|[Blog] More Summer Action Than a Surfer's Wetsuit|
Written by Superfrans on Monday, 11th Jul 2011 11:37
Town fans could be forgiven for pinching themselves this week. These are rare times indeed – as we enter our pre-season friendly programme having already signed five (that’s FIVE, count them) new players.
Close season transfer watchers will be fully aware that this simply isn’t the Ipswich way, certainly not in recent years. A couple of newcomers in mid-August - and then a headlong (perhaps headless?) rush for the transfer window deadline. That’s more our style. But this summer, Paul Jewell has seen more action than a surfer’s wetsuit.
Think about it – as the team prepares for the first pre-season friendlies in Holland, we will be lining up with potentially five new players putting on the blue and white strip. Of course, whether those players are the right signings (or are even fit to wear the shirt), depends on your perspective.
For me, it is hard to fault Paul Jewell and Simon Clegg’s business so far this summer. As the last ball was kicked on May 7, we were heading for a mass exodus – as outlined in my previous blog here. Jewell had a huge job on. Today, 10 weeks after that last match of the season, we have done more than half of the required business and averted a potential crisis.
At the heart of Jewell’s strategy has been the pursuit of experience and a winning mentality – aged 33 and 34, Ivar Ingimarsson and Lee Bowyer certainly bring both of those in spades. Ellington and Chopra are also players who, aged 30 (just) and 28, should be at their peaks, who have both flourished at this level, but who also have something to prove – a potentially excellent combination. For both of them, this may the last chance of glory in their careers; they shouldn’t lack motivation. And, at a combined overall price of £1.5m (all of which was paid for Chopra – half the fee we were quoted 12 months ago), these four new players represent sensational business.
Then, of course, we have Aaron Cresswell. Like most Town fans, I know little of him – aside from the excitement of a few Tweeters and Message Boarders, borne of hours Football Manager gameplay (probably). But he is a young player, in a position where we need reinforcements, who was courted by several other clubs. That’ll do for me – in Jewell we trust.
The greatest controversy surrounding our five newcomers is undoubtedly the arrival of Bowyer. The former Charlton man is a player who will always divide opinion – that reflects the kind of player he is. At his peak, he had creative, goal-scoring flair for a Leeds team which reached the latter stages of the Champions League – but he was also a niggly, midfield irritant who all opposition fans loved to hate. “He simply isn’t an Ipswich player”, is what many fans are saying.
It’s true, we have had few similar players at Portman Road in our history. During the great years, no one fitted the match-winner bill within our UEFA Cup winning midfield trio of Wark, Thijssen and Muhren. Before that, Brian Talbot was a box-to-box midfield dynamo who covered every blade of grass, but with no hint of malice aforethought. More than anyone else, Matt Holland - the captain and midfield enforcer, who was never booked - perhaps epitomises what people mean when they refer to 'the Ipswich way'.
There has, however, been the occasional wind-up merchant among our ranks over the years - the likes of Danny Sonner, even Mauricio Taricco – 'The Silent Assassin', as I remember some calling him at the time. Other than that, Ipswich Town’s most uncompromising players have been defenders – Mick Mills, Allan Hunter, Mogga, Mark Venus, Manu Thetis, Jason Cundy, even The Beat, none of them were shy of a 'solid' sliding challenge, the type of which would be outlawed today.
Bowyer is different, it seems, perhaps partly because of certain, much-documented off-field incidents – the vast majority of which occurred 10 years or so ago. Some will subscribe to the 'once a bad 'un, always a bad 'un' theory – and there will never be much to convince those of that persuasion. But Town fans should be wary of taking the moral high ground – the trials and tribulations of Adam Tanner and Gary Croft, to name just two, should put paid to that.
Besides, there are clear signs that Bowyer has mellowed. Although he holds the record for the most yellow cards in the Premership (over 100, apparently) it is worth noting that he drew just seven yellow cards last season – fewer than both Grant Leadbitter (12) and David Norris (nine).
Not that Jewell wants to see a mellower Bowyer in a Town shirt, I’m sure. He will want the snarling, uncompromising, self-motivated winner who did so well for Leeds and Charlton before that, the type of player we have been missing for too long. That’s why Jewell has signed him. And I don’t have a problem with that for a minute. Just as Chopra is the ugly, arrogant striker who WANTS to score goals, above anything else, Bowyer is the player who WANTS to win – the kind of players which Keane and Magilton (before Jewell) also coveted.
For what it’s worth, just like the sexist old phrase about a perfect wife being 'a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom', I would rather Bowyer was a prince off the pitch and beast on it. But I realise the world isn’t as simple as that. Town need a midfield enforcer, who isn’t afraid to take responsibility and lead the team to victory. We have had a soft underbelly for too long.
And, in Ingimarsson-Bowyer-Chopra, Jewell has acquired an impressive new spine for a team which (as anyone who was at 'those' games last season will testify) was in dire need of serious surgery.
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