Any transfer window deals that we might not be aware of, but should look out for?
With all the cup commotion and managerial musical chairs going on, we only had time to make two signings in January. One of those you probably won't know about is midfielder Andy Drury. He was one of the biggest stars in non-league when we signed him from Luton and he's shown some promise of doing well at this level, but he has a long way to go and isn't yet holding down a place in the starting XI.
You'll surely know about our other January signing though, and he's certainly worth looking out for - Jimmy Bullard has been a sensation since joining on loan from Hull, giving us real quality in midfield and a serious dead ball threat. He's had 4 goals too, all of them crackers from long range. Not sure we'll be able to keep him though!
3) Are you expecting to take 3 points this time?
Our home record has been pretty poor this season, but we did win our last home match against Scunthorpe as well as taking three points at Burnley last week. We're looking comfortable in mid-table and the club is making this match something of a special occasion, with club events happening around the town and cheap tickets likely to result in our highest league attendance of the season. All that should hopefully contribute to a great atmosphere and get our boys enjoying themselves out there. Given our inconsistency, I wouldn't say I'm 'expecting' us to win this one, but certainly I'm hoping for it - especially as I'll be travelling down from the Midlands to see it!
4) Where do you see your current weaknesses? Any clues will be greatly welcomed :-)
I'm not sure about giving away clues! But if your manager is worth his salt, he should know that Ipswich are not exactly strong at right-back. Ironically, we've been lacking a natural choice for this position since David Wright left us to join your boys. Midfielder Carlos Edwards seems to have taken up the role since January, but he's not exactly a recognised defender, and at 32, he might struggle to keep up if you have a pacy man on the left wing.
5) Who will be your key dangerman?
That's a tough one - there's numerous players that I think could pose a threat. It could be an interesting game for David Norris in particular though; he's been one of our standout performers this season and is currently our leading goalscorer in all competitions after scoring at Burnley last week, yet with his contract up this summer, he could be set to leave us - and it seems your lot were trying to get him in January! As such, he might have a double incentive to perform on Saturday; to try and persuade Town to give him a deal, or maybe to tempt Palace to make him an offer in the summer?...
6) Do you believe Palace should be worried about our position in the table, or do you feel we will pull up the table and survive?
Your form has certainly picked up since January and I think you've probably got enough to avoid the drop again this year, probably more comfortably than last time. I find it hard to see any of Sheffield United, Preston or Scunthorpe making up the 7 point gap, and even if they do, Doncaster have been in freefall and could take the bullet for you.
7) What are your thoughts on Dougie Freedman?
Well I remember him well as a player - I'll never forget that night back in 2003 when he scored twice and looked to have robbed us of three points late on, until Shefki Kuqi popped up at the death to make it 4-3 to Town! But as a manager, I can't really offer much comment. Credit to him for taking on a very tough job at Selhurst Park, and he's doing well to keep your heads above water, though I have doubts as to whether he can really take you forward if you survive this season.
8) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?
I might have asked for Darren Ambrose back, but that didn't exactly work out last time! I must admit, I was actually expecting Wilfried Zaha to win the Championship Apprentice of the Year Award this season, only for Connor Wickham to snatch the prize for us. But Zaha certainly looks like he will have a lot to offer in the future, and I wouldn't exactly turn him down!
9) Who do you see as our main threat?
I still get the impression that you struggle without Darren Ambrose. He might not have had as good a season as he did last year, but I still think he's a quality player and he gets a decent goal tally for a midfielder. I'm always worried when we come up against former Town players too, so he'll be the one I'm keeping an eye on this Saturday.
10) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?
Your defending has been a major problem all season away from home, and the number of penalties you seem to concede hasn't exactly gone unnoticed. I'd want to see our wingers try and frustrate your full-backs into making a few mistakes and see how we can capitalise. Even if we don't get anything inside the box, Bullard could probably cause you some problems from free kicks.
11) Finally, a prediction please...
Well my predicting 'skills' have proven pretty dire this season(!) but I'm staying optimistic about this one. Ipswich 2-0 Crystal Palace.
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