Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughHas Jewell Lost His Sparkle? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Has Jewell Lost His Sparkle? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Has Jewell Lost His Sparkle?

The long and winding Npower Championship season is almost half-way through and Ipswich Town, backed by many as potential play-off contenders before the season started, are hovering just above the relegation zone.

The Tractor boys are on a dreadful run of form; losing their last six league games on the spin. The latest being a gutless and spineless 4-0 humiliation to Burnley on Tuesday evening.

Things had looked so rosy for the Super Blues at one point this season, before this unwelcome run Paul Jewell’s side had accumulated 14 points from a possible 18 leaving them floating in and around the play-off positions.

So why the sudden change in fortune? Well I don’t think anyone can answer that, not even Jewell himself who this week announced his astonishment at his side’s recent performances.

Town’s last win was over a month and a half ago – a scrappy and largely undeserved 1-0 home victory against Portsmouth. How an Ipswich fan would long for a victory of that sort now.

Since taking over in January 2011, Jewell has produced largely inconsistent results, something his predecessors also managed.

This is probably the main reason why Ipswich are second only to Coventry City in the amount of consecutive seasons spent in the Championship. They have spent 10 years  in second tier of English football and frankly could easily spend the next 10 doing the same.

Other than the 03/04 and 04/05 seasons under the management of Joe Royle, where they were beaten twice by West Ham, Ipswich have failed to make the play-offs and despite the odd flirtation with the chasing pack they have fallen well short of the mark and infact been stuck in mid-table mediocrity for the last six seasons.

Jewell has certainly rung the changes since his appointment, after seeing nine regular first-team players depart their separate ways, Jewell wasted no time in bringing as many as 11 new faces in this summer.

Such a drastic change over a short period of time can have a detrimental effect and maybe that is the reason why things aren’t going to smoothly for the Tractor Boys.

It is a bit of a pitiful excuse though as Jewell has bought in a host of big names with Premier League experience, who should be performing. Players such as Lee Bowyer, Jimmy Bullard, Keith Andrews, Danny Collins, Ivar Ingimarsson, Ibrahima Sonko and Darryl Murphy have all tasted the Premier League throughout their careers with Bowyer in particular making a real impression.

Add to that list of high profile acquisitions with David Stockdale and Michael Chopra. Stockdale is seen by many as England’s second choice goalkeeper while Chopra has established himself as a proven goal-scorer at this level.

Jewell also worked hard to get in exciting young prospects such as Jay-Emmanuel Thomas and Aaron Cresswell, trying to get that all important blend and mixture of youth and experience.

Yet there is evidently something going drastically wrong, how can such a strong side on paper fail so miserably on the pitch?

Some fans have strongly criticised the formation Jewell has tried to implement – 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond. The diamond works well for keeping possession of the ball as Ipswich have proven at times but does it really work? The results don’t lie, clearly it doesn’t.

Too many times this season, with the 5-2 defeat to Southampton clearly springing to mind, Ipswich have defensively been caught too narrow, allowing their opponents too much freedom out wide to gain success. Vice-versa when Ipswich venture forward they often have very little width, making it easier for opponents to break down their attacks.

Thus far, Jewell’s preferred four in midfield are Grant Leadbitter, Bullard, Bowyer and Andrews. It doesn’t take an expert to realise that you haven’t got much attacking instinct in terms of width, flair and most importantly pace.

And although Jewell has recently tinkered, usually when Town are behind and chasing the game using wingers such as JET, Lee Martin and Josh Carson, he seems reluctant to. Adding to this, Jewell has yet to let any of these have a real run in the side despite some of them making an impact, leaving fans and players equally frustrated.

We are nearly half-way into the season and it’s as if Jewell doesn’t know his strongest side.

The former Wigan boss, clearly aggravated by his side’s recent displays, has questioned the passion, commitment and mentality of his players.

As previously stated, amongst the Ipswich ranks’ lays a lot of experience. Critics have questioned whether there may be too much experience? The majority of Town’s players are well into their thirties and expectantly have lost a few yards of pace and sharpness. Might they have lost a bit of interest as well as their careers dwindle into the abyss?

A number of Town’s squad are also made up of loan players, which has led to inevitable questions regarding their commitment to the cause. Stockdale, Andrews, Collins and Murphy are all on loan from their respective parent clubs as well as Reece Wabara. Jewell could be under fire in this respect as the debate of the loan player’s loyalty goes on, especially seeing that these main four make up the central core of the team.

Things could have looked so different for Town though. Before Tuesday’s disaster at Burnley, the Blues consecutively lost winning positions to Nottingham Forest (84th, 91st min) and Reading (91st, 93rd) late on. Had they had the confidence and mental strength to battle through like all good teams do they would have been just one point outside the play-offs, but instead they weakly and frailly surrendered to defeat.

Town are set to host a Watford side this weekend that they haven’t beat in 13 games. It would probably be fair an assumption to say they’re Ipswich’s bogey side.

And with Ipswich traditionally terrible over the busy Christmas schedule it could be a very difficult few months to come for the Tractor boys.

Jewell is under no illusions that he is under pressure, he knows he hasn’t done well enough and is willing to accept his fair share of the blame. Ironically, Jewell’s predecessor Roy Keane was sacked after losing six league games in a row, leaving them in an equally precarious position (18th) in January.

However, to sack a manager after just 10 months at the helm would be a little harsh but it wouldn’t be surprising. You would expect the board and chairman Marcus Evans to remain patient in this difficult time; historically Ipswich have been very patient with the majority of their former managers. Saying that, this is not necessarily the case nowadays – Town have had three different managers in little over five and a half seasons but I suppose that is the nature of the modern game.

Ipswich are a club with a big pedigree and history, Jewell acknowledges that and is eager to fulfil his promise of promotion within two and a half years of his arrival.

The writing could be on the wall for Jewell though as he has heard those famous last words of a public backing from the chairman. For me, you’ve got to give him at least a year and see where you are in terms of progress.

Only goal difference separates Town from occupying a bottom three spot but if they continue this quite simply horrendous run of form they will be down in the dumps amongst Coventry and Doncaster quicker than you can say Roy Keane.

Will Ridgard

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