The Opposition View - Ipswich
1. What were your expectations before the season started?
After a brief flirt with the play offs last season, but a much improved overall performance level, I felt that we could be one of the clubs battling for a play off place, hoping to perhaps get 6th place. With the club run on a limited budget, I always felt that would depend on keeping the key players fit for that to happen.
2. You currently sit fourth and look certain for the play-offs, maybe even automatic promotion. How confident are you of making the auto places at the end of the season?
It is really tight this season, and I think the top 6 as it stands tonight, are all capable of snatching a top 2 finish. If we show the form we have for most of the season we can do it, as we have Bournemouth to come to Portman Road, and go to Norwich and Middlesborough soon. We haven't been involved at the top end of the table for 10 years so its exciting for all Town supporters and a very pleasant surprise!
3. Mick McCarthy is still showing he has plenty of passion for the game by the job he is doing at Ipswich - why do you think he has improved you so much in just over two years?
Mick is an absolute legend, and I simply think that he just doesn't over complicate things. He plays the players in positions they are generally comfortable with. He seems to treat everyone the same, and is a really down to earth what you see is what you get type bloke and the players love that. The old square pegs in square holes is very much his philosophy, he doesn't get too excited when we win, but on the other hand doesn't get despondent when things are not going so well. We have just come through a sticky run in January, where the players looked physically and mentally tired, but Mick stuck with them and gave everyone a chance to prove it was a blip.
Sometimes I think he is a little too loyal but who am I to argue? Everyone at the club seem to really respect him and along with Terry Conor, who is a vital part pf the coaching staff, has nurtured an incredible team spirit which I haven't seen for many years. TC has improved the strikers, his specialist area and Mick has the defence organised. He has brought in people who play for the team, who generally have something to prove, whilst shipping out those who were playing for themselves. He is a consistent manager in his team selection, and of what he asks of his team which is first and foremost hard graft and defend from the front. The players he has now have brought into the philosophy and its reaping its rewards.
4. What did you make of your business in the recent transfer window? Would you have brought any more in?
Yes, in an ideal world we would be bringing in Ince and Lindgard like Derby, however, I was just pleased that No one left! There had been a lot of media talk about Tyrone Mings, Teddy Bishop and Daryl Murphy being wanted by Premier League clubs but Mick was adamant they were staying and the owner was happy to back him. We brought in Noel Hunt for free, who you will know all about, and Freddie Sears from neighbours Colchester for around £100k we believe. Both have got on the scoresheet already and have contributed so more shrewd business by Mock. I worry if Murphy has an imjury and is out any length of time as we struggled without him recently during our bad spell, and we let Conor Sammon go so we need cover for the big man.
The club are keeping to FFP rules and won't lash out on expensive players, and also Mick is very careful about the type of player, both ability and character wise he brings in. Team spirit is really important to this group, perhaps not the best in the league ability wise, but they will all fight for each other and that has taken us a long way. We have a small squad but its tightly knit and that is going a long way at the moment.
5. Which Ipswich player(s) are really excelling so far this season?
Obviously Daryl Murphy with 21 league goals ( none of them penalties) has been phenomenal this season. He appears to be stronger physically than ever and has revelled in the number 9 role after being played out wide by previous managers. He scores all types of goals, with both feet and his head so at the moment is the complete Championship striker.
Young Teddy Bishop in midfield is really one to watch, he has a great touch, is forward thinking, is mature beyond his years, and when playing is our best midfield player. The other midfielder who has excelled is Kevin Bru, a trialist we signed in the summer from Borussia Dortmund B and a lad who came through the Clairefontaine academy system in France. He is athletic, has great control, has a great eye for a pass, can tackle and I believe he could play at a higher level for sure.
Freddie Sears since arriving from Colchester is a really bright striker, who can also create for others, looks to,play off the defenders shoulder and will only get better at this level, we are very excited by him.
6. If you could take any Reading player, who would it be and why?
Well we have a few ex Royals already with Jay Tabb and the 2 Hunts in the squad, all of whom are typical McCarthy players 100% every game and are not afraid to put a foot in. Simon Cox would be the one for me, in fact we have been linked with him over the years when he was at West Brom, but he is a very good striker who always seems to be a real handful for defenders. Robson Kanu always impressed me in the past too.
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see from McCarthy on Saturday?
Of late we have reverted to 4-4-2 after a spell playing 4-3-3 and since we have won the last 2 I don't see Mick changing it. He made 5 team changes after we lost at Rotherham, it needed freshening up and it worked, so competition for places is now fierce. The back 4 rarely changes and up front its Murphy plus one, and with McGoldrick not fully fit I think Sears will partner him and deservedly so on his performances so far.
The midfield area is always the one where you never quite know who will play, except Cole Skuse! He is always in if fit, as he is our 'insurance man', the unsung guy who mops up, gets the ball and gives it to a more creative player. Jay Tabb if fit will probably play on the left, although Jonny Parr can also play that role and teams up really well with Mings when he does. Stephen Hunt also slots in there so it will be interesting to see who Mick opts for. My bet is Tabb against his old club.
Probable line up
Chambers, Smith, Berra, Mings
Bishop, Skuse, Bru, Tabb/S Hunt
8. Prediction for the game?
If we play as we have done in the previous 2, and with our home form I think we will win the game. We never really roll teams over and Reading had a great Cup win at Derby so that proves that like most sides in this league they can beat anyone on their day. There are no easy games in this division! However, the way the side played at Fulham and at home to Sheffield Wednesday suggests that we are back to playing our best and most determined again , so I will say 3-1 to Town.