It was #FootballShirtFriday yesterday and because of the Ipswich shirt I ended up wearing, it got me thinking: Where on earth did it go wrong for the club in the 2005/06 season?
This season was my first whole season as a season ticket holder (I had a half season ticket for our playoff finish in 2004/2005, and had a few match tickets to games before then).
I have only had three seasons without a season ticket since – two years when I was at university and 2017/18 when Mick’s attitude and style of football started pushing some of us away, which was a shame because it tarnished his Ipswich legacy; if he had left after the 2015/16 season, he would have been seen much differently by fans.
Nevertheless, I am dithering. Fifteen years ago, this summer, it felt exciting. We were pre-season favourites to achieve promotion, something we failed to achieve the two seasons prior at the hands of West Ham. So why then, using my memory and a little bit of research, when said memory becomes a little sketchy, did we only finish fifteenth?
To start off with, I am going to quickly discuss the shirt. It is not my favourite, but I still have a lot of affection for it – maybe because it was only the second shirt I had worn at Portman Road?
I voted for it - who remembers when they used to demonstrate three shirts at half-time, and the fans used to pick? Those were the days!
I do not agree with Andy Warren who placed it last out of Ipswich’s home shirts from the past twenty years – the last two shirts under Mitre were worse in my opinion, especially when the 2011-12 shirt under Jewell was just a rehash of the two before.
I loved the white sash – admittedly, the shorts didn’t help the kit, but it still worked in my opinion. The shirt fits me fine, too (this is my original – make of that about me as you will, I do not mind sharing that). Yeah, the shirt from the two seasons prior was better, but this one was still a good-looking shirt. Unfortunately, the Town under-performed whilst wearing it.
Why was that?
The Departure of Key Players
Both Shefki Kuqi and Darren Bent were phenomenal in the season where Ipswich were looking like they were going to succeed in their aim to return to Premiership status. We were top at Christmas, after beating fellow promotion rival (it is sad to hear of their administration status. A potential sign of things to come for clubs during these Covid-19 times) Wigan 2-1 at home. Of course, the narrative tells us that we fell to third and lost out to West Ham (again) in the play-off semis. Bent gifted us twenty goals in the league, with Kuqi behind on nineteen (twenty in all competitions).
However, Kuqi refused a new contract and left on a free to Blackburn, and a bid of £2.5 million was accepted for Bent, seeing him make his way to The Valley for Premiership football with Charlton. Therefore, it is evident that the two key players who provided us with the goals in our successful seasons immediately had to be replaced. Yet, it is not only Bent and Kuqi who left. Arguably, the whole spine of a successful team was ripped apart. Kelvin Davis left to Sunderland – a ‘keeper who had been placed in the 2004/05 PFA Championship Team of the Year.
Counago departed, Tommy Miller also departed to Sunderland. These were all key players, with Joe Royle’s rebuild that started in 2002 beginning to crumble.
The Replacements and Injuries
I mean no disrespect with this paragraph, but quite frankly, the players brought in to replace those that left just were either just not good enough, or injuries derailed our promotion ambition.
Royle brought in Nicky Forster from Reading and Sam Parkin from Reading. I liked Forster, but unfortunately, injury setbacks cost him and us throughout the season, with his seven goals being the highest number of goals scored by an Ipswich Town player.
I never really rated Parkin, however, but after doing a quick bit of research, I have discovered why. None of his five Town goals were scored at Portman Road and his performances were somewhat better away from home. He broke his ankle in November and was not seen again until the last game of the season against Plymouth.
Neither were Kuqi and Bent, although, to be fair, I am probably being a little harsh there because injuries meant it was hard for both to prove themselves, especially as Parkin is known to have been an up-and-comer after his Swindon spell. Alan Lee arrived in January, but only added another four goals (excelling in the next couple of seasons with us, though!), while Ricardo Fuller (who I always forget had a short spell at Portman Road) was a bit of a flop – three games, two goals, and a red card for a hand gesture at the crowd in a game against Palace.
Royle summed it up in the final game of the season:
“all season we have had to play with one striker, because another one of them has been injured”.
Tommy Miller also provided a number of goals the season before, but one of his replacements in Jimmy Juan only provided eight, with Jim Magilton’s potential replacement adding another three. Hence, the goals on offer had disappeared, and for a number of reasons that standard could not be met.
Similarly, the calibre of Kelvin Davis had gone missing. He was replaced by Lewis Price, and then after an injury, Shane Supple claimed the number one spot. The two let in 66 goals between them, compared to 56 under Davis.
However, when comparing the two tables, it is obvious what went wrong for Ipswich in the 2005/06 season – the number of goals scored. The Town enjoyed a number of 85 goals with Bent and Kuqi up-front, compared to 53 with the injury hit strike force of Forster, Parkin, and Lee, giving us a goal difference of -13.
Therefore, the players that left provided us with a massive obstacle to overcome.
Joe Royle summed up the season after the game against Plymouth.
“That game has been indicative of our season; too many bad goals given away and too many players missing”.
It’s alright to let in bad goals, but only when you have quality up top, and unfortunately that quality was not matched, this season saw Joe Royle’s longest losing streak, where in April saw four losses to Luton, Stoke, Brighton and Watford, and a win had not been seen since the 25th February after a 2-0 win against Leicester – quite a shocking second half to the season. The last home game saw a win against Derby, which at the time saw the goodbye to Jim Magilton… he was not gone for long.
In some ways, all of Joe’s hard work had been undone, and hence, saw his worst full season at the club and Ipswich’s lowest league position since 1966. Even Mick had a better season after his playoff success! The players sold-off, which I would assume was a knock-on effect of not gaining promotion.
Royle left by mutual consent after that summer, despite claiming that
“I’m confident when we start again next year with a full complement of players, we’ll be a match for anyone in the division.”
Sadly, we never got to find out, but it looked exciting when Jim was announced, and his rebuild commenced, finishing a point outside the playoffs a couple of years later.
Thanks for reading. I have enjoyed reminiscing about the 2005/2006 season, even if it was a big flop. Stay safe, until next time.
Town contributor for the HDR Network