Strong start laid the foundations

The longest-serving team in the championship thought they had turned a corner in November 2012 when they appointed a manager who had led both Sunderland and Wolves to the top division.

At a time when Ipswich were floundering under Paul Jewell, McCarthy’s appointment offered renewed hope to a side who a decade earlier had tasted European football under George Burley.

His record of keeping Wolves in the top flight for two successive seasons won him admirers and restored his reputation after a disastrous Premier League spell at Sunderland when his team was relegated with the lowest ever points total at that time.

In his third season at the Portman Road outfit, having consolidated Ipswich’s place in the Championship, McCarthy led the Tractor Boys to the playoffs, eventually losing out to local rivals Norwich City. Ipswich was on the up with a young and promising squad. Another tantalisingly close season followed as Ipswich finished 7th and just missed out on the playoffs, leading McCarthy and his trusted lieutenant Terry Connor to sign new contracts until 2020.

Then the optimism vanished.

McCarthyism - the 21st-century version

In August, McCarthy was subjected to criticism from fans about his style of play following a draw against Norwich, and since then it appears the relationship has never quite recovered.

The club went into their most recent game against fellow strugglers Wigan just five points clear of the bottom three, and although a 3-0 victory on Tuesday night eased fears of relegation, fans do not think it is enough.

The club looks set to do battle next year in its 16th year in the second tier, and hopes of the playoff finish of two years ago seem a long way off.

With McCarthy bullish in his assessment of the supporters’ expectations amidst a hike in season ticket prices, the pressure may well be getting to the former Republic of Ireland manager.

McCarthy has certainly been more irritable in recent interviews, and even dismissed questions about the balance of his midfield, claiming he would not be drawn into pub discussions.

Who is to blame - fans or owner?

The Tractor Boys’ boss is operating on a shoestring budget compared to the sizeable financial muscle of the Championship big hitters, but Ipswich supporters are reluctant to renew their season tickets ahead of what they see as another long and arduous season.

McCarthy cannot claim that he needs time to build his team; with signings including Freddie Sears, Luke Varney and Leon Best all failing to shine, albeit Sears did score a brace against Wigan on Tuesday.

The relationship between the fans and manager has never been more tenuous, with many venting their fury at owner Marcus Evans, never one to be in the spotlight, arguably leaving McCarthy to take all the flak. The lowest attendance since Premier League relegation was recorded on Tuesday night – with only 14,661 coming through the gates - yet Evans has now raised season ticket prices four years in a row in a period where the club appears to be stagnating and discontent appears to be growing on the terraces. Last year, more than 1,000 fans failed to renew their season tickets and the fans of the club, who sit 16th in the Championship and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Lincoln City, are starting to feel it is time for a change.

Suitable Replacements?

Steve Bruce and Gary Rowett – both with good records and strong reputations at Championship level – were snapped up mid-season by Aston Villa and Derby County respectively, whilst Mark Warburton has returned to England at Nottingham Forest after the former Brentford boss enjoyed a successful stint north of the border with Rangers.

Supporters may question whether Ipswich has missed the boat in terms of managerial changes, but with McCarthy losing the trust and support of those who hold the club so close to their hearts, surely something must change next term, or the club faces another decline in season ticket purchases.