Thursday 14 December 2017

Keane losing Ipswich fans but will he lose his job?

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

WHEN Roy Keane is around, it follows that life is generally interesting. But the very reason that his position is under scrutiny right now is because Ipswich Town followers are beginning to think differently.

There is growing pressure on the Corkman going into tomorrow's East Anglian Derby with Wesley Hoolahan's Norwich -- a televised game which has taken on extra significance for the Ipswich manager after a difficult run of results.

The Old Farm derby -- yes, that's what they call it -- is a passionate affair, if some way removed from the glamour of similar grudge matches he has experienced at a higher level. Perhaps the fireworks are needed to spark his Ipswich team into life.

A run of poor results is not the only reason that Keane is coming in for strong criticism from a section of Town support. After all, while they sit in 13th position on the back of three successive defeats, they are still just three points off the play-offs and in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.

Instead, it's the team's perceived negative style of play that has irked the natives at a club who are traditionally known for producing an attractive brand of football.

Keane has been at odds with supporters at various times in this tempestuous season and is growing frustrated with batting off questions about his tactics.

His preference for a lone striker in certain games has angered his audience, who feel that the 39-year-old is not getting the best from the players at his disposal.

It was that theme which led to another memorable outburst last month, when he countered that "a lot of supporters don't know much about the game." He added that "fans shouldn't get bogged down in tactics and systems."

The problem is that they are getting plenty of time to think about them in matches that are providing little to occupy their minds.

Certainly, the mood is turning against a man who has generally been an iconic figure at the clubs who have employed his services. Even at Sunderland, where he endured some hairy times, the supporters kept singing his name. But it's different now.

Consider the responses to a recent article in the 'East Anglia Times', the local newspaper which provides a daily update on all things Ipswich.


"What could drive Keane out?" they asked, looking for replies. They were overrun by smart answers from people volunteering their car to do so.

Beyond that, there was a theme to the other responses. "We've gone back a long way since Jim Magilton, at least he played football," said one.

"Nobody expects to win every game, but we do expect to see some value for our money," added another.

The bigger picture is that attendances are dropping, with season tickets dropping to below 14,000 for this season -- 2,000 less than the 2009/2010 campaign. Overall attendances have dropped below the 20,000 mark regularly this term, some 10,000 short of the stadium's capacity.

They are worrying figures for a club that is heavily in debt. Last season, they made a loss before taxation of over £14m. At the moment, they are believed to be more than £35m in the red.

After making a £12m loss in the preceding year, owner Marcus Evans' first 12 months at the club, the Tractor Boys are heading down a slippery slope.

The authorities will note the disillusionment of the paying punter.

Keane's supporters argue that financial constraints have forced him to work with a budget smaller than expected.

He recently offered the opinion that he has agreed with 'most' of the club's financial decisions, while admitting that he was 'keeping on' at Evans with a view to securing the funds to bring in some new faces.

Nevertheless, he was allowed to make two emergency loan signings this week, with Rory Fallon and Gianni Zuiverloon coming in from Plymouth and West Brom respectively.


That was interpreted locally as a victory of sorts, and a sign that he retained the support from the top. But, significantly, there has been no great rush to offer a new contract -- his current deal expires at the end of the season.

Another poor show in front of the television cameras tomorrow lunchtime, and the calls for his head will grow louder.

The one area which remains consistently entertaining are his press briefings, of course.

Keane has delivered plenty of headlines in recent weeks, particularly with his comments about the terrace critics.

His Sky Sports News rants have decreased, although he does appear on 'Football Focus' today talking about Wayne Rooney and other matters.

The reality, though, is that he seems further away from the top table than at any point during his career.

His managerial project was never about occupying mid-table in the second-tier, producing drab football in front of a growing number of empty seats.

That's life on the farm right now, though.

Boring, boring Keano? We'd never have thought it.

Norwich v Ipswich,

Live, tomorrow, BBC1, 1.15

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