I need to dispel some myths and untruths about being a Mick McCarthy ‘inner’.
The last-gasp draw to bottom side Rotherham was the first time some fans who wish to see a change of manager make their feelings known in such a vocal manner. A quick glance on social media to the neutral would give the impression now that the majority believe it’s time for McCarthy to leave Portman Road.
I’m still in the ‘Mick in’ camp — but contrary to popular belief, us ‘inners’ and ‘outers’ have far more in common than you realise.
An ‘inner’ does not have a penchant for long ball or direct football, nor do we despise tiki-taka, or passing play, or skilful players.
I was there when we finished fifth in the Premier League, playing scintillating stuff under Burley. I’ll never forget the night Alun Armstrong headed the winner against Inter Milan. And the barmy days of Joe Royle, where we saw goals flying in at either end, were some of the most entertaining. They were amazing times. They were enjoyable times.
But being an ‘inner’ does not mean you do not want the good times, or more aesthetically pleasing football, to return. It doesn’t mean we would rather see a long ball dumped into the channel, rather than a thirty-pass move leading to a chance.
The biggest similarity between an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’? We both want what is best for our beloved Ipswich Town.
An ‘inner’ does not believe McCarthy is an untouchable messiah of football management, who never makes a mistake, never picks the wrong team, never signs the wrong players, or never says the wrong thing to the press.
Being an ‘inner’ does not mean you care less for dwindling attendances.
Celtic legend Jock Stein had it right when he said: “Football is nothing without fans.”
That same notion can be applied to a football club.
Our attendances are low. Fans are staying away — some season ticket holders are even avoiding trips to Portman Road at the moment.
In a day and age where kids would rather chuck on a Man United or Man City strip than go and experience their local club in the flesh, it’s more important than ever to get youngsters through the door. They are the future. Is our style of football to blame? For many, it is. Prices for adults on match days do not inspire the casual fan to come along, either.
An ‘inner’ is not scared of change — we are simply wary of it.
The phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ has been bandied about by those of us who think Mick should stay. And for good reason.
Marcus Evans’ record of appointing managers is one success from three. Roy Keane was an unmitigated disaster. Paul Jewell wasn’t much better.
We are not in the same boat with McCarthy — heck, it’s not even the same ocean.
I was searching through old match reports, from April 2009 to October 2012, yesterday. They were dark days, on and off the pitch.
Some may laugh at that notion. But there is a key difference with McCarthy’s reign, and those of his two predecessors.
He showed an ability to make us good over a sustained period. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, but here are the facts — in his first year, we were saved from relegation; in his second, we improved to ninth; the year after, we had our best season in ten and made the play-offs; and the year after, we dropped one place to seventh.
But a Mick ‘inner’ isn’t oblivious to poor form.
Some dispute the start of the slide. The harshest of critics would say January 2015. The calendar year of 2016 hasn’t been overly inspiring. Only eleven wins in all competitions this year, and one win in eight in our current run, does not make good reading.
But being a Mick ‘inner’ does not make you any less concerned of our plight. We can see a bad run of form when we are on one. We are currently on one.
We just think that a manager doesn’t go bad overnight. When three quarters of a reign has been good, we just feel they have something about them to turn things around. It’s not right to live in the past; but it’s also not right to discard relatively recent success so trivially, either.
Our cups are just half full, rather than half empty. We carry that little extra faith, rightly or wrongly.
The light at the end of the tunnel hasn’t quite been extinguished yet — but of course there is a tipping point for every fan. Mine?
When the manager loses the players. When that happens, there really is no way back. And despite 2016 being not the best year in his reign, I can’t see that is the case at the moment.
Ultimately, however passionate, articulate and well reasoned people’s arguments are for either wanting McCarthy to leave or stay, they mean very little — Marcus Evans will be the one having the final say.
An outer shouldn’t be criticised for wanting a change and better times. But an inner shouldn’t be criticised for believing in someone who they feel still can bring about those better times.
Today marks four years since McCarthy was appointed as manager. I’m proud to follow a club which gives managers time.
But an ‘inner’ knows that in four years time, whether Mick is here or not, there will still be an Ipswich — and hopefully good times.
The biggest similarity between an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’?
We both want what is best for our beloved Ipswich Town.