IPSWICH Town fans will be delighted to see the back of 2018.

It’s been the most dismal of calendar years – surely one of the club’s worst-ever – with dejection and frustration constant themes.

Highlights have been few and far between while long-suffering home fans have had the rawest of deals, with just a paltry three victories to celebrate at Portman Road.

Depressingly, Town have played 48 league and cup matches in 2018 – starting with their 4-1 reverse at Fulham on January 2 and ending with Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough.

Of that total, they’ve won just eight, drawing 16 and losing 24.

The second half of the year – the first chunk of this season - has been especially sobering, with Town kicking off 2019 rock bottom of the Championship table.

They’ve only won twice and are seven points from safety and fourth-from-bottom Bolton.

Yet it was all supposed to be different this time around.

Ex-boss Paul Hurst’s arrival in the summer was met with a tidal wave of optimism – a breath of fresh air and the antithesis of Mick McCarthy’s more, shall we say, functional football.

How sad that the club’s change at the top – bold and commendable at the time - went so spectacularly wrong.

Hurst was a good man but his sweeping changes – moving on key men like Martyn Waghorn and replacing them with comparatively untried League One and Two players – backfired. It was far too much, too soon.

It forced Town into uncharted waters, in terms of pulling the trigger and making a quickfire managerial change. A ground-breaking stance in their long, proud history.

Sadly, in terms of results, little has changed since Paul Lambert’s appointment in late October.

In his ten matches at the helm, they’ve won just once, drawn three (including his first two games) and lost six.

However, performances have undoubtedly improved.

The Blues are playing with a confidence, spirit and freedom that was sorely missing in the autumn.

And so, without wishing to dwell on the negatives any further, with fingers firmly crossed and rose-tinted glasses in place, here are ten reasons to be hopeful heading into 2019.


As said, Lambert has unquestionably made a difference, even if results don’t reflect that yet.

Wrongly, based purely on his media persona, I had him down as a dour, uninspiring choice back in October.

However, I’m happy to be proved wrong because he’s galvanised the club, united the players and fans and seemingly given his troops a licence to express themselves.

Despite their perilous position, the players still have spirit, confidence and fight and there’s no fear of impending doom.

Lambert’s been impressive in front of the cameras and press pack, too. Charismatic, passionate and sometimes jovial.

Regardless of their plight, Town are in good, safe hands heading into the new year.


Without doubt, Town will try to bring in reinforcements during next month’s transfer window. They have to.

It’s clear the current squad is light in certain areas and fresh blood is needed to inject much-needed life into their survival quest. Not to mention competition for places.

They need a new right-back to turn up the heat on Jordan Spence and a fresh option – or options – in midfield, especially with Grant Ward now sidelined for nine months and joining long-term casualties Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi and the more recently-injured Cole Skuse.

However, the main area that needs strengthening is up front.

Ellis Harrison’s return to fitness has helped matters, as have the goals of Freddie Sears.

But Kayden Jackson and Jordan Roberts have struggled to adapt to the level and don’t have the goals in them that will keep Town in the Championship.

The Blues need firepower – a confident, experienced finisher – and fans must hope Lambert pulls a rabbit from his hat during January.


Talking of next month, how nice would it be to start the year with an FA Cup victory at Accrington on Saturday?

Clearly, league points and survival are the top priority but I’m a firm believer that cup runs can go hand in hand with improved league form, rather than being a distraction.

Town haven’t won an FA Cup tie since 2010 – they’ve lost in the third round eight times in a row since – and didn’t even register a shot on target during last year’s instantly forgettable exit against Sheffield United.


Amid the gloom, two of Town’s better players in recent weeks have been loanees Matthew Pennington and Trevoh Chalobah. Hopefully their impressive form continues in the new year.

Pennington, Everton’s under-19 international, was my man-of-the-match in both recent home games against Wigan and Sheffield United.

And Chelsea’s Chalobah has found a level of consistency that was missing earlier in the season, when he was making too many sloppy mistakes.


Town’s so-called conveyor belt of talent hasn’t been functioning as it should in recent years.

However, they appear to have polished up a couple of gems this season.

Flynn Downes and, more recently, Jack Lankester are two homegrown players who have caught the eye and clearly have bright futures.

They’re raw, of course, but both appear to have something about them and both are flourishing under Lambert.

Teddy Bishop can be added to the mix, having now fought his way back to fitness, and so can the naturally-gifted Andre Dozzell.

Striker Ben Morris recently signed a new contract while left-back Myles Kenlock was handed a rare start at Boro on Saturday and could become a pivotal figure in the second half of the season, especially if Jonas Knudsen moves on in January.


Town fans should fasten their seatbelts for what looks set to be a crucial first month of the year.

Given their current predicament, every game can be labelled ‘must-win’.

However, they start the year with a couple of eye-catching home fixtures that could make-or-break the entire season.

First up comes a tussle with Millwall tomorrow – New Year’s Day – followed by a visit from Rotherham on January 12.

Both sides are languishing in the bottom five and both, realistically, need to be beaten if Town are to dodge the trapdoor into League One.

A white-knuckle ride awaits.


It would be wrong to say crowds have rocketed since Lambert’s arrival.

There were nearly 23,000 there for the visit of West Brom (swelled by a ticket promotion and the excellent ticket donation brainwave of Clacton’s Karl Fuller) and an encouraging 18,000 in attendance for the last game before Christmas, against Sheffield United.

However, there were only 15,000 there for Lambert’s first game against Preston and even less (13,726) for the visit of Bristol City.

Nevertheless, the point is that the atmosphere has most definitely improved.

There’s a connection between the players and supporters; they’re fighting as one, as a united front, and that wasn’t the case in the autumn, when the mood was more fractious, critical and disenchanted.

Portman Road is appealing again and that’s something to look forward to in 2019.


Three points are not to be sniffed at against anyone.

However, imagine the scenario of claiming maximum spoils at Norwich on February 10.

Eleven East Anglian derbies have been and gone since Town’s last victory against the old enemy, when goals from Alan Quinn, Giovani Dos Santos and Jon Stead secured a 3-2 triumph in April 2009.

The Blues’ last win at Carrow Road was way back in February 2006, when they came from behind to snatch a memorable 2-1 victory.

This season, the formbook will obviously point at a Norwich win.

The Canaries are second and in a title race; Town are marooned at the basement and fighting for their lives.

However, stranger things have happened and what a fillip it would be to pull off a shock win.


It would be boring if Town were ensconced in mid-table, with no realistic promotion ambitions but also well clear of the drop zone. Also-rans simply going through the motions.

Of course, I’m writing with tongue in cheek because we’d all grab that scenario with both hands.

However, whether we like it or not, the second half of the season promises to be exciting and nerve-jangling.

Town’s fight could go to the wire and that will make for some very interesting, tense weeks and months ahead. A run-in that will be anything but boring.


OK, I admit I’m running out of bullet points now so to finish on a high and reach a perfect ten, let’s state the obvious – that the new year is a time for resolutions and fresh beginnings.

A chance to wipe the slate clean, reboot and start again, full of hope and optimism for a much, much better next 12 months.

So happy new year folks… and goodbye and good riddance 2018.