Disclaimer: All photography of ITFC players are not my property - Most taken by D&A Photography/ITFC
2014 was a strange year.
Everyone expected the rampant Liverpool FC to nail the Premier League title, yet they slipped up allowing Man City to capitalise and in the Championship, Leicester and Burnley ran away with the top 2 spots. And Ipswich? They enjoyed a brief flirtation with the idea of sneaking a play-off position, sparked into life by the livewire Jonny Williams and ended the season on a high, with the knowledge that the 2014/15 season would bring back the Old Farm Derby, as the Canaries finally fell back off their perch.
And Ipswich's year looked like this: P 47 W 22 D 14 L 11
66 Goals scored. 50 against.
The latter half of the 13/14 season was where, I think, Mick's team began to come into it's own. You could see the obvious partnerships building all over the field, the chemistry and co-operation between the back four, the development of Luke Hyam and the soon to be deadly strike duo of McGoldrick and Murphy. Improvements needed to be made, but the foundations were finally there with the last remnants of the torrid Roy Keane and Paul Jewell eras all but forgotten, the departure of the 'English Messi', Paul Taylor almost the final nail of a now bygone time. I began to find myself enjoying watching Ipswich play, with short passing mixed with some long balls as Mick emphasised work-rate, organisation and graft to get the result.
And this is what 2014 has brought to us, in terms of points + sequences.
Oh look how good that looks
Almost as good as this..
You can see the runs put together at the end of last season (ended at Game 23) and the magnificent rise and rise that Ipswich are currently on. It's been truly fantastic to watch. The sale of Cresswell, letting the like of Ebanks-Blake, Richardson and Green go and telling Wordsworth and Nouble that they no longer had careers at Ipswich did deplete the squad, and this was felt in the earlier stages of the 14/15 season. But there has been a resurgence, confidence has been growing with every single result and the fans are onside with a team, and a captain, who are willing to work so hard for the badge.
There have been so many players who have been part of the McCarthy tale, from DJ Campbell (he scores when he wants), the recovery of N'Daw, the development of Hyam, of Anderson and the incredible tale of Daryl Murphy. Mick and Terry have been an excellent duo, and they have built a squad and an ethos which is respected by the players. Everyone is on board with the program.
For me, the key has been the spine. The spine of Bartosz (previously Gerken), Berra, Skuse, McGoldrick and Murphy has this season been so solid. They have an understanding which has grown over the last two and a half seasons, and it has gotten better and better. The August blip, which had many Ipswich fans concerned we would be consigned to yet another Championship season, has been amended. A factor in that? This guy;
Teddy Bishop was a surprise starter, and has not done a lot wrong since. 5 assists, second only to Anderson's 6, and a player who always looks up and forward before playing the ball. The cross for the mini-maestro, Jay Tabb, was exceptional and I envision a call to the England U19 squad very soon, especially with Ipswich flying so high. Bishop boast a pass completion of 79.5%, with over one and a half chances created. And the best part? At just 18, he can only get better and the boy has a very bright future ahead.
Then we embarked on this sensational run, slowed only by a 3-1 defeat to Cardiff, and I truly believe that this squad of players fears no team. The hard-work and almost ease that Middlesborough were dispatched sent a clear signal to the rest of the teams in the division; Ipswich Town are working hard to regain their place at the top of English football. This current sequence is unreal. Simply unreal.
Last 10: WWWDWWDWWW
Other Players of Note
I could wax lyrical about almost every Ipswich player. They've all contributed to the cause, even Noel Hunt (what a goal that last minute winner was) - but these, for me, have been a class above.
Tyrone Mings has been a revelation at left-back. After making appearances and playing competently in the place of Cresswell a few times last season, he has taken the position and made it his own - meaning new signing Jonny Parr has been playing on the right-side more often than not. Only Anderson has put in more crosses than Mings, and only Skuse and McGoldrick have made completed more passes. The £10,000 man also leads in the amount of tackles made, and is behind Skuse in interceptions per 90 mins played, higher than even Berra. However, after a bid by Crystal Palace was rejected by Ipswich on transfer deadline day, the club surely must be brace for further interest - especially following his fine form for the club.
Christoph Berra, for me, is the best centre-back in the league. He's solid, he's commanding, he's a demon in the air and he gets goals. With over 4.7 aerial duels won and 2.67 interceptions, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 tackles made per 90, Berra's defensive stats are superb. For me, his passing is good, he's a leader at the back and his aerial dominance serves his goalkeeper well. Regardless of having Chambers or Smith alongside him, Berra has been the rock at the back - his two goals at Birmingham really got Ipswich out from under the cosh. And amazing business, to think he was a free transfer.
Luke Chambers has had a great year - moving to right-back early in the 13/14 season. But this season, the skipper has really come on, enjoying his role at right-back or at centre-back, though his crosses need some work. But as a captain, he's really taken to the club - the Chambo fist pump has become so customary in the last few months, and he is vocal and has been "absolutely f*cking different class".
Daryl Murphy & David McGoldrick.. Where to start?
The relationship has really begun to dominate and McGoldrick has been the creative dynamo - pulling strings by dropping off Murphy, finding space and working the defenders. By pulling them out of position, and wide, and forward, it has created space for the big strong Murphy to demolish defences. The partnership is well and truly kicking, and McGoldrick's part in it has been as important as Daryl Murphy's. Let's not forget though, the running, the relentless pressing and graft that the two put in, and the connection has been so important as Ipswich continue their surge upward. Where McGoldrick has created, with a huge number of key passes, with accurate passes and through-balls, Murphy has gleefully picked up the ball and slammed it, headed it and slapped the ball into the onion bag with aplomb. Delightful to watch, he is peaking at a perfect time for the Tractor Boys. 17 goals already is incredible for a man who last season equaled his goal tally.
Just gonna leave this here again. He's just as good as he was at Sunderland. And there's half a season left.
So 2015 - the year kicks off with a FA Cup clash against Southampton, who are braced to welcome over 5,500 Ipswich fans - the highest that they have ever hosted. What is Mick's thinking? I don't know. And honestly, I don't really care. In Mick, I trust. My reservations about everything can wait since this year is welcomed with HUGE amounts of optimism which haven't been here since the Royle era - with Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi free-scoring, with Kelvin Davis the 'best keeper in the league' and Tommy Miller, pulling the strings and scoring goals. Not since then have I seen or felt the buzz around Ipswich support as I do now, and this is crazy times.
Last night saw a crowd of 26,000 - and I envisage that the number will, or should, stay around 20k for the rest of the season. There is so much to be optimistic for, and I for one cannot wait to see how this season unfolds. The months ahead will be tricky, but I have faith that this Ipswich side - built on the morals of hard work, organisation and cohesion between players, can push the like of Derby, Bournemouth, Middlesborough and Norwich all the way. I cannot wait for the March clash with our Canary counterparts, it is sure to be a juicier encounter.
Comments, questions as always welcome on Twitter (@Scribblr_42) and I wish you all a very Happy New Year.