Derby day. What joy. City head across the Waveney to meet an Ipswich side under new management, but bottom of the league and winless, both this season and in a decade against us. Along Come Norwich and all that. Andrew Lawn chats to Town fan and Turnstile Blues writer, Gavin Barber to set the scene.
Andy - The appointment of Paul Hurst, like Farke 12 months ago, led to much excitement and optimism, but 5 games in to the season and no wins on the board, the bubble appears to have burst already among some. How do you feel it's going so far?
Gavin - Paul Hurst clearly has a style of play that he wants to follow and is trying to assemble a squad to play it - but it’s not coming off for two reasons.
The first reason is that we keep conceding stupid goals from set pieces, which may be attributable to the number of new players we’re trying to establish.
The second is that we carry very little goal threat: we’ve got some willing forwards but we lack a cutting edge, and we also lack the craftiness and dark arts that Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner, respectively, gave us last season.
Don't worry, Along Come Norwich. What is Hurst's style? Based on his direct Shrewsbury side, he seemed an ideal fit to come into Mick's similar setup. I expected a little refresh rather than a major overhaul?
It’s still quite direct (more so than some of the ardent anti-Mick brigade would care to admit), but involves more pace: balls hit into wide areas for wingers to run on to.
Gwion Edwards, a tricky wide player signed from Peterborough, has been the pick of the new signings, but there’s not much for him to aim at. How about you guys?
We were probably thinking that Farke would take you to a higher level, having had a season to get used to the Championship, but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet.
We thought so too.
To be fair the first 3 games (Birmingham 2-2, WBA 3-4, then Sheffield United 1-2) we played much better than the results suggested and could easily have had 7 or even 9 points rather than 1. We were awful against Preston, but won. Then Leeds came to visit and after a bright 20 minutes we conceded and sunk without a trace, leading to some solid despondency.
A midweek cup win away at Cardiff has been a welcome fill-up but it's not a happy ship right now and there's been talk that defeat on Sunday could be the end for Farke. Sunday could be anything, what are you expecting?
My friend and Turnstile Blues colleague Steve Moore has just told me that Ipswich and Norwich have each won four league games since 3 February, so nobody should be anticipating a high quality game.
Paul Hurst’s team showed some character in holding Aston Villa to a draw despite having Tayo Edun sent off in the first half, so there is some hope that we could battle to our first win of the season on Sunday. Are Norwich fans optimistic?
That's a great stat. We also haven't won away in the league since January.
In a word, no - we're far from optimistic.
There is a sense that you're due a win and while we can be excellent in patches, we seem very brittle and 1 goal against and we can collapse.
The worry is we go behind early and then sink without a trace. That said, if we score first and relax into the game, we could win comfortably.
You seem to have had a busy summer, including another signing yesterday, is the squad improved, or just changed? You've mentioned one new boy in Gwion Edwards, but who else should we be wary of?
It sounds like Ipswich should be attacking from the off, in the hope of getting an early goal or two. We certainly can’t be trusted to keep a clean sheet.
The Ipswich squad is substantially changed from previous seasons, but more work is needed before we can say we’ve improved. We really need more presence up front and we lack cover at centre-half. The new players are either Premier League loanees, or players from the lower divisions: so nobody with experience at this level. Hopefully all have the ambition to prove themselves, but they’ll need time.
Of the new signings, Trevoh Chalobah, on loan from Chelsea; has caught the eye with some strong performances in midfield. His passing can be wayward but he’s certainly a presence. Are there any new Norwich players we should look out for?
I'm both expecting and fearing you to be really fired up and come screaming out of the traps. If you score in that spell we're in trouble, if you don't I think we'll grow into the game.
Onel Hernandez has been the main man thus far, but I think given the game Jordan Rhodes could be an ace up our sleeve. He has 2 already and looks sharp.
I would also watch Mo Leitner who has yet to find his A game this season but is far too good for this division.
Away from football (sort of) what have people made of the pubs being granted permission to sell alcohol from 6am and immediately render the pointless move to midday Sunday, even more ridiculous - if you'll ignore the leading question...
Jordan Rhodes usually scores against us so you wouldn’t get much value out of a bet on him to get at least one on Sunday.
The pub thing is totally bizarre, and many Town fans are shocked by it. Like your question suggests, it’s not about objecting to people having a few drinks before a game, but more about why everyone is inconvenienced by the stupid KO time if there are several hours of drinking time available anyway.
That said, being an away fan at a derby is an increasingly unpleasant experience, so if people choose to subject themselves to additional hours of it, then that’s their lookout.
Exactly. An equivalent Saturday 3pm KO would see pubs opening at 9am, which wouldn't happen, so if anything, they're encouraging more drinking by inconveniencing everyone.
Looking forward from Sunday, what are you expecting from the season?
I’m expecting it to continue to be a struggle.
If we can add some experience and nous in the remaining days of the loan window (Jon Walters has been linked) then we may start to pick up some points. We were the bookies’ favourites for relegation at the start of the season, and from where we are now, survival has to be the primary aim. Which is a bit of a shock to supporters who’d convinced themselves that Mick McCarthy’s style of football was the only thing keeping us from the top six, whereas in fact it was probably keeping us up (although it was undeniably boring).
Some fans have said that they’d rather see willing young players struggle than watch a stodgy team slog their way to mid-table, but that will be tested if it goes on much longer.
How about Norwich? Will Farke survive if things don’t improve?
It's a tough call, a similar debate began this side of the Waveney after an excellent, swashbuckling attacking performance vs West Brom brought defeat and a stodgy, dull performance saw us beat Preston 2-0.
For me, football is about much more than results, so I would prefer it to be exciting and fun every week, than just boringly effective.
My own feeling is that Farke will get this season and we will improve on last season. The amount of improvement will then dictate whether his contract is renewed next summer.
Under Stuart Webber, we seem to be much more clear-minded in what we want to do, so if Farke was to go, I think it would be a like-for-like, style-wise at least, replacement.
Moving upstairs, Mick seemed to be the lightening rod, but many of the problems, appeared to be coming from above him, what's the latest on Marcus Evans?
Marcus Evans did his first-ever video interview at the end of last season, which was a clear recognition that the relationship between the club and its supporters had broken down. Some fans seemed very impressed that he’d finally appeared on camera, but for others, it only represented a small step towards the open communication which has been so severely lacking over the last decade. And, an interview with the club’s in-house media team wasn’t exactly a grilling: there has still never been an opportunity for supporters to question the owner directly.
One of the many frustrations about that is that it’s hard to see what Evans’ long-term strategy is. He talks about a five-point plan, but that doesn’t address the issue of the club’s debt, or whether he has any ambition of ever making any money back. His best option might be to cut his losses, but that would require a willing buyer. And neither, arguably, are the aims of the five-point plan matched by action: there’s no sign of any significant investment in the academy, for example.
ITFC and Marcus Evans are basically stuck with each other, a situation which neither is particularly happy about but neither can extricate themselves from: both parties trapped in a highly dysfunctional marriage, in which long periods of discontent are punctuated by occasional, token, gestures of conciliation.
Sounds delightful. It constantly amazes me that more people aren't grateful that we have Delia, given the dross that so many other clubs are lumped with. I'm looking at you, Charlton and Blackpool.
So finally; let's end on a prediction. I have a feeling we'll lose but being bold I'll say 3-0 City.
I’m going for 1-1. The exact opposite of a bold prediction, based on recent games between the two teams, but I have a feeling that lack of confidence on both sides will make this a(nother) cagey one.