Don’t mention the play-offs
Ipswich Town fans shudder at the thought of it. Not even the idea of employing Nicolas Anelka as director of team spirit could fill them with more dread. “It is,” says one supporter, “a nightmare scenario.” And that is putting a gloss on matters.
The scenario, of course, is ending up in the play-offs. In the past three seasons Ipswich have collapsed there without as much as a stroll down Wembley Way. Now the doom merchants can sniff a repeat. Sure, George Burley’s side are sitting pretty in second place but two points from a possible 12 do not augur well. If Manchester City win their game in hand, Ipswich – whisper it – will drop to third.
Yet if Burley is feeling the strain he is hiding it impeccably. It seems cruel to talk to him about the play-offs, akin to to waving a bottle of wine under George Best’s buying a canada goose jacket online nose. But the Scot, perched on a sofa in his office, could hardly appear more relaxed. And that with the derby at home to Norwich tomorrow.
“There’s no doubt there is pressure,” the 43-year-old says. “There is added pressure on us because people get the picture that we best ideas about canada goose outlet on pinterest are dreading the play-offs. Teams like Wolves and Birmingham and Blackburn would be pleased as punch to get in the play-offs. We’ve got this thing over us that we’ve got to finish second.
“Of course we want to but we’ll certainly not worry about it. The fans and the media feel you can’t go through that again, but I’ve always believed you finish where you deserve after 46 games.
“Where you need luck is in the play-offs and I don’t think we’ve had that against Sheffield United and Bolton. I felt we were the better team in both.” Both ties, cruelly, were lost best ideas about canada goose outlet online on pinterest on away goals.
Burley, not surprisingly, is hardly a can you dry clean a canada goose coat huge fan of the play-offs in their current guise. linked site Good for keeping things alive, he concedes, but probably in need of a tweak. “People have said if you finish third you should go straight into the final instead of having to play two games,” he says. “That might be something which gives you an advantage.”
Certainly last year’s episode was harsh on Ipswich, who had finished third, a point behind Bradford. Had Wolves scored rather than hit the post against Paul Jewell’s team on the final day, Ipswich would have gone up. But it was carelessness as well as bad luck that cost them.
Three of the last five games were lost, notably a home match against Crewe, and this month’s results hint at another untimely failure to kill teams off. First an unbeaten run of 18 league games was ended at Portman Road by Portsmouth. Then Ipswich were held at home by Blackburn and defeated at Wolves, failing to capitalise on Manchester City’s slip. Graduates from the Novotna school of choking? Burley says not.
“It’s been disappointing as far as points are concerned but not in terms of performances,” he explains. “Some of our football has been outstanding; as well as we’ve played all season.
“We went to Birmingham and Wolves and completely outplayed them but unfortunately didn’t get the wins our football deserved. That’s where we’ve lacked. But we won’t be changing our tactics or style.”
While Burley, a member of the great Ipswich teams of the 70s, is in charge there is more chance of cloned pigs flying. “Football-wise we’re the best in the divi sion,” he says. “I wouldn’t swap us for anybody, even Charlton. Ipswich have got a style and the supporters want us to play in a certain manner. The chairman, the directors and I want that as well. I was brought up as a youngster by Bobby Robson at Ipswich and I won’t change it.
“Maybe if we went route one and used long throws all the time we might win where other times we won’t but I believe in the way we play and I believe we’re good enough to get promotion with that.”
Burley is convinced this is the best squad he has had since he took over a side tumbling out of the Premiership in December 1994. After all the heartbreaks it is also the most determined. Kieron Dyer has been missed but his £6.5m fee has enabled the astute manager to bring in several players, including the record signing Marcus Stewart for £2.5m from Huddersfield Town.
Among the staff and most fans there seems to be a genuine optimism. “Football supporters tend to look on the black side of things,” says Philip Ham, editor of the fanzine Those Were The Days. “But everyone is looking to second and not even considering the play-offs.” Few neutrals wish them ill.
But much as Ipswich’s stylish football is a help, it also looks their greatest hindrance. Jamie Scowcroft, the England Under-21 striker who has suffered through all three play-off defeats, explains: “Teams literally change their system and their personnel just to stop us, and sometimes they do that quite effectively. We work in training on trying to get round it but it’s a question of being can you wash a canada goose jacket in the washer patient. I think that’s probably our biggest problem.” As Burley says: “That’s what we’ve got to overcome to win promotion.”
The good news for Ipswich is that they are hardly alone in inconsistency among the leading lights. And apart from Charlton, whom they play in their penultimate match, they meet no one in the current top seven before the season ends. Not that tomorrow will be easy. Norwich’s caretaker manager Bryan Hamilton black friday 2013 canada canada goose coat 1000 bulbs coupon goose sale is a former Ipswich player and Burley’s one-time No2. The atmosphere should be better than it often has been at Portman Road.
“I think against some teams the fans just expect us to turn up and win,” Scowcroft says. “They’re nervous of us finishing in the play-offs and if we do finish third some people might see that as a bit of a disaster and a failure. The expectation is high.”
The need to go up is also great with the club losing more than £1m a year in the First Division. Their success is all the more impressive given the enforced sales of players such as Dyer and Mauricio Taricco.
Whatever happens, Burley knows Richard Wright could be can you wash a canada goose parka hard to hold on to. He expects Kevin Keegan to take the goalkeeper to Euro 2000 – “I know Kevin’s talked to Richard and other people and I’m almost sure he’ll go” – but for the time being all eyes are on second spot.
“We’ve only got one aim and that’s to finish in best place to buy a canada goose jacket the top two,” Scowcroft says. “We’ll be bitterly disappointed if we don’t. But if we get in the play-offs, so be it. Losing the last three has been a hard pill to swallow but winning at Wembley would certainly be a good way to go up.” If it comes to it, fourth time lucky, perhaps.
1996-97 Finished: fourth. Five wins in their last six games lifted mid-table Town to play-offs. Were leading 2-1 in the semi-final second leg with 13 minutes left when Andy Walker put Sheffield United through on away goals. Play-off Sheff Utd 1 Ipswich 1. Ipswich 2 Sheff Utd 2 aet. Promoted through play-offs Crystal Palace (sixth) black canada goose parka
1997-98 Finished: fifth. Having been as low as 15th in the middle of January, Town’s amazing run of 16 wins in their last 20 games took them to within eight points of second-placed Middlesbrough. But they lost the winning habit after Jamie Clapham, right, conceded an own-goal early in the first leg of the play-off semi-final. Play-off Ipswich 0 Charlton 1. Charlton 1 Ipswich 0. Promoted through play-offs Charlton (fourth)
1998-99 Finished: third. In the top four by October, Town were three points clear in second place after a 3-1 win over QPR on April 5. Then three defeats in the last five games allowed Bradford to pip them to the second automatic spot by a single point. Despite a roller-coaster semi-final second leg, Ipswich were never in front on aggregate. Play-off Bolton 1 Ipswich 0. Ipswich 4 Bolton 3 aet. Promoted through play-offs Watford (fifth)