American expat, PR professional and Ipswich Town fan James Wall shares his thoughts on the Blues from across the pond....

After a month of disappointing results, starting with that tepid draw against Norwich at home, I'm really starting to question whether the pundits might be onto something.

Can Ipswich realistically challenge the three parachute-payment-packing recent Premier League teams for those automatic promotion spots?

Everywhere I turn – TV, social media, newspapers – pundits, armchair analysts, and podcasters seem convinced that Ipswich will be lucky to snag the fourth spot, lagging behind the trio of Leicester, Leeds, and Southampton. Honestly, these comments get under my skin!

East Anglian Daily Times: Town have lost two straight games for the first time since October 2022Town have lost two straight games for the first time since October 2022 (Image: Ross Halls)
I used to be all about "plucky old Ipswich defying the odds and gunning for that second spot!" But after the Maidstone and Preston North End games, I'm not so sure. 

We haven’t lost two games in a row since October 2022 when both Lincoln and Cambridge beat us.  So, what’s going on?

Let's break down the issues on the pitch one by one....

- Riding our luck:  A bunch of pundits have been pointing out that when you scrutinise Ipswich's stats, the team seems to have overperformed, grabbing more wins than expected based on the data.

The ubiquitous XG stat has been thrown around a lot to highlight that our expected goals haven't come close to matching Leicester's or Southampton's this season.

Plus, we've conceded too many goals, relying on high-scoring contests. With stats like these, it was bound to catch up with us sooner or later.

- Injuries, suspensions, and call-ups:  Our squad was put together with a focus on promotion from League One and surviving in the Championship. No surprise then that when injuries and suspensions hit, we struggle.

Meanwhile, our rivals at the top can call on multi-million-pound acquisitions from all over the world to step in when their top players are out.

The past month has seen virtually the entire Ipswich squad stepping up at some point or another, with players like Dom Ball and Cam Humphreys taking on unexpected roles.

It's like fitting square pegs into round holes, and against teams with loads of cash, it's no wonder we've had a tough time.

East Anglian Daily Times: George Hirst's injury was a major blowGeorge Hirst's injury was a major blow (Image: Ross Halls)
- No recognised striker:  I was at Portman Road on Boxing Day when George Hirst pulled up with his torn hamstring, leaving us with no in-form strikers.

Hirst provided an outlet that none of our other strikers possessed – he's pacy, tall, strong, and works his socks off. He also knows how to provide both assists and score goals.

Old favourite Freddie Ladapo was already on his way out in the January window, and Kayden Jackson, though hardworking, isn't the target man we need.

Kudos to him for his energy and work rate, but it's clear we've been missing a crucial piece upfront.

- Defensive errors: Tied to the first point, defensive and goalkeeping errors have cost us silly goals.

The latest example is Preston's third goal on Saturday when Vaclav Hladky played a dubious ball to Sam Morsy, who got caught in possession, leading to the goal. Our habit of having to come back in games has hurt us all season.

As my EADT colleagues have pointed out, it’s fun being the comeback kings - but we can only do that so many times before the gamble backfires.

Cut out these early errors, tighten up the defense, and we'll be in much better shape.

East Anglian Daily Times: Town have lost both games since Wes Burns trimmed his flowing locks. Coincidence? Surely not!Town have lost both games since Wes Burns trimmed his flowing locks. Coincidence? Surely not! (Image: Ross Halls)
- Wes Burns’ haircut: We all adored the man-bun (especially, I hear, the ladies) but more importantly, if we look at player-ratings pre and post cut, it’s clear his change of hair style has had an impact on Wes and the team. Wes, grow your hair back pronto! 

Now, can we stay in the running?  Here are some reasons why we certainly could:

- This group never says die:  Around this time last year, we started the run that eventually took us to second in League One and promotion. We had a rough patch in January, and pundits were quick to write us off, just like they are now.

But the players and staff that McKenna has gathered won't be feeling sorry for themselves. This is a close-knit group that fights for each other and is determined to compete.

Fourth place in January after a promotion is remarkable, but they're aiming for more than just a play-off spot.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieran McKenna, right, and Mark Ashton have made a dream pairing so farKieran McKenna, right, and Mark Ashton have made a dream pairing so far (Image: PA)
- Magic McKenna, awesome Ashton, and a committed ownership group: Our manager is undoubtedly one of the best in the Championship, working wonders with a squad worth a fraction of our rivals'.

With him at the helm, we should all feel confident. The same goes for our CEO, his team, and our owners. They want success; they have the money, but they want to achieve it the right way.

- A stellar transfer window: Jeremy Sarmiento, Lewis Travis, Ali Al-Hamadi, and especially Kieffer Moore are top-notch additions to our squad.

There were nerves on this side of the Atlantic when January 29th dawned with no new strikers, but in the end, Mark Ashton's team got the deals done. Massive props to them for their work and resourcefulness.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieffer Moore looked fantastic in his first 45 minutes back at the BluesKieffer Moore looked fantastic in his first 45 minutes back at the Blues (Image: Ross Halls)
- Fantastic fans: Finally, our fans could be a key factor in our push for the top two. We might be a laid-back bunch in Suffolk, but we bring passion to our football team.

The support, both at home and away, has been inspiring. Blue Army – keep it up!

All these factors should give us optimism. We have a solid chance of competing for that coveted second spot.

And if we fall short, I'll happily use my United Airlines miles for a flight back to London for a Wembley play-off final!

Uppa Towen!