Could Cardiff win prove the catalyst for Tractor Boys blitz?
After Ipswich Town finally managed to grab their first away win of the season at Cardiff City last week, Emyr Price ponders whether this could be the catalyst that sees Roy Keane repeat the Championship promotion he achieved at Sunderland three years ago.
First things first. Ipswich won't be winning the Championship this season.
The Tractor Boys have spluttered their way through the first third and a bit of the season, and as the busy festive period approaches they remain in the drop-zone.
This puts them a whopping 21 points behind second placed West Brom. A gap that is surely unbridgeable. Not least because West Brom, and indeed league leaders Newcastle, look set to stay the course.
But in a notoriously tight division, they are 12 points adrift of Blackpool who currently occupy the final play-off place.
Of course, 12 points is still a sizeable deficit, and closing it won't be a walk in the park.
Yet Keane's men have hinted that they are belatedly about to burst into life.
They are unbeaten in seven, and while five of those have been draws, anyone who has watched them recently will have noted a close-knit unit that is growing in confidence.
To the Sunderland parallels then.
At this stage of the 2006/07 season The Black Cats had recovered from a tardy start to the campaign to sit in 13th place in the league.
They endured an above average November, during which time they picked up eight points from five games.
Ipswich's last four fixtures have also returned eight points.
By the New Year, Keane had guided Sunderland into the top half of the table.
With six games in December, and a difference of 10 points to make up, the same scenario for Ipswich is a tough, yet by no means impossible task.
In 2007 the writing was on the wall by the end of February as the Wearsiders marched into the top four, and duly went onto win the division.
Achieving promotion from a similarly lowly position has been done in recent years elsewhere too.
Witness an Iain Dowie-led Crystal Palace in 2003/04. They were stranded in or around the relegation mire until mid-January before a steady run of results lifted them into mid table.
From which point on, they never looked back, and were crowned play-off winners at the end of the season.
But does Keane have the necessary ammo at his disposal this time out to launch and maintain a promotion challenge?
On paper you'd probably say yes. Just about.
Richard Wright is solid between the sticks, but news this week that he could be out for a few months is a worry. You'd expect a January replacement, if understudy Arran Lee-Barrett is found wanting.
Additions may be required at the back too, but the current defensive quintet of David Wright, Gareth McAuley, Damien Delaney, Alex Bruce and the on-loan Liam Rosenior have enough about them to prove that their leaky start to the season (29 league goals conceded already) has been merely an extended blip.
And there is enough quality in midfield to suggest creativity shouldn't be a problem.
Carlos Edwards and Grant Leadbitter both have Premier League experience, and the former was a mid-season addition to the Sunderland squad Keane led to promotion in 2006/07.
With Owen Garvan back from the wilderness and another player with good Championship pedigree Ã¢ÂÂ David Norris Ã¢ÂÂ also set to return from injury, there are certainly positive signs for the Blues.
Up-front is more of a concern however.
Jonathan Walters is the club's hot-shot but has netted just five goals this season, while Hungarian forward Tamas Priskin, signed for a fee in excess of ÃÂ£1 million earlier in the year, has failed to settle.
Meanwhile the frustrating Jon Stead, continues to, well, frustrate.
This will surely be the area the fiery Irishman will need to address if he's to work the oracle at Portman Road this term.
It's 25/1 for him to do just that.
He couldn't, could he?
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