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The Pleasure, the Privilege, Decline?
Written by Mullet on Monday, 29th Aug 2016 10:10

There's a 6ft 3in hole in Ipswich Town right now. Behind the tears in some blue eyes as we enter the international break without Daryl Murphy, the changing of the old guard at Ipswich looks almost complete.

Skipper Luke Chambers is still at right-back, Cole Skuse in the midfield trench and thanks to injuries at least a reinvigorated Jonathan Douglas helps implement Mick McCarthy’s cunning plans.

Alas, as they look up and ahead, no more will the hulking lump of man-candy that straddles four spells and Mick's greatest moments thus far be there. When the league resumes and the fog of Championship war descends once more, so much of our former firepower will be deployed on Tyneside.

The merits of the deal need little discussion. A “no-brainer” said Murph and no complaint was really forthcoming from Mick. Perhaps we all assumed the summer would see us look to life after Daryl, but the scenario is thrust upon us so where does Mick turn? Fifty goals in 123 matches for Mick as a permanent Town striker means that a goal every 2.46 games was scored by the Waterford Pelé.

2000–2002Luton Town0(0)
2002Harrow Borough (loan)3(0)
2002–2005Waterford United99(30)
2005Sheffield Wednesday (loan)4(0)
2010Ipswich Town (loan)18(6)
2011–2012Ipswich Town (loan)33(4)
2012–2013Ipswich Town (loan)39(7)
2013–2016Ipswich Town123(50)

Already in the building is Leon Best, who is on trial. When you hear the name, you may well feel reassured. It is familiar but not altogether famous. He is a striker who is well travelled but never really scaled the heights his early career promised. Like Murphy he is more than six foot tall and capped by Ireland.

Starting at Notts County as a youth he was snapped up by Southampton who were then in the Premier League and before losing to Ipswich in a FA Youth Cup final alongside David McGoldrick, who was also a team-mate at Meadow Lane, began an odyssey around English football, making his debut at 18 before being loaned over three years to QPR, Sheffield Wednesday (twice), Bournemouth and Yeovil, playing in League One before ending his time at Southampton in their play-off final.

2004–2005Queens Park Rangers (loan)5(0)
2005Sheffield Wednesday (loan)2(1)
2006Sheffield Wednesday (loan)11(1)
2006Bournemouth (loan)15(3)
2006–2007Yeovil Town (loan)15(10)

His most successful return an impressive 10 goals in 15 starts for Yeovil during the 2006/07 campaign is a real highlight. He then moved to Coventry where he scored 19 in three seasons of regular football. It was really at Newcastle where he caught my eye in 2010 and where we see his most high profile phase in English football.

A £1.5 million signing he spent a season frustrated behind Andy Carroll and Peter Lovenkrands before scoring a hat-trick in a five-goal demolition of West Ham. It was a performance which seemed to show just what talent he possesses and included some stunning finishes, from close range, with his head and a one-on-one. There is a sense from watching these highlights that Best is a complete striker. A natural athlete that excels.

2007–2010Coventry City92(19)
2010–2012Newcastle United42(10)
2012–2015Blackburn Rovers13(2)
2014Sheffield Wednesday (loan)15(4)
2014–2015Derby County (loan)15(0)
2015Brighton & Hove Albion (loan)13(0)
2015–2016Rotherham United16(4)

Certainly, he has a powerful left foot, an ability to finish and while not the most dominant header of the ball he can score and cause defenders a nuisance. What might appeal most in terms of style is that he seems capable of taking defenders on utilising the ball over the top. Also he clearly flourishes when crosses are played into crowded six-yard boxes. Mick will need to recruit someone who can provide that from both flanks to harness this potential threat if he gives Best a contract.

Newcastle highlights

His last big transfer came with Blackburn recruiting him for double what Newcastle paid and for the sake of symmetry what we just received from Newcastle for Murphy.

He managed an unlucky 13 appearances for his club between another spell of wandering. Two goalless stints at Derby and Brighton came after another spurt of four from 15 at the Owls (perhaps we want him just for the Hillsborough fixture alone). It is in these years Town fans may well have got a better view of Leon as he struggled to hit form or find the target.

In 2015 he went to another club in flux and signed for Rotherham. For the Millers Best scored half of his goals in a fightback against promotion-hopefuls Derby. If Best could muster scoring against former clubs, he would be worth his weight in gold clearly.

His career haul of 63 in 300 appearances means he averages a goal every five games, but his most impressive spell at Yeovil was an unbelievable goal for every game and a half, highlighting the lean and scattergun nature of his professional life.

One area Mick may want to consider carefully is character. In fact one area Mick will consider carefully is character. Best has been dogged not only by Marcus Bent levels of insinuation about his game and demeanour but also off-field questions have been asked. Having worked under Neil Warnock last, and clearly here with the master baiter of the North Stand's opinion hanging over him, the bedding-in period spent with our U23s and senior squad will have been a proving ground no doubt.

You might watch this other video from his time at Newcastle and wonder as to why he and a clearly injured Nile Ranger are performing some sort of duel in the toilets. Unfair to judge a man when he is in his early 20s and at his zenith but it might allude to how he trod a path well worn by those with the ability but not the application to stay at the very top of the game.

Contains partial nudity and terrible attempts at punching.

If Best is not to Mick's taste or only one of the potential replacements within the squad, then the other option to emerge is another semi-familiar name Lukas Jutkiewicz. He completes the trinity of strikers who showed great potential early on before leading an almost nomadic existence between relatively large transfers and semi-serious injuries.

The man we may well hope will trouble defences as much as spell-checkers in and around Suffolk has just recovered a major knee problem missing out on Burnley's promotion season with only half a dozen appearances and one this season so far.

Along with Jutkiewicz is a rumoured double-swoop for Kightly (who incidentally signed the same summer as Jukiewicz at Burnley). Certainly a known quantity to Mick and long-term link for journalists of all work ethics since McCarthy joined the Blues.

There is a sense that patching in two players from the same side (even if it's Burnley's second string) makes sense. Part of us will recall the success Darrens Bent and Ambrose had in stepping up together having familiarised themselves in youth football. It's solid principle but not a certain outcome.

Jutkiewicz is a tad smaller than Murphy at 6ft 1in and is perhaps again not a traditional target man. It's his all-round game that makes the link likely and while he may in some ways be more akin to Luke Varney in not just his injury record but recent ‘goalshyness’ he brings a certain pedigree and hustle that will appeal to Mick as much as it will appal the defences and purists.

2006–2007Swindon Town38(5)
2008Plymouth Argyle (loan)3(0)
2009Huddersfield Town (loan)7(0)
2009–2010Motherwell (loan)33(12)

Making his start at Swindon with a respectable five goals in 38, a big money move to Everton aged 18 for £1 million was where I first noticed the name but not the face as in just one appearance loans to Plymouth, Huddersfield and Motherwell saw a lack of appearances and no goals contrast with a hot streak in Scottish football. A career best of 12 in 33 puts a season of better than one in three in 2009/10 as Jutkiewicz's most appealing period of form. His goal here against Hibernian reminiscent of Murphy in his Portman Road pomp.

He will have passed Leon Best coming out of the door at Coventry and technically replaced him for the Sky Blues. Being recruited by Aidy Boothroyd means Mick's detractors may well be getting sweaty palms at the connection and career trajectory alone, although he took just a week to find the net and scoring a total of 18 goals in just under 70 appearances.

It was this respectable tally that saw Middlesbrough recruit him for just over a £1 million again and while injury early on meant he took a while to get going before his eventual move again, via a loan initially to Bolton, saw him hit double figures on Teesside. A clear demonstration of the no frills poacher more common than the odd long distance drive comes here:

2010–2012Coventry City67(18)
2012Middlesbrough (loan)1(0)
2014Bolton Wanderers (loan)20(7)

It was here he managed another one in three type spell with seven goals in 20 showing that in the right side he clearly clicks. Burnley can only be wrong for him hence Mick's apparent desire to rescue him. Thirty-one appearances and that missed season establishes an unfair perception that he is a striker who never scores. Burnley are the only side he's played for more than seven times and failed to score. The problem may well be that that comes from 2014 onwards. Previous managers to sign them include:

Leon BestLukas Jutkiewicz
Neil WarnockAidy Boothroyd
Chris HughtonSean Dyche
Steve McClarenDougie Freedman
Paul SturrockTony Mowbray

If Mick picks one, both or neither of these strikers there are parallels and omens aplenty. Careers interrupted by injury and poor decisions in the transfer market for the players and parent clubs alike. We see strikers that know the league, know their potential team-mates reasonably well, but maybe won't know the expectations placed upon them.

Mick certainly has lots of youth, but not a lot of time to reshape and reignite an opening month blighted by terrible refereeing decisions and dropped points.

The collapse at Brentford looked remedied and by rights Town should be sitting second in the table, not begging Premier League ones for scraps as most in our position might.

Town's two best strikers are gone, one only until November. In the period where Mick has rebuilt the side, the faith and the belief he has also drawn fire and flak for his approach. One might be flashy off the pitch, the other might have a name for Scrabble but neither are flair players. Let's not kid ourselves.

Murphy's massive boots held up the ball as his lovely Irish shoulders held up the entire team at times. While he has received cult status and criticism for his 27-goal haul in 2014/15 he also demonstrated what happens when a player, a system and a manager achieve synergy.

While you mull over the implications, consider the type of devotion a striker can inspire and ask yourself if a replica shirt bearing the name of either is a sound investment, or is something more unique required?

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bedsitfc added 10:42 - Aug 29
Out of the 2 I would take lukas but we could do with 2 coming in.
I think we are being led down an alley
Best may sign as no fee to pay but I think someone totally off the radar will be signing

bedsitfc added 10:52 - Aug 29
Good post btw

carsey added 11:03 - Aug 29
I hope it's none of the above and McCarthy/Evans have identified someone none of us have thought of and are prepared to pay for him. Either that or McCarthy goes for a complete change and we start playing on the ground through the middle like Arsenal and Barcelona 😂

bluefeast added 11:09 - Aug 29
What a fantastic well written summery. I am personally worried about MM and his track record in the transfer market. If you look at his very long list of signings then it's about 1 in 5 who make it into the first team with any credibility. He also has a sq peg round hole mentality. Chambers , Sears to name just two. So we could blow the cash on poor signings very easily. Players signing from lower leagues are a safer bet. Something to prove they tend to give their all.
Whatever the next two days look interesting...

miltonsnephew added 11:57 - Aug 29
Rickie Lambert, Clayton Donaldson or Victor Anichebe.

bluefeast added 13:44 - Aug 29
All 3 are to old and offer no future. If they were free then fine. There must be either good lower league potentials or loan from prem club. Look at that lad Bristol city got on a season loan from Chelsea . Can't stop scoring. We've got a past it forward who can't score in Vardy. Don't want more of the same.

bedsitfc added 14:43 - Aug 29
Worried about MM in the transfer market really???????

Who has he wasted money on????
Coke, a freebie squad player
Petir, £50k squad player
Mings, 10k sold for 8m + Fraser season loan + pitman

Mainly free transfers come in and we give them a go, if not up to it let them go.
I can't remember 1 transfer flop


bedsitfc added 14:49 - Aug 29
Bru and bajner ok let bajner go against my wishes but bru is a regular
Douglas free and has contributed
Berra free
Knudson - 350k still unsure about him but worth more than 350k we paid
Sears - 100k ok out of form at moment but worth more than 100k
Ward 500k a gem so far
Webster - defo an up and coming defender
Goalkeepers - priceless


DanLyles added 16:57 - Aug 29
A great read Mullet. This is just a hunch but cast your minds back to the pre season friendly at Barnet and the powerful and pacey 6 ft 2in striker called John Akinde. Adept at holding the ball up and bringing others into play, his pace and finishing led to him winning and scoring the penalty which won them the game and gave our centre backs a torrid time.

Now 27, a bit of a late bloomer, having had some poor spells at Bristol City and Portsmouth, he scored 33 goals in the conference, followed by 23 in his first season in league two and 3 already this year. He seems unfazed by stepping up through the leagues so far and may have a cheap release clause.

Watch his YouTube videos (admittedly not always a balanced indicator of ability) because I think he would suit the rough and tumble of the Championship. His performances against our centre backs, who are no mugs, also suggest he could step up.

Mullet added 18:40 - Aug 29
Thanks all. I think it brings into sharp focus the position we are in. Buying a ready-made replacement simply isn't feasible. It'll require faith and work.

bedsitfc added 18:49 - Aug 29
Good shout
Strong, pacey and a worker. Wins and converts a lot of penaltys too

DurhamTownFan added 09:21 - Aug 30
Very nicely written blog. If it was one of my students essays you'd get a top score!

Not much to add to this, bar that I hope we get it all done soon so we can relax a bit.

MVBlue added 21:00 - Aug 30
Good read and videos

phillymark added 13:54 - Aug 31
Love the title. There Is a Light
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