After last season’s relegation from the Championship, finishing bottom of the pile after a miserable and largely demoralising campaign, there were concerns amongst supporters of Ipswich Town as to where the club was heading.
The ‘Tractor Boys’ had been finding life in the second tier a little tough for some time. Previous manager Mick McCarthy did a superb job to keep Town competitive in a division where their resources and budget were limited in comparison to others over a six-year spell.
McCarthy was criticised by some supporters of the club for what was seen as a negative style of football played by his team – though the effects and reasoning of this pragmatic approach have since become evident.
Almost hounded out by some fans’ derision of the aforementioned style, McCarthy was replaced by Paul Hurst for the start of the 2018/19 season – a campaign which saw Ipswich finish rock bottom of the Championship and relegated to the third tier.
Having brought in plenty of lower league talents, Hurst was sacked in October amid talk of player fall-outs and his new recruits unable to make the steep jump in levels.
Paul Lambert would eventually replace Hurst and though the Scot was unable to guide his side away from relegation – he galvanised the club somewhat and was trusted to be the man to get Ipswich Town on an upward trajectory once more.
Fast forward to today and Ipswich sit top of League One, scoring goals aplenty and picking up 21 points from their opening nine League One matches. Allied with this a defensive record which has seen them concede just four league goals so far – it appears Town are fully functioning at both ends of the pitch.
So, thinking about it, was relegation last season actually a good thing for the club? Whereas before, even when surviving, it was a grind for supporters to watch their team play, now Portman Road is bouncing on match days – the enthusiasm and enjoyment is back.
Perhaps the same could be said of the playing squad, who are now relishing their time on the pitch having, maybe, taken the leap to Championship level too soon, struggling to cope and having the confidence knocked out of them.
Relegation certainly isn’t always a good thing. It can lead to downward spirals both financially and on the pitch. Sometimes, however, taking a step back can help in the long term, cleansing the club of dark, negative times and getting everybody – supporters, players and staff alike – enjoying their football and moving forward once more.