IPSWICH boss Mick McCarthy has targeted a top six finish this season but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion he could do even better.
When McCarthy arrived at Portman Road in early November, the place was a shambles.
Rubbish team, apathetic crowds, one win from their first 13 league games.
Bottom of the league and hammered more often than an anvil, the Tractor Boys were the softest touch since Audley Harrison went pro.
Yet by the end of the season, they were mid-table with the best defensive record in the bottom half.
More significantly, 53 of their 60 points were gained by McCarthy, an impressive tally of 1.
6 points per game.
Apply that ratio to the first 13 games of the season and you get an extra 20 points – enough for fifth place and a play-off berth.
When you add in the fact that McCarthy had nowt to spend and a bunch of players who a) weren’t his own and b) had played awfully before he arrived, it speaks volumes for both his man-management and his ability to rectify problems.
This summer he has bought shrewdly, shifting high earners like Lee Martin, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Michael Chopra off the wage bill.
In their place have come the likes of David McGoldrick and Paul Anderson, men whose fortunes have dipped and must be burning to prove a point, plus promotion veterans like Jay Tabb and Christophe Berra.
And the net outlay? £57,000.
It’s all a far cry from the days when Roy Keane could waste £1.
7m on a non-scoring striker like Tamas Priskin.
McCarthy’s Ipswich is an earthier beast, leaner, more disciplined.
“I don’t think anybody will be rubbing their hands thinking ‘Happy days, Ipswich are coming here and they’re going to be a soft touch’,” he said.
Last year, he described his side as a sick patient.
This year, he wants warriors.
And while the top two will be a tough ask for the Championship’s longest-serving club, I don’t think it is out of the question.