Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECS to 80360, or email »
Talk of the Town - an exclusive weekly look at Ipswich Town
ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD TOWN CORRESPONDENT MATT PLUMMER DELIVERS HIS WEEKLY THOUGHTS ON THE NEWS FROM PORTMAN ROAD:
While highly unseasonable, there was something fitting about the gloomy weather at Portman Road on Sunday.
The chilly, biting conditions reflected the final score, as Ipswich ended their campaign by succumbing 3-0 to Sheffield United.
And you could argue the defeat was typical of a disappointing, frustrating and inconsistent season all round.
With that in mind, there wasn’t much to smile about as the curtain fell on another forgettable campaign – aside from the fact it’s now over!
However, I don’t want to sign off with another depressing Talk of the Town. We’ve all got opinions about what’s gone wrong and I’ve vented mine in this column.
However, it hasn’t been an entirely negative experience. Amid the setbacks, there have been glimmers of hope and optimism – times when a corner appeared to have been turned.
And while mediocre individual performances characterised the season, there was a select band who raised their heads above the parapet. They deserve to be applauded and they are the ones who must form the spine of the team next season.
Top of my list would be Gareth McAuley. I’ll never forget Town’s trip to Middlesbrough on September 12.
The centre-half totally miskicked a clearance, allowing the hosts to score an early goal.
Then, not long after, there was his red card against Nottingham Forest.
I’ve seen anyone look more dejected, or walk more slowly, as they trudge back to the dressing room.
Turn the clock forward a few months and he’s been the most rock solid, consistent performer – a totally deserving recipient of the supporters’ player-of-the-year award.
Damien Delaney, too, deserves huge credit for rocketing from zero to hero. Mocked and criticised for his early-season performances at left-back, the Irishman moved into the middle and has been another consistent tower of strength.
In midfield, Grant Leadbitter has been a class act in a struggling side, always comfortable and composed on the ball. David Norris, too, has been a tenacious performer.
It’s no coincidence the side struggled in those desperate early months, when he was on the treatment table.
Up front, only one name springs to mind – Connor Wickham.
The teenager may be young but clearly has the talent and maturity to be a key man next season.
I just desperately hope these rumours about him leaving don’t prove true. That would be the worst possible development, unless the fee is ridiculously inflated.
Aside from that, the rest of the squad have been below par and very average (with the only other exception being loanee Jack Colback, who has now returned to Sunderland).
That says it all. You can count the impressive performers on one hand.
The same goes for individual matches and performances. I can only think of four occasions when I left Portman Road feeling encouraged and exhilarated, after the wins against QPR, Coventry, Cardiff and Reading.
Aside from that, it’s been poor. And who could forget the nightmares against the likes of Newcastle and Plymouth. That’s just at Portman Road.
On the road it’s been a similar story, although my personal highlight for lots of reasons was the recent trip to St James’ Park.
Anyway, it’s all in the past now.
I desperately wanted to avoid a negative theme in this last column of the season but, given what’s happened, I guess that was unavoidable.
The good news, as I said at the start, is that the campaign’s now over.
We’re constantly being told that with the addition of more characters and fine tuning, Town can be a force in next season’s Championship.
Let’s just hope that ambition proves realistic, rather than in-house spin to inspire season-ticket sales, during 2010/11. We wait with baited breath.