After writing my flashback article on the 2005/06 season last weekend, I have decided to make this into a little series whilst we wait for the new season to start – whenever that will be.
I like reminiscing about the seasons that I have witnessed. I am aware that it will not stretch far, but it gives an insight into my personal experiences as a Town fan.
For today’s flashback article, I have chosen the 2008/09 season.
This one was big – the first full season with Marcus Evans at the helm, after buying out Sheepshanks for £12 million in late December 2007. It was beginning to feel exciting - a new leaf, a way out of the Championship and back to the promised land. Oh, how we were so wrong, eh?
I will start with a quick paragraph about the home shirt from that season. It was the return of the pinstripes. I liked it, but the Marcus Evans ownership made it a tad annoying. Back then, we had the same shirt for two seasons instead of just the one (it made the shirt reveals even more exciting because they had longevity; it is a shame that we cannot return to this, but there is too much money involved in the modern era to change back) but it had its flaws.
The season before, we had E-On on the shirt, but Evans changed the sponsor to his own company for the following season. So, basically, if you wanted the same shirt with the updated sponsor, you had to fork out the price for the same shirt again! Maybe that was a sign of things to come, not a care for the fans? Why not stay with E-On until the shirt changes again? Perhaps I am just being a little bit over-sensitive? I do not know, I remember it annoying me at the time, though. Especially as the shirt, we had before went from Powergen to E-On (although, that is more forgiven – E-On bought out Powergen so there was not a much you could do about that).
Nonetheless, I liked the shirt. It is not my favourite, but I can understand why Andy Warren placed it top out of the past twenty years.
Oh, oops. I guess that was not so much of a quick paragraph, after all. Forgive my passion.
Was the season a success?
The 2008/09 season unfortunately failed with the expectations placed upon the team. We had money. David Norris was signed in January 2008 for £2 million – may have been over the odds and put pressure on the player? Maybe, but he was still a particularly good signing for us, in my opinion. Therefore, we were expecting players to sign and to get us into the Premier League either automatically or through the playoffs. I do think that Magilton was unlucky, to some degree.
Under the new ownership, new pressure was placed on his shoulders. Instant success was expected from a man who had been managing for just two years. I am not moaning here, I loved the guy – it is just a fact. He knew that success was required, and anything less would be seen as a poor campaign. Town only won eight and lost six at home, compared to the fifteen wins and one loss from the season before.
Having said that, their away record was better, winning nine and losing eight compared to the one win and twelve losses from 2007/08! Therefore, it was an average season and perhaps should have been better.
However, I alluded to the fact that Magilton was unlucky. I remember being overly excited in the summer of 2008. There were rumors that we were interested in Shola Ameobi. Yeah, okay. Shola was not a big star, but he was a recognised name. He was a goalscorer and would have made a big difference to our first hopeful promotion push under Evans. The £2 million-plus deal was set, terms were agreed. So, what happens? He goes and fails a medical and the deal is off! Oh, what a difference that deal would have made, I really do believe that.
Counago and Ameobi up front. Feels weird thinking about it, does it not? Yet, that could have been the case.
Nevertheless, we still brought in some good players; Gareth McAuley, I always rated and replaced the retiring De Vos, Richard Wright returned and was player of the year, Jon Stead turned out to be our top goalscorer with thirteen goals – much needed after the departure of Alan Lee (GOAL!), Ben Thatcher provided some decent displays in left-back for us, and we randomly had Ivan Campo playing at the back for us!
Ivan was a star, that is no doubt, and it felt quite impressive that he had decided to join us in just fifteen minutes (I will always remember that headline) after being shown around the club, instead of joining David Beckham (I cannot mention the name without a cheap plug. I have met the superstar, after all) in America. Mixed results followed.
Now, there is one thing that sticks in my mind visibly from this season. Luciano Civelli signed for Town in January for £1 million. Young Seggons loved him. Of course, he had moved from Argentina, so it was going to take a little time for him to settle in. Nonetheless, I liked his determination, I liked his work-rate. If I ever get a number on my shirt, it is always 13. I have not done for a while, but since Civelli signed, it has always been 13. Magilton described him as a “workaholic” recently. I felt that we had found a young star for the future, making his debut at home on Valentine’s Day when we drew 1-1 with Blackpool.
Unfortunately, Civelli suffered a profoundly serious injury in March against Burnley. I was gutted, as I am sure many others were. He had only made eight appearances. It was such a shame. We did not see him again until January 2011 after the seriousness of the injury and a couple of setbacks. Alas, he left under Jewell in that summer. After reading his interview with Andy Warren last year, I am glad he is at peace and enjoying his new life.
If you are reading, Luciano, I have not forgotten that earlier this year I promised you a pint if you ever visit Ipswich. That offer still stands!
Giovanni Dos Santos was a breath of fresh air. His loan from Tottenham provided us with some pace and class from March. He provided us with four goals – one against Norwich as well as an assist! However, it was not enough to push us towards our ambitious (considering how the season had turned out) target of the play-offs and Jim was sacked after that Norwich game – the game that effectively sent them down, but also the last time that we beat the budgies (that brings a tear to my eye). There had been a lot of unfair pushes from the media for Jim to be sacked, as well as a demonstration outside the ground. It was harsh. This was a manager who had rebuilt the squad after Royle’s departure and had a vision of where he wanted to go.
Yeah, maybe the pressure got to him, but the two seasons prior to his sacking saw the Town just miss out on the play-offs. I did not want him gone, he had done a decent job and as I have stated, he was quite unlucky in some ways that season. Maybe he just did not fit Evans’s mold, especially after failing to make the playoffs. Who else has though, Marcus? Keane? Nope. Jewell? Nope. Mick? Once, out of five full seasons. Hurst? Ha!!
I do think it was one of the worst decisions the club has made in the past twenty years, but hindsight can be a wonderful thing.
In came Roy Keane and I will probably make myself sound hypocritical with what I am about to say. I did not want Jim gone but I was excited. This was big for the club. As an outsider, he had done wonders at Sunderland. We won the last two games of the season, beating Coventry at home 2-1 to round the season off. I was confident we were to return to the Premier League, as were others. I did my work experience that summer. The manager was a Norwich fan, but he believed that 2009/10 would be our season. A few signings and we would be ready for the promotion push. I bought ‘The Gaffer’ mug that was released, my Dad bought the shirt. Oh, we were so wrong. Maybe the signs were there when Daryl Murphy rejected us that summer (but joined us on loan in February with David Healy anyway…)? Gio was never going to sign permanently. I wanted him to, as everyone else did, but Keane was right to say that he was preparing without him. He had too much class to come down to the Championship full-time, but there was no reason not to sign him for another six months or so to kick start our season on a plus. Instead, we signed Lee Martin and Tamas Priskin. ‘Nuff said.
Overall, it was a disappointing season. Such is the way with football. Yet, apart from a couple of seasons under Mick, it was the last time we meant something as a club. The last time we could have been a threat. We have not had it better since, and I am not sure when we will see these heights again.
Thanks for reading. If you have a season you would like me to cover from the last fifteen-twenty years, let me know!