Hurst Needs Time to Implement Vision at Ipswich


Source: Ipswich Town Football Club via Facebook.

While the firing and hiring of managers in English football usually marks nothing more than adherence to footballing culture, it was notably different this year, involving clubs usually absent from the merry-go-round. Arsenal parted company with Arsene Wenger after 22 years, fans disillusioned with their legendary manager. At Exeter, Paul Tisdale's largely successful tenure ended acrimoniously. Meanwhile, Ipswich parted company with Mick McCarthy, tempting Shrewsbury's Paul Hurst to Portman Road.

McCarthy initially won fans over by propelling the club away from relegation and took Ipswich to the playoffs. But he never really looked like ending the club's 16-year stay in the Championship. While McCarthy is a wily manager who knows what it takes to avoid relegation at least, the time was right for Ipswich to try something new in the hope of securing promotion.

Hurst developed a Shrewsbury side to punch above their weight, losing in the League One playoff final in the summer having been touted as favourites for relegation. Hurst's style of football shares many key characteristics with McCarthy's: the ability to work hard is prioritized, while direct balls over the top to turn the defence are still encouraged. However, these direct balls are expected to be more considered than the mindless punting under McCarthy, while there is more of an emphasis on playing from the back and having sustained periods of passing in the opposition third.


Source: Ipswich Town Football Club via Facebook.

This change of approach has been reflected in pre-match warm-ups this season, with the players participating in quickfire and mesmeric passing drills at the expense of prolonged shooting sessions. Yet Ipswich began the season with defeats to Rotherham and Exeter. The Tractor Boys are one of the favorites for relegation with all the leading bookmakers featured at OddsChecker, suggesting the longest-serving Championship club could be about to end their stay in the league. 

Hurst has stressed the need for the various age groups to all be playing with the same tactical ethos to allow for seamless transitions into the first team. Under McCarthy, the first team played pragmatic football while the youth team passed like Barcelona. Greater coherence is needed across the club and Hurst recognizes this. It would be futile to allow a new manager to bring in a raft of new signings only to judge him after three matches. New players need time to integrate, old players need time to adapt to the new style of coaching and tactical demands. The pressure is on for Hurst to prove doubters wrong, but he should be given time to make his tactical vision a reality.