Ipswich Town: The best team in the Championship
When West Ham fell to only their second league defeat of the season last week, Sam Allardyce became the third manager this season to make the following statement: “Ipswich Town are the best team we’ve played so far”. Amy Downes isn’t one to argue with Big Sam. Here’s why she thinks there is no better team in the division than the boys from Portman Road.
Ipswich’s current haul of 10 points from a possible 12 sounds great and it’s certainly not a statistic even the most faithful of Town fans were expecting. But what’s even more impressive is how that compares to the top teams in the Championship.
Of the current top six, none have earned as many points from the last four games:
1st: Southampton (7 points from their last 4 games) – beat Watford and Birmingham, drew against Burnley, lost to Cardiff.
2nd: Middlesbrough (6 points) – beat Crystal Palace, drew against Reading, Leicester and Ipswich.
3rd: Derby County (7 points) – beat Nottingham Forest and Millwall, drew against Barnsley, lost to Leicester.
4th: West Ham (5 points) – beat Peterborough, drew against Crystal Palace and Millwall, lost to Ipswich.
5th: Brighton (1 point) – drew against Leeds, lost to Crystal Palace, Ipswich and Leicester.
6th: Hull City (8 points) – beat Cardiff and Portsmouth, drew against Bristol City and Doncaster.
Consistency is key. Not only have Paul Jewell’s men found form – it’s also good enough to rival the teams at the top of the league. What’s interesting when you look at these statistics is the games these top teams are winning – they’re defeating clubs like Forest, Watford and Peterborough. Compare this with Town’s run of a draw and two wins against Middlesbrough, West Ham and Brighton.
The one team who do make a good impression are Middlesbrough, who haven’t yet lost this season. That’s a fantastic situation to be in and it’s that kind of consistency that will win out at the end of the year. However, there is something to be said for the fight that needs to appear within a team following a bad run of results. This is something Ipswich have shown in abundance.
And that is another factor that could make them the best team in the league. Following the shambolic 7-1 defeat at Peterborough United, Jewell was loud and clear about his disappointment that the players had given up so easily and that they weren’t even getting on with each other. That just isn’t a problem anymore.
On Saturday, keeper David Stockdale revealed the players were gutted to lose the chance to make it four clean sheets in a row – but the character they showed to make a comeback from that disappointment was excellent. What’s more, the celebrations following goals show they are happy together now. There is a definite feelgood factor and the fans are a part of it too, thanks to a raft of excellent new signings.
Which brings us to the final part of the argument: the additions the club have made this summer could also make them the best team in the league. The return of Craig Mackail-Smith to Portman Road last weekend reminded some that there had been a few rumours that Ipswich were interested in buying him. Some Twitter voices even commented that they thought it was Jewell’s biggest mistake not signing him. The result on Saturday has gone some way to proving them wrong.
Chopra, Bullard, Bowyer, Andrews, Sonko, Collins, Cresswell and Stockdale. It may have taken a few games for them to gel, but who can imagine an Ipswich team without them now? This is now the best midfield at Portman Road since the days of Matty Holland, with experience and determination allied to a great ability to read the game (thanks to the now irrepressible Grant Leadbitter).
Their defence looks more solid than it has since Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus ruled the back line. Sonko and Collins finally provide fans with a bit of reliability, while Stockdale is proving a great acquisition both in and outside of Portman Road following another call up to the England squad. While the Chopra/Scotland partnership continues to work its magic, with seven goals in four games and Chopra finally reopening his account for the Blues, Ipswich can look forward to an improved goal difference this year.
The Blue Army understand that their team will not win every game. Even if Town make the play-offs, supporters realise that they still may not go up (an experience they’re all too familiar with) and there will still be days where things don’t go to plan.
But the important thing is keeping the faith. According to Jewell, the support the fans showed when their side went 1-0 down to Brighton last Saturday lifted the players. Perhaps the faithful followers can play their part in making Ipswich Town the best team in the Championship too?