Mick McCarthy has taken a struggling, mid-table Ipswich Town side to the edge of the play-offs with very few resources. Gavin Barber tells us what to expect from the home side…
What were your expectations for 2013-14?
Personally, I was expecting us to be exactly where we are, i.e. just outside the play-offs. Last season we finished 14th, but the turnaround that Mick McCarthy achieved last season — after his appointment in November 2012 — would have seen us in the top six had it been stretched across the whole of that season. On that basis, some fans were (are?) treating the top six as a minimum expectation for 2013-14, but after the previous few years of struggle, mid-table comfort will suit most of us just fine, for the moment.
What is the fans’ general opinion of Mick McCarthy?
Pretty high. People recognise that he’s taken a very average team to the brink of the play-offs. The team he inherited was rock-bottom: he’s not had much in the way of a transfer budget to improve it, but the difference between where we are now and where we were when he took over tells its own story. Of late, people have started to grumble a bit about the pragmatic style he’s adopted. I personally think he’d like to play a more pacy, dynamic style of football, but doesn’t really have the squad to do it at the moment.
Have there been many changes since last season?
Cole Skuse has come into the midfield – a free transfer from Bristol City, and has done really well; a very capable player. There haven’t been too many other changes in personnel. Ex-Forest man Paul Anderson is a semi-regular starter on the right of midfield, and has done OK without setting the world alight. It’s been steady progress since last season, rather than revolution. Unfortunately for us, our most talented forward, David McGoldrick, is out for the season with injury. He’s improved a lot this season. I’m not sure why it didn’t work out for him at Forest, but he’s shown us this season what a talented player he is.
What can we expect tactically?
In McGoldrick’s absence, the hardworking Daryl Murphy will lead the line which usually means that a fair number of long balls will be aimed in the general direction of his head. The midfield will be set up to contain Forest’s most dangerous players (particularly if Andy Reid is playing) so it’s likely to be a fairly tight battle.
Who are the key players to watch out for?
In McGoldrick’s absence, our most exciting attacking talent is Jonny Williams, a very skilful player who’s on loan from Crystal Palace. Left-back Aaron Cresswell is one of the few players in the squad who looks genuinely capable of stepping up to the Premier League, which he may well do in the summer if a big offer comes in.
What’s going to happen on Saturday?
It’s unlikely to rival El Clasico for drama. I’ll go for a tense first-half with few chances, and Ipswich to come away with a narrow win.