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ITFC - Season Preview
Written by willrigs16 on Wednesday, 22nd Aug 2012 14:28

Hi, my name is Will Ridgard and I'm an aspiring sport journalist studying Sport Journalism at the University of Brighton, where I am now entering my third and final year. A keen Ipswich Town fan, I have written my own preview for the season ahead below. Feel free to comment, I welcome any feedback you might have. Hope you enjoy the read. COYB

Following Coventry City’s relegation into League 1 last season, Ipswich Town are now the Championship’s longest-serving side. This will be their 11th consecutive season in England’s second tier.

The aim has always been to get back into the ‘promised land’ of the Premier League but after several flirtations with the play-offs, these never really materialised as The Tractor Boys have now acquired a name as a mid-table side, settling only for mediocrity.

Last season was Paul Jewell’s first full season in charge and arguably little if no progress was made following Roy Keane’s disappointing tenure. Town mustered a 15th placed finish and Jewell was heavily criticised for his transfer policy of brining experienced ex-Premier League players in, who, to be honest, looked to be on their last legs, earning a nice little wager to go with it.

Ivar Ingimarsson, Ibrahima Sonko, Jimmy Bullard and Lee Bowyer all failed to live up to the hype of their ‘former-selves’ in their careers and have now been moved on by Jewell, who after realising his transfer inadequacies, has sought to bring hungrier and younger players to the club this summer.

And although Jewell has found it another hard pre-season to identify and sign certain targets, he has added four new faces to his squad so far.

18-year-old right back Elliott Hewitt looks to be a promising bit of business following his arrival from Macclesfield while goalkeeper Scott Loach will challenge Arran Lee-Barrett for the number one berth. Former Nottingham Forest captain Luke Chambers should also tighten up a rather leaky back-line while high hopes are held for Tottenham midfielder and loanee Massimo Luongo following his impressive performances so far in pre-season.

There is no doubt that the Tractor Boys are still a few faces short of a squad capable of competing in the demanding 46-game long haul of the Npower Championship.

I will now take an in-depth look at the current playing squad and highlight where they may be room for improvement.

Goalkeepers

A position which arguably hasn’t been resolved for a number of seasons, Jewell spent most of his summer targeting and signing an established number one who will give the club and defence the stability and security it needs.

And although Lee-Barrett has proved that he is a more than able shot-stopper, question marks still surround his consistency, something which Jewell obviously had his concerns about.

After seemingly dozens of apparent trialists and transfer targets such as highly rated ex-Hearts stopper Marian Kello and former Red Devil Tomasz Kuszczak, Jewell finally ended his search for a new number one with the signing of ex-England under-21 ‘keeper Scott Loach from Watford.

A boyhood Ipswich Town fan, Loach made his dream move for an undisclosed fee and although Watford fans often criticised Loach for some of his displays, he is still young and maybe just needed a fresh start at a new club. Having performed for the England Under-21s and even been called up to the senior side, he obviously does have the talent, let’s just hope he fulfils that at Ipswich.

Defenders

New signing Hewitt will add competition for current skipper Carlos Edwards at right-back. The Wales under-21 international, who has also captained the under-17 side, is currently recovering from a hip operation and is expected to be fit in September.

At centre-half, the versatile Chambers should settle alongside Tommy Smith, who has just returned from the Olympic Games with New Zealand. Damien Delaney will start as cover, although there has been speculation that the lanky Irishman could be on his way out of Portman Road, with Nottingham Forest reportedly expressing an interest.

I still think we need another quality centre-back to stern up our back-line, which has had a nasty habit of conceding an awful lot of goals in recent seasons. A physically and mentally excelling leader is needed who can vocally shore up and organise not only the back four but others in front of them. Although not everybody’s cup of tea at Town – Gareth McAuley was exactly this and has proven this after his excellent debut season with West Brom in the Premier League. Going back further than that, the last centre-back we had of this calibre was Jason de Vos, and what a defender he was!

At left-back, Aaron Cresswell will look to add to his impressive displays last season which rightly saw him crowned our Player of the Season. Defensively solid, comfortable on the ball and with a sweet left-foot, it is no surprise that Aston Villa inquired about his availability – thankfully though Town managed to push off their interest by setting a price target (reportedly of £6 million) which Villa weren’t prepared to meet.

The promising 18-year-old Joe Whight will look to challenge Cresswell and make his Town debut this season having featured in most of Town’s pre-season fixtures while the versatile Jack Ainsley will look prove that he is more than just a back-up squad player.

Midfielders

Town are worryingly thin of options in central midfield following the departures of Bowyer and Bullard. 19-year-old Luongo looks to be a real gem, and hopefully he will be able to stay for the duration of his season-long loan. Fellow youngster Luke Hyam found his chances limited under Jewell when the ex-Wigan and Derby boss first took charge but after impressing during a spell last season, the academy graduate will look to push on this season and win himself a long-term deal with his boyhood club.

Andy Drury was in a similar position to Hyam last season, shipped out on loan to Crawley, and with speculation rising about his future; Drury got his head down and fought his way into Jewell’s plans, becoming one of the stand-out performers from January onwards. With only three recognised central midfielders, there is certainly room for another – I think an experienced midfielder is needed to balance out the fresh but youthful and inexperienced pairing of Hyam and Luongo (this will be his first full season as a professional). However, although experience is key, the sought-after player must still be able to be fit enough to play this standard of football and certainly still have the urge to want to play, something Bowyer and Bullard failed to live up to during their one-year stays.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas will also look to build on the form he accumulated during 2012. Big things were expected of the Arsenal graduate when he signed last summer but like all players, he took his time to settle before finding his feet in the second half of the season. What you must not forget about JET is that at 21 he is still only young and learning the game. He has already expressed that he is feeling fitter than ever ahead of this season and will hopefully excel and add to the six league goals he scored last year from the right-wing.

Depending on the formation used, Lee Martin has a very important season in front of him. Signed by Roy Keane in 2009, the ex-Manchester United failed to impress and was soon cast out on loan to Charlton and made available for transfer. However, under Jewell, the wideman, who operates best behind the striker, has rekindled his career and is really proving to be a fan favourite with his dazzling, creative and full-of-running displays. Question marks still surround his temperament but with this being the last year of his contract, he will hopefully knuckle down and have a consistent run and good season.

Josh Carson appears the favourite to start on the left-wing if Jewell is to pick his revised 4-2-3-1 formation. Quick and willing to run at defenders, it is a big season for the Northern Ireland international, who has been in and out of the side since Jewell took charge. Daryl Murphy made the position his own when he was on loan last year but with the Irishman seemingly not returning despite interest from Town to make the switch permanent, the pavement is clear for Carson to step in. Ryan Stevenson, signed from Hearts in January, will have something to say about that though. Town fans have not really seen much from the Scot but from first impressions seems a bullish type player who is not afraid to have a shot.

The good thing about JET, Martin, Carson, Stevenson and Drury as well is that they are all versatile in the roles that they can play. If Jewell is to play the 4-2-3-1 formation then they can all play in any position of those three advanced places. Young Byron Lawrence will also look to break more frequently into the squads, having made his debut at the age of just 16 on the last day of the season.

Strikers

Rejuvenated from his rehabilitation after his gambling problems, Michael Chopra starts as Ipswich’s main striker. After coming clean about his addiction, the talismanic forward has revealed that this is the fittest and hungriest he has felt in all his time in professional football. He accumulated 14 goals in 42 games last season, but admits he was far from his best and is targeting around 25-30 this year, nothing like putting pressure on yourself Michael.

Jason Scotland has proven to be a bit of a fan favourite at Portman Road, despite, like many others in the squad, a difficult start. Although not that once deadly fearsome striker at Swansea, the ex-Trinidad and Tobago international can definitely still have an impact at this level of football. At 33, he knows he is not going to start every game but accepts this and is just professional about his job. He can still play a bit too, transforming his game to bring others in to play. He will prove another valuable asset for Town from the bench or if Jewell opts for two upfront, from the start.

Beyond these two, Town are again worryingly short of options. Fresh from his successful loan spell at Swindon last season, academy graduate Ronan Murray should get more minutes for Town this year. Clever on the ball and with an eye for a pass, Murray is also very versatile meaning he could see game time in one of the wide berths or in the role behind the striker over the course of the season.

Nathan Ellington is surplus to requirements so it is clear to see that Jewell needs to add one, maybe two more frontmen to the equation. After being linked with every striker under the sun, I would personally like to see Town sign a big target man striker and a quick nippy one. I think Town fans really miss someone with the character, physical presence and mould of a Shekfi Kuqi/Alan Lee (before he turned to the dark side); they were crowd pleasers who also scored a few goals for the club. Free agents Emile Heskey and Dave Kitson have been linked but I’m not convinced they would do the business.

The trouble with Town’s strikers at the minute is none of them have much height or pace. If we have to go long for one reason or another, we’re not exactly going to trouble Championship defenders in the air are we? They will just gobble it easily. Likewise, if we play a ball over the top - Chops and Scotland are not going to pull away from defenders. When we had someone to bring on like Danny Haynes, the crowd again got excited, he was a fresh young talent who frightened the pants of opposing defenders with his blistering pace (just ask those neighbours down the road). I think we need someone like that again.

Final Overview

It is clear to see that although our starting 11 is strong and very capable of competing in the npower Championship, we do not have the required strength in depth to pull away from this mid-table fiasco we keep finding ourselves in season after season.

We need to add players desperately to our paper-thin squad otherwise it is just no good. Injuries and suspensions do happen over the course of the season, and if we get too many of these at the wrong time or to the wrong players, then you never know what might happen. We currently have 22 players signed on ready and raring to go but eight of these are under the age of 21 and have no or very little playing experience.

As mentioned, we still need around four more players to be able to really compete and fulfil our potential, because don’t get me wrong – we do have some damn good players here but it’s not just about the starting 11 any more, it’s about the whole squad, and at the moment that is only strong enough for a mid-table finish.

Hope you enjoyed the read and if you did feel free to visit my blog - http://willridgard.wordpress.com/ and follow me on twitter - https://twitter.com/WillRidgard

Many Thanks




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irishtim added 16:10 - Aug 22
Good intelligent blog. 3 or 4 more players needed. Hopefully we will find the players with the desire & calibre of making itfc a premiership team once more.
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Blue041273 added 16:59 - Aug 22
A good analysis of the current situation at Portman Road. Good luck in your Sports Journalism aspirations. While the general view is that the squad is short of 3 or 4 players I can't see all of these materialising as permanent signings in this transfer window and that we might have to settle on maybe one additional signing with a view to supplementing the numbers as and when through the loan market. My priority signing would be a tall mobile striker but playing two up front is not a favoured chapter in the PJ book of playing formations.
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TrueBlueFerret added 18:25 - Aug 22
Excellent Blog Young Man,hope all you aspire to comes to fruition in the future.Town hopefully show same committment over this season&then celebrations in order for May........ COYB
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BuckieBlue added 18:26 - Aug 22
Reads pretty professionally to me-well done.
(If this is going to your lecturers for marking, check 'bringing' in para 3 first!)
Hope it all works out for you (and you end up reporting in Town in Premiership sooner rather than later).
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DutchTownFan added 20:56 - Aug 22
Very good blog, keep it up!
I feel we are so close to having a fantastic team this season, but as you, and many others, have pointed out; we need more players! I'm just praying Jewell can still bring the right ones in as I feel we would really have the potential to do very well this season. Time's against us though...
COYB
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tomo added 21:07 - Aug 22
Rob Steen has taught you well! Is Jed still knocking about?
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daniel9624 added 21:44 - Aug 22
and when talking about defenders "stern up the backline" just doesn't sound right
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willrigs16 added 22:06 - Aug 22
Thanks for the feedback guys. Daniel, I was clearly referring to that brilliant loan signing in Stern John we made haha! And Tomo, yeh Jed is still there - relaxed as ever! Did you go?
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Meadowlark added 08:58 - Aug 23
Good analysis but there are lots of typos. One has already been mentioned but there are several more. Read through it again- I'm sure you'll see them. Good luck with the course and your career
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Bergholtblue added 12:04 - Aug 23
I really enjoyed this blog with some thougful insight.

Is this going to be entered as part of your jounalism course or is this just for fun? If the fomer, as already been commented on, there are some typos.

Also, you start off in a third party, factual, neutral, way but you lapse into the first person and you become more partisan as the piece goes on. I am no expert but I would have though that prospective sports editors would not like the "I think" that creeps into it and the references to " we need this" and "we need to do that" .

Still this is nit-picking. As I started off, a nice piece of writing and I wish you all the best for the future.
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JHines added 12:42 - Aug 23
An interesting and insightful read. Agree with your comments and having gone to the Watford game on Tuesday I think we're playing some of the best football for years, long may it continue. Good luck in your career (I
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willrigs16 added 16:22 - Aug 23
Just for fun Bergholtblue, so that's why I start to bring my opinion in more towards the end but yes you are of course right! Highlighted most of the typos now and have changed them on my blog, many thanks.
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willrigs16 added 18:11 - Aug 23
Bergholtblue, yes the piece is just for a bit of fun really (not getting marked or anything like that) which is why I sort of put my personal opinion in towards the end of the piece. As for the typos, most have now been identified and corrected on my blog. Thanks for your comments.
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Pessimistic added 14:15 - Aug 24
Yes Wilrig, this was quite an interesting read. I agree with most of it but it is only fair to remind ourselves of all of P.J.'s purchases. Aaron Creswell was an extraordinary buy and although Jewell looked for a quick fix in his first full season in charge with too many loanees and too many aging players, he has now turned full circle and we have one of the youngest teams in the division!

I wish you success in our journalistic vocation and look forward to reading more from you in the future. In the meantime, come on you blues!
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willrigs16 added 22:15 - Aug 29
Latest piece on the England squad also available here - http://willridgard.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/world-cup-qualifiers-next-for-englan

It's fun supporting both Ipswich and England isn't it?
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