Sir Bobby Robson. Sir Alf Ramsey. Mick Mills. John Wark. Frans Thijssen. Arnold Muhren. Just a few names that spring to mind when the name of Ipswich Town is mentioned. The Suffolk clubâ€™s glory days of the 1970s and 80s, when top-flight title battles and illustrious wins in Europe were the norm, are very much a thing of the past. Wind the clock forward 40 years and Portman Road has become an empty shell of what the Blues used to be.
Languishing firmly in mid-table in League One, for a second successive season, the Tractor Boysâ€™ unofficial supporters group Blue Action took to the fringes of the clubâ€™s Playford Road training ground recently with flares and pyrotechnics calling for the head of boss Paul Lambert.
Itâ€™s true that the writing has been on the wall for Ipswich Town for longer than Lambertâ€™s tenure. Much of the clubâ€™s downfall has to be attributed to its largely reclusive owner Marcus Evans, who has created a dangerous disconnect between the club and its fans â€“ the heartbeat of any local community. Suffolk is a one team county. Ipswich Town is all the people of Suffolk know and love. Yet for too long the fans have felt like theyâ€™ve been sold down the river with trite â€œfive-point plansâ€ and no clear strategy to implement or achieve them.
Evans would argue that his investment in first-team affairs remains competitive. Thatâ€™s quite possible, but the lack of investment elsewhere in the club is whatâ€™s seeing Town left trailing way behind the likes of Brentford and bitter rivals Norwich â€“ two teams that have a clear, coherent plan on and off the pitch. And itâ€™s on the field that fans have an axe to grind with current boss, Paul Lambert. The former Norwich boss arrived in Suffolk with a remit to try and avoid relegation from the Championship and failed miserably, spending fortunes on disastrous loan signings like Colin Quaner, en-route to finishing bottom of the Championship.
An instant return to the second tier was the aim in 2019/20, but Ipswich were plummeting like a stone into mid-table obscurity. Itâ€™s a similar story again this time around, with a strong start to the campaign followed by a disastrous run, which has seen nine games against top six opponents end with nine defeats. Their inability to compete with even the top sides in the third tier is the last straw for Ipswich fans, with NetBet sport now pricing Town as long as 80/1 to win the 2020/21 League One title in their outrights market, as of February 15.
Thatâ€™s not all. Lambertâ€™s fallen out with the local press as well as the supporters. Heâ€™s become extremely evasive of media scrutiny since the East Anglian Daily Times publicly called for his sacking. The long-standing owner of Ipswich Town online fan site TWTD, Phil Ham, was also banned from press conferences for a supposed team news leak on the TWTD forum. Ham incurred the wrath of Lambert and assistant coach Stuart Taylor, promptly prohibiting him from entering the Portman Road press suite.
And all of this is going on with owner Marcus Evans largely invisible. The clubâ€™s General Manager of Football Operations and Academy Manager â€“ yes, theyâ€™ve employed one man to oversee all of the above â€“ Lee Oâ€™Neill talks a good game but is something of a puppet to the Evans empire.
The Cobbold Family, who formerly led Ipswich Town with such dignity and distinction while Messrs Robson and Ramsey were at the helm, are like the chalk to Marcus Evansâ€™ cheese. Ipswich Town is suffering from a severe identity crisis.