Ipswich vs. Newcastle: Bobby Robson's Ghost To Look After Roy Keane?

Mr XSenior Writer ISeptember 26, 2009

IPSWICH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15:  Ipswich Town manager Roy Keane shouts instructions during the Coca Cola Championship match between Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest at Portman Road on September 15, 2009 in Ipswich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Only days after Bobby Robson's memorial mass, the two clubs where he is most loved meet in a must-win game. Roy Keane's Ipswich career hangs in the balance after only taking four points from the 24 available so far, they welcome high flying Newcastle as they search for that illusive win.

In a week where Bobby Robson was remembered by the footballing community, it is perhaps most fitting that Newcastle should travel to Portman Road to take on Ipswich in a top versus bottom clash that sees Robson's two English loves meet.

A Newcastle supporter for his whole life, Robson made his name at Portman Road where he guided Ipswich to FA and UEFA Cup victories as well as only finishing outside the top six in Division 1 only five times in 13 years, four of those were in his first four years at the club.

Most remarkably, Robson only brought in 14 players from other English clubs in those 13 years at Ipswich, preferring to use players who had graduated from their youth system.

To mark those fantastic 13 years at the club, a statue of Robson was erected outside the ground in 2002. And his shadow has hung over every manager since.

Robson then went on to manage England and then moved back into club management that saw him coach right across Europe before he eventually moved back to his spiritual home on Tyneside.

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This week has been all about Robson and his legacy, and rightfully so. But the story moves on, and on Saturday the Tractor Boys welcome the Toon Army to East Anglia.

The importance of the game has not been lost on Roy Keane. Ipswich were one of the favourites for promotion at the start of the season, but a disastrous start has seen them claim only four points from 24 thanks to four draws.

Vultures have begun to circle over the former Sunderland manager, and defeat to Newcastle would mean the club's worst start to a season ever. 

Ipswich have had trouble keeping clean sheets this year, so far they have conceded 15 goals in eight games. In trying to rectify that situation, Keane has used no less than 24 players in those eight league games.

Three players have been brought in to bolster the squad in recent weeks. Two from Keane's old club Sunderland, Grant Leadbetter and Carlos Edwards, while the powerful fullback, Liam Rosenior has also come in.

Ipswich have looked a slightly tighter outfit, but they still concede far too many easy chances.

Last weeks 3-3 draw against Doncaster summed up all the good points and all the bad points about Ipswich this season.

Going forward they are a threat to most Championship teams, but they lack concentration and give away silly goals.

Newcastle on the other hand have been completely rejuvenated since their fall from Premiership grace. Nine players have been allowed to go back to the Premier League as the Magpies look to bounce back to the big time.

In a massive contrast to last season, Newcastle have the meanest defence in the league. So far they have only conceded four goals and have kept five clean sheets in eight games.

Roy Keane's fellow Irishman, Chris Hughton, deserves much credit for Newcastle's revival.

In preseason, the Magpies were famously hammered 6-1 by Leyton Orient. After the match Hughton called an emergency team meeting to discuss everything on and off the pitch at Newcastle. The players decided to rally together instead of letting Mike Ashley's poor running of the club effect them, and since that day they have only lost one league game.

On paper, Keane's and Ipswich's start to the season is very poor. But when this fickle table is analysed all is not lost.

The Championship is a very strange league, to put it mildly.

As it stands, Ipswich are in the relegation zone. Should they put three wins together they will be in the promotion positions. One win and they will be out of the relegation zone.

Marcus Evan's has invested over £20m in Ipswich over the last three seasons, and moved to bring Keane into the club last April.

11 players in and 12 out with a net spend of £7m is very good business for the Championship, especially considering the £12m Evans made available to Keane's predecessor, Jim Magilton, who was sacked with the club lying in mid-table.

When Keane initially took over at Sunderland, the club were in a perilous position at the foot of the table. Heavy investment in players that Keane had previous knowledge of saw the Black Cats gain automatic promotion.

This time around, Keane has taken a much different approach. Lessons learned at Sunderland where players settled on lucrative contracts has seen Keane take his time to analyse his squad.

He has identified major problems through the spine of the team, but has moved slowly to fix them.

But Championship managers have one advantage over their Premiership rivals, in that they can bring in players until the end of January, so Keane is expected to delve back into the transfer market.

Historically, Ipswich are one of England's sleeping giants. Management greats like Bobby Robson and Alf Ramsey have cut their teeth there so Keane knows what the fans would like him to aspire to.

As much as the current Liverpool team are being haunted by the historical past, Ipswich are in the same boat.

Expectations are high, but if there is any manager in the game who should know how to deal with expectations in the game, it is Keane.

Keane is well aware that he is walking in the shadows of two of the games great managers, and that he will have to go some way to even come close to emulating their histories.

Progress at Ipswich is coming in baby steps at the moment, but it will need to speed up. Robson's career in East Anglia started with four seasons outside European contention, but the club was making progress on and off the field.

For the moment, Marcus Evan's is happy to leave the running of the team to Keane, but results will have to pick up.

One nice item to note is that the English League authorities have given both teams permission to wear commemorative shirts to mark this occasion.

The last time the two clubs met was in 2002, Robson was manager of Newcastle at the time and the game ended in a 2-2 draw. The same result would be greeted by both teams today.

Newcastle will go into this game as favourites, their mean defence combined with Ipswich's leaky team make for a worrying time for Keane.

Speaking on the game, Roy Keane had this to say "We will pay our respects and the best way we can do that for Sir Bobby is by winning. If he's looking down then he knows we might need that bit of luck and he might help us get those three points."

If there was ever a game where faith and ghostly pasts could play a part it's this one, for Ipswich to win they will need everything to go right on the day and for Bobby Robson to smile down upon them.