Finally – ye olde kickball is back. It was ever so nice to finally get back to the Ricoh so I could attempt to wipe from my memory all the negativity, cross words, and everyone calling Ray Ranson a fat-faced bastard.
Following a second viewing of the match on Sky+, I’ve managed to dilute my optimism to a less ludicrous level, and come up with a more reasoned (brief) analysis of the game. Of course, the “we’re so bleedin’ great” feeling is still pretty high, and I don’t apologise for that – it’s what opening day wins are for.
Although I now acknowledge that contrary to my initial thoughts, we’re probably not going to win the World Cup next summer. Shame, that.
Anyway, while I know we have a surprisingly good record on the opening game of the season, for the first time in years I actually saw lots of things that genuinely pleased me. Beating Norwich in the first game last season was not without its troubles, and there were signs, even that early on, that our midfield was going to struggle.
Today was mighty different to that. There was a purpose about the performance, and the entire shape of the team just seemed miles better than what we’re used to seeing. There was discipline from all positions, and in the middle of the park particularly.
Sammy Clingan was very good. The holding midfield role is often under-stated, but it’s been the downfall of our team for years.
We all know what Gunny can do. His game is all-action, bustling forward, driving on and creating opportunities. But he can’t do it all (no matter how much he wants to), and will always need that protection behind him to allow him to get forward and play to his strengths.
Last season, we struggled because he was usually going absolutely berserk trying to force the attack, then having to cover for the regular ineptitude of Doyle and Monsieur Booz if we gave the ball away. Most games followed the same pattern; teams exploiting the gap where the holding midfielder should be, driving at our defence, and creating an unholy amount of chances.
While there were chances for Ipswich today, they were manufactured mainly from set-pieces, and you’ve got to expect that to be the case given Keane has turned Ipswich into a team of Incredible hulks.
Clingan kept their attacking midfielders at bay though. He focused his entire game on patrolling that part of the pitch, leaving Gunny free to link the attack. It was marvellous stuff.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Turner was immense, Ozzy played like a man possessed, Clinton showed us his clinical best, and the lad van Aanholt gave an idea of how they must do things at Chelsea Reserves (i.e. damn good). He probably won’t give us the same defensive qualities of Fox, but with his pace and skill, looks like things are looking a little brighter for that left back position. Let’s face it; anything has to be better than Hall.
So there were lots of positives, which added to it being the ideal start. Yeah, you can look at the possession stats all you like, but what the game required today was grit and a determination to get the 3 points. Too many times last season we folded without a fight and lost out (Watford, anyone?)
Today we didn’t, and now look at us – 2nd in the Championship, on account of our alphabetical superiority no less. (I bloody love being a C).
It’s a nice feeling, so please City – can we have some more?
What I fort of them there players..
Westwood – 8 | Not the all-round solidity we’re used to, but he’s priceless. Can always rely on him to pull something out the top draw to save us.
Osbourne – 8 | Had a very good day. Threw himself into the game, and every challenge. Couple of strange passes but always made up for it.
Wright – 7 | Can’t question the commitment, worked tirelessly throughout, and rallied everyone. Painfully slow though.
Turner – 8 | Solid as a rock all game. The whole team struggled aerially from set-pieces, but in open play, he won the lot.
van Aanholt – 8 | This kid will be very good for us. Attacking positives look like they’ll always outweigh any defensive frailties.
Bell – 6 | Unfit so never really got into it. Borin’. Subbed.
Clingan – 8 | Great debut – truly solid midfield performance. My Chap of the Match.
Gunnarsson – 7 | The usual chucking himself everywhere and hair-flicking, but I wouldn’t change his game at all. Strong as an ox.
McIndoe – 7 | Linked well down the left to start with but faded due to lack of fitness. Nevermind, gave us proper width, which was nice.
Morrison – 8 | Two goals. One goal-line clearance. Zero whinging. Okay, maybe not the last one.
Best – 7 | Looked confident and won some decent headers. Took a knock early in the second half though. Subbed.
Eastwood – Alright, I suppose. Difficult to get into the game though, what with Ipswich all attacking and that.
Clarke – He’s only 17?? Blimey, I like him. Composed and could have grabbed a goal.
Ward – Came on and did a job. Head, Face, Arse. Threw the lot in the way. (Should be first team, really).