It may not be very kind, but I couldn’t help but enjoy the fact that the axe fell on Paul Jewell at Ipswich Town after a home defeat by Derby County, almost four years after a home defeat at the hands of Ipswich brought about the end of his wretched tenure at Pride Park.
I’d rather not rake over the miserable memories of Jewell’s botched attempt to manage Derby – but I do remember walking away from his last game in charge feeling utterly numb. Not just from the bitter cold of a sharp December evening, but wondering where the hell we could possibly go from that result, which left us 18th in the division after a run of one win in nine league games. His departure was a blessed relief and I’m sure that Ipswich supporters feel exactly the same today.
Jewell, who last did anything good as a manager under the indulgent chairmanship of Dave Whelan at Wigan Athletic – a job he eventually quit, citing the deterioration of his health and personal life – has dragged Ipswich into the same hole he left Derby in, bequeathing a demotivated, disorganised assortment of ‘journeymen, has-beens and wannabes’ to his successor.
Pre-season talk of a long-term plan to develop that cliched new breed, the ‘young, hungry’ player, was junked within weeks, as Jewell signed a clutch of loan signings to supplement his squad. Four loanees started the game against Derby, along with Nigel Reo-Coker, who is on a short-term contract, while many first-team players are now into the final year of their current deals.
In contrast, Nigel Clough’s Derby currently field no loanees, while all of the players you’d like to think are part of the long-term plans have contracts to match.
There was a lovely moment in the second half of Tuesday’s game when Will Hughes made a run through midfield, only for Richie Wellens to pull the shirt off his back. Hughes kept going and, with the ref playing advantage, Wellens finally gave up impeding him – only for Reo-Coker to step in and body-check Hughes to the ground.
There you had the difference in philosophies between the two clubs in a nutshell – Jewell’s pair of cynical, washed-up old farts dealing with Clough’s emerging, developing young star using the only means available to them. Meanwhile, Ipswich’s best prospect, a young midfielder named Luke Hyam, watched on from the bench.
Tommo said it would be interesting to see the team from Jewell’s last Derby game play the Rams team of today:-
Derby 0 Ipswich Town 1, 28 December 2008: Bywater; Albrechtsen, Tomkins, Nyatanga, Stewart (s/o 77); Barazite, Addison, Green, Commons (Kazmierczak – 76); Hulse (Davies – 46), Ellington (Varney – 9)
Like the Ipswich team from Tuesday night, the Derby team that winter’s day in 2008 was stuffed with expensive, experienced players who, for some reason, were unable to play well together as a team. There were a bunch of loanees – and consider, with a shudder, that Derby paid a seven-figure loan fee for Nathan Ellington, who pinged his hamstring in a lumbering cross-field chase in the early stages of that game.
Staggeringly, Jewell signed Ellington for Ipswich as well. Funnily enough, it didn’t work out. He even bought himself another Robbie Savage-esque albatross in Jimmy Bullard, whose vast wages must, or should, have made even Marcus Evans wince.
On taking over at Derby, Cl0ugh made the excommunicated and apparently finished Savage’s rehabilitation an early priority. The Rams’ ultimate caretaker manager, David Lowe, also gave Sav a cameo appearance at the end of that unlikely Carling Cup win against Manchester United, suggesting that a way back had only ever been blocked by Jewell’s intransigence.
By the return leg at Old Trafford, Clough and Savage were sharing jokes on the bench, before the veteran was brought on as a substitute. Clough did well to get Savage on side and get the best he could out of him, rather than leaving a man on Premier League wages training with the kids.
Jewell couldn’t resist a dig at the Derby board in the run-up to Tuesday’s game, telling journalists that GSE would have ‘sacked him if they have could have afforded to’, so he walked away instead. If Derby couldn’t afford to sack him, it was presumably because, in the year up to June 2009, the club lost just under £15m in financing what was supposed to be Jewell’s promotion drive.
Commons, Green and Hulse were all very handy players, but Jewell couldn’t get the best from them, mostly because they were swamped by a wave of hopeless misfits like Jordan Stewart, Martin Albrechtsen and Ellington, to name but three. Very shortly before departing, Jewell was allowed to spend yet more transfer money on Luke Varney, ensuring that by the time Clough arrived, the cupboard was truly bare.
Jewell’s approach to management, on the evidence of his tenure at Derby and Ipswich, was simply to meet a dip in form by signing more players. That cannot go on indefinitely. And partly due to Jewell’s wastefulness, it was never even an option for Clough.
However, while budgets have been curtailed, with the wagebill having been halved since June 2009, it nevertheless seems pretty clear that there is a solid plan in place at Derby – not one that will bring instant success, but hopefully one which will see us move forward in the long-term.
Ipswich are now going to have to put a similar plan in place, but whoever replaces Jewell will have to succeed in keeping them in this division first, as Clough did in 2009.
Jewell, with his teams who look good on paper but mysteriously can’t get results, could easily have sent two relatively big clubs over the precipice and into the third division. Outside of the top echelon, the days of chequebook managers are pretty much over and you can’t imagine that he will ever manage a football club again.
It has taken a long time, but his successor at Derby has finally developed a team who are genuinely competitive at this level, with the promise to grow together and take us slowly and surely up the table. No, they aren’t going to walk the Championship, but they are a match for anybody in the division if they play like they can – and as their current flurry of late goals proves, they possess character and fitness.
Jewell’s random ragbag were always likely to wilt against Derby and once their initial spell of pressure had been seen off, that’s exactly what they did. The opening goal was almost an irrelevance, given that they had already surrendered so many leads this season and sure enough, they offered up an embarrassingly easy equaliser before half-time, created for us by the mistakes of two rusty loanees.
All the money in the world won’t help you if you haven’t got a plan – and bringing in veterans on short contracts out of desperation is tacit admission that whatever Jewell’s plan was at Ipswich, it didn’t work.
For a full dissection of his tenure at Ipswich, read on - and marvel at the parallels with his Derby disaster.