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Fans on Forums Across the Country Pay Tribute to Kevin Beattie…
at 22:30 17 Sep 2018

I thought it might be helpful to have a look around the country to see how fans of other teams have responded to this weekend’s very sad news. Such was Kevin’s reputation that it became quickly apparent that every message-board I visited had some kind words or memories to share about the great man. Here is just a small sample - there have been enough tributes to fill a book…

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Liverpool

“RIP Kevin Beattie and respect to what you gave English football. He was one of those players everyone said had everything but he got badly injured and never quite recovered, and that Ipswich team were very, very good. They would probably have won a title if it wasn't for us.”

“Bobby Robson always said he was one of the greatest players he had ever worked with, that’s not something a man like Robson says lightly”, “That is really sad news. The LFC younger generation won't know what a solid player he was in a pretty awesome Ipswich side back in the day. It’s really sad news, as 64 is no age.”

“What a shame. His is an iconic name from my childhood. I have just been watching his goal against West Brom in 76/77. What a rocket. It was such a shame about his injuries. RIP”, “Sad news. My dad is an Ipswich fan and I'm very familiar with their great teams of the past. They would have won a few titles if it wasn't for us.

“He told me the story of how Bill Shankly told him of his regret for not signing him. The story was that as a 15-year-old, he turned up at Lime St for his trial. No one met him (as planned) and he had no money, so got on the train back to Carlisle. A week later Ipswich signed him up.”

“He was immense, an uncompromising solid defender, but above all else an excellent footballer. He forged a defensive partnership with a lad called Hunter I seem to remember, in what was an outstanding Ipswich team. I always thought he'd have fitted in well at LFC (who to leave out!?) but it wasn't meant to be as your post reminds us. It’s a sad loss at such a relatively young age.”

“A sad loss for his family and the game, a hard as nails, uncompromising player but fair. Kevin played in an excellent Ipswich side and for England. RIP Beat, lad”, “Ipswich had a great team in the late 70s, early 80s Paul Cooper, Mick Mills, Kevin Beattie, Terry Butcher, John Wark, Paul Mariner etc. Ipswich winning the FA Cup was the first one I can remember watching as a kid. ‘Osborne 1-0’…

“Great memories RIP KB.”

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Leeds United

“RIP Kevin Beattie, a tough and skilful defender in a marvellous team back in 70's”, “A great player, I remember going down to Filbert Street in 1975 v Ipswich for the two FA Cup replays. The first ended 0-0 and on the Thursday night we lost 3-2. A Clive Woods winner I think. They did have a good side then. RIP.”

“Don Revie handed him is first cap when England beat Cyprus 5 - 0 and Malcolm Macdonald scored all five. Beattie had a goal disallowed. I was in the crowd that night as I used to go fairly regularly to watch England back then. He was a tremendous player whose career was blighted by injury.”

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Manchester City

“RIP Kevin. This is very sad news. I remember him as part of Sir Bobby Robson's great Ipswich side of the mid-late '70s. He was some player with a sweet left-peg and incredible aerial ability”, “An excellent player who sadly never realised his full potential due to a string of serious injuries.”

“Very sad to hear, as others have said. What a fantastic player in an exceptional Ipswich side, and no doubt would have been even better had he not had a few injury problems. I’m pretty sure he was the stand in for the football scenes for Michael Caine in 'Escape to victory'.”

“A top, top player who, injuries aside, would have graced any side. The best Ipswich player I have seen ever. RIP big man”, “A great player. RIP Kevin. I remember when he broke Kenny Clements’s leg. You could hear the crack in the Kippax.”

“I was in the corner section of the Platt Lane and the Main Stand with my dad. They both broke their legs. The impact went through the ball, they both got the ball! Neither gave an inch on that tackle. Kenny never recovered his pace and for Beattie it was another injury. What a player, a by-your-side-in-the-trenches type.”

“That Ipswich side was very, very good. I feared the worst when City were drawn against them for the 1981 FA Cup Semi-Final. You only have to look at this side that was packed with top players”, “That Cup Semi-Final in 81 at Villa Park could have turned out very differently if he had scored with a typically powerful first half header...”

“Beattie had been a doubt all week and he was passed fit. I was hoping he would have been out injured as he was such an influence on that team. You could tell maybe he shouldn't have played as he wasn't 100% but was still a fearsome player for the opposition. I was supporting Ipswich a few weeks later when they won the UEFA Cup and deservedly so.”

“He was one of those players that you wish was in your team, a brilliant defender and strong as an ox. Ipswich had a great team in that era, Mills, Mariner, Boiled B0ll0ck, Muhren, Thijssen, and Beattie was a good footballer. He could use the ball as well. It was scandalous that he only got nine England caps but he did have injury issues. It’s so sad to hear of his passing.”

“He was a great player and legend for the Tractor Boys – RIP”, “A fantastic centre half, committed, brave, skilful and a real leader of men.”

“I remember one match in particular where he was in his prime. He strode out of defence, shimmed past a player and sprayed the ball 60 yards to a team mate on the opposite side of the Portman Road pitch. He had great skill and athleticism for a centre back and ever really got the credit he deserved for his top-notch footballing ability. RIP Kevin Beattie, a sad sad day for Ipswich Town Football club.”

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Millwall

“RIP Kevin, a superb competitor. I think it was former Millwall manager Ron Gray who discovered Kevin when Ron was an Ipswich scout”, “An old school player who gave his all on the pitch and the like of which don't exist anymore. R I P Kevin. Not Millwall....but one hell of a player.”

“I was just thinking that he was a player from a very different generation from today's lot, a player who really grafted who would find it difficult to fit in today with the softies that play the game today, not to mention the whistle happy referees. Then it dawned on me that I am almost the same age!”

“A cracking player the likes of which are missed today, only 64.”, “He scored in the 5-1 win over the Jocks at Wembley”, “I remember seeing him play one night at QPR for Ipswich - he was immense and almost single-handedly kept QPR out.”

“He was a Millwall player in all but shirt. He ever gave less than 100% - and he paid for it with many injuries which eventually ended his professional career”, “This. He should and would have had many more England caps, in an era when such things mattered, if not for all those injuries. Great is used to freely when describing players, but I truly believe he was a great. RIP”

“It shows how quickly the sport has changed, the diluted version we see today seems dire without these characters in it. The gulf between players and fans couldn't be further apart", “You lot are lucky to have such players to look back on. Players my age are mostly detestable c****: Ferdinand, Terry, Sutton, Barton, Savage etc.”

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Glasgow Rangers

“RIP Mr Beattie, respect and condolences to family and friends”, “I have just seen that mate. Sad news, he was a very good player”, He was a rock in the centre of defence for a great Ipswich team. A very good player and hard as nails”, “He was a tremendous player in an Ipswich team that were a joy to watch”, “What a player he was, hard as nails but with a wand of a left foot.”

“I saw the Ipswich side that beat us 2-1 at Ibrox at the beginning of the 80s, a fantastic team with talented players in every position but I don't think he played that day. I do remember the 5-1 game at Wembley where he was outstanding and head and shoulders above anyone else on the park which included Bell, Ball, Keegan, Todd, Francis, Jardine, McGrain, Dalglish.”

“I was at Wembley in 1975 when England won 5-1 against Scotland. He was the best player on the park. Looked like a star for years to come but I'm sure he was plagued by injury”, “He was a class above that day and bossed the game.”

“Sad news, as a youngster he was seen as an England stalwart for years and compared to the great Duncan Edwards but unfortunately injuries curtailed his career. He still made the team for ‘Escape to Victory’.”

“He was an outstanding player whose career was curtailed by injuries. A terrible piece of news. As other posters have noted, he was imperious as England horsed us in 1975 and was an utter joy, albeit through clenched teeth, to watch. Rest in peace.”


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West Ham United

“RIP a great player who was always fully committed”, “He was a cracking player and the Ipswich Cup Final winning team was a special team. They could play football the right way and he was vital to that team”, “I know a lot of Ipswich lads and he will be sadly missed, by all accounts a top man as well as a top player.”

“Very very sad news, such a shame. Bobby Robson said he was the greatest player he ever saw, who would argue with that man. I went to Kevin Beattie's house once, a mate of mine in Ipswich knew him, blimey he was a big lad. Nice bloke, very decent, RIP.”

“Sad news. A great servant to his club who was part of a fantastic Ipswich team led by Sir Bobby Robson that probably should have won the league (and may well have, but for Bob Paisley's all-conquering Liverpool side).”

“Very sad to hear of his passing. A very good footballer from an era where the competitions were on a leveller playing field and teams from cities like Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and Southampton could win trophies.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. He was a great player from Ipswich's golden era. I remember that he played a stormer against us in the 1975 cup Semi-Final at Villa Park. We were a tad lucky to get the replay, and the rest is history. RIP fella.

“He was never dirty but the kind of player you would know you had played against. Ipswich Town supporters will be feeling pretty sad today. They have had no better player since he retired.”

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Norwich City

“Putting everything to one side, Kevin Beattie was a great centre back at a time when that lot down the road had a few decent players. He was up there with the best of them”, “He was an excellent player in a very excellent team”, “Sad news indeed, he a great player for both Ipswich and England, my thoughts are with his family and friends.”

“He was a great player who rightly so became an ITFC legend. He was taken far too early at 64, a real shame”, “Credit where it's due, he was a massive player for them back in the day and he seemed like a really genuine fellow, very sad”, “A devoted fan to his old team and still broadcast at their games.”

“This is such a sad loss. He was a truly awesome player at his best. Without doubt he would have racked up 100+ caps for England had savage knee injuries not ruined his career”, “A good player for them when Ipswich had their best years. A colossus for England and one from the old school of footballers.”

“Sad news. He was very good player and big-hearted, a great loss at only 64”, “He was a fantastic player for both Ipswich and England and could head the ball as hard as some could kick it”, “A player I remember from their good team who was such a difficult opponent. RIP”, “A great player, when that lot down the road lorded it over us back in the olden days.”

“Yes, sad news. He was the best player Ipswich ever had I would say. I hated his guts until he played for England - remember his header against the Sweaties? RIP Beattie”, “If he hadn't been so seriously injured, the England team might have been in a better place too.”

“I can just about remember him playing, more for England than Ipswich. That Admiral kit for England is iconic and players like Beattie, Keegan, Wilkins are embedded in my earliest memories of watching international football”, “There are not too many defenders around like him anymore.”

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Sunderland

“Great player in a great team. RIP”, “Kevin was a hard as nails centre half who made Norman Hunter look like Julian Clary”, “A good player and a big part of an excellent Ipswich Town team”, “He could put himself about when he had to but was much more of a footballer than the average 70's clogger.”

“I’m so sorry to hear of this today. I had the pleasure a few years ago of a couple of nights out with him whilst going to Ipswich for the opening of the Bobby Robson stand with one of his best mates at the club. A lovely bloke full of fun and stories and what a player. He would have gained many more caps but for injuries. A real Ipswich Town and English legend has passed away today. God bless him.”

“My Dad didn't tend to eulogise players, especially from the seventies on, but he talked of Beattie as a player on a different level. He had quality and power, and he stood out in an exceptional team at Ipswich. His injuries robbed football of a great player”, “Aye, he had everything but was blighted with injuries though, 64 is no age to go.”

“Anyone who grew up watching football in the 1970s has heard of this bloke. A northern lad, one of many who ended up at Ipswich Town. I remember going with my dad in about 1975 to watch Middlesbrough v Ipswich and he was amazing. A true great whose career was ruined by injuries. Sad to hear of his passing”

“For those not quite old enough to remember him, think of Paul McGrath or Ledley King. All top-class defenders who could have been even better if it wasn't for injuries”, “He was struggling with his knees when he played for Boro. Every now and then he would have a game where you would see what a tremendous player he was.”

“I seem to remember that at one point, early in his career, he was compared to Duncan Edwards. Does anyone else remember that?”, “I can, he was a very good player indeed”, “He really was the real deal as a player”, “This totally. I grew up watching him, great player for Ipswich. This is very sad news. He was a colossus in the 1978 FA Cup Final when the brilliant Ipswich side beat Arsenal.”

“He was an integral part to a very good Ipswich Town side. FA Cup and UEFA Cup winners, a side that were one of the main rivals to the virtually invincible Liverpool side of the time. Sad news”, “A very good player in his day when football meant something to the players and not just the money.”

“He was always a one you looked out for in your sticker book as a kid, lots of swaps which usually meant he was a top player”, “Had it not been for injuries he would have been a permanent fixture in the England team”, A fine player, the rare sort you could build a team around. Rock solid and nee little skill either. Peace be with him, his family & friends.”

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Brighton & Hove Albion

“RIP big man, a great player in a great team. It was a privilege to live in Suffolk then and go along to Portman Road to see Bobby Robson's wonderful team”, “A true great, one of Bobby Robson’s gems”, “A true Town legend, rest easy big man and thank you for the memories.”

“Beattie was a great player, who surely would have got more caps but for injury”, “One of the very best ball-playing centre-backs I've ever seen. What a team that Ipswich side was”, “He was playing for England on my first ever trip to the old Wembley as part of a school trip. A really fond memory.”

“Same here. Our secondary school used to take a couple of coach loads up for midweek England matches in the late 1970's. This was my first and Beattie was in the team against the brilliant Dutch. Beattie was worthy of his place.”

“I remember him nearly putting Tony Towner over a Portman Road stand with a legitimate block tackle back in the late 70’s at the start of that great League Cup run when we were in Division three (in the days when a Seagull Special was a train!)”, “He was a player ahead of his time.”

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Preston North End

“RIP Kevin Beattie, a quality player in his day”, “I used to love watching him play. People tell me he was also a really decent bloke too. RIP”, “I'll always remember him for his hair.”

“I remember that Ipswich side when I was a kid. Beattie, Mariner, Wark, Cooper, Brazil etc. What a good side that was, slugging it out with Arsenal for the top honours with no Manchester City, Chelsea or Manchester United in sight of them.”

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Carlisle United

“Well that news has just spoiled my day. Kevin Beattie you are a legend, RIP”, “He was in the same year as my brother at Newman School”, “’Hiya Mam!’. I remember him saying that during Ipswich Towns post-match FA Cup celebrations live on television.”

“RIP Kevin, the best Cumbrian footballer ever. Very sad news as everyone has said has to be the best player to come from this area. ‘One of the best players to play the game’ - Bobby Robson. That is some statement if you consider who Bobby had worked with!”

“Back in the day I lived to the west of Melbourne Park and in the long summer nights we would play football on the park until dark. I remember many a time our side taking on the other side of the park, usually about 20-a-side games going on for hours…

“The first time I saw Kev play you could tell how good he was, scored a goal from what seemed like the half way line and the ball was still rising when it went past the floundering goalie. Great memories. RIP Kevin Beattie.”

“He sat right behind us at the Birmingham Auto Windscreens Final and every single one of the lads got their programmes signed. Four of us had passes to the after-match reception at the old Wembley Hilton and he came with us…

“Security was tight we had our tickets checked a dozen times, yet not once did anybody ask him for his (a good job because he didn't have one) and he stuck a couple of rounds of drinks for us on Alan Brazil's tab.”

“I used to work on the Post Office counter in 1970 and Kevin used to send his dad a money-order every week, such a genuine bloke was Kevin.”

“Kevin never forgot where he came from and was proud to be a Cumbrian. The word legend is banded around too much these days but Kevin Beattie truly was a fantastic player from Carlisle. At the time at Ipswich Sir Bobby Robson said that he was the best English footballer that he had ever seen. One of the true greats.

“He stuck something like six past the under-16 team I played for. He was totally unstoppable. He was great in the air for his size too", "I saw him score the second at Wembley against Scotland in 1975. I jumped up to celebrate before realizing I was in the Scotland end full of 25,000 upset Scots.”

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This small sample of tributes will give everyone an idea of the sheer scale of just how highly Kevin was regarded by fans throughout the country. That said, the conclusion of his 1998 memoir ‘the Beat’ showed where his heart truly remained. It was so very fitting that George Burley was able to fulfil the wish he expressed in the final paragraph his book…

“Ipswich Town is in my blood, it is part of me and my life. I love the town, the supporters and the people of Suffolk and I hope one day I see them playing in the Premiership and back in Europe just as I had the privilege to do all those years ago.”


[Post edited 17 Sep 23:28]
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Nights at the Circus – Late Reflections on Last Night’s Game at Derby
at 15:30 22 Aug 2018

The rise of podcasts in the last few years has been an interesting phenomenon to observe. Ranging from the knowledgeable and well-informed to the downright weird, it was hard to know what to make of them at first but over time they have definitely emerged as the verbal fanzines of our era.

Anyone listening to the BBC’s wretched radio coverage of the Friday night Reading v Derby game which kicked off the Championship campaign three weeks ago will have immediately understood why they have grown in popularity. “Frank has gone through a roller-coaster of emotions. He had his head in his hands when Reading scored but he was jumping for joy when they equalized.”

The FiveLive coverage got worse. “Frank was hugging the rest of the substitutes and training staff” when they took the lead, and “was cool and calm, classy and collected as ever at full time”. “Frank Lampard will take home three points.” If this wasn’t enough, they finished – horror of horrors – with the news that, “we are covering the Aberdeen v Steven Gerrard’s Rangers game on Sunday”.

With coverage as dismal as this – and the most galling thing is that they are being well paid to put this bilge out – is it any wonder that people are now turning to programmes put together by fellow fans who only want to discuss the game having given it some thought? I was vexed initially by the “Frank Lampard’s Derby” drivel, but realise that it summarises our status in the eyes of the media.

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We had the same circus with ‘Roy Keane’s Ipswich’ and it became pretty tedious once the gilt had worn off and we realised that he was taking us collectively into the house of Slytherin. Frankie in contrast seems to be a bouncy and chipper character, but he has little time to play with given the money Derby have spent and a fan base whose expectations have been proportionately raised.

A 'tinkering' theme has grown with Lampard’s early team rotations, but this may have been his trying to land on the right balance from his inflated squad. The inclusion of George Evans in a holding role, along with Craig Forsyth at left-back and Mason Bennett on the right wing all made sense. They were all operating in their correct positions and all three had played well in recent games.

We don’t have quite so many options, so it was a question of who could cover on our left-wing. Grant Ward playing in front of Jonas Knudsen was a blast from the last few seasons, in contrast with new boys Janoi Donacien and Gwion Edwards pairing up on our right side. It was a mild evening with the sun setting behind our stadium view as the game kicked off, a perfect evening for a football match.

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“Paul Hurst’s barmy army!” The opening 15 minutes were to reflect the wider pattern of the game. Two sides, neither of whom were physically dominant, were trying to play neat passing football on the deck but were also incapable of doing so. Passes were being under or overhit, runs weren’t being read and momentary lapses in concentration would lead to disrupting turnovers in possession.

“Oh, Bobby Zamora!”, “You’ll never go up!”, “You’re just a **** Nottingham Forest!” With little to entertain us on the pitch, the two sets of fans played a benign game of song-tennis to keep us all amused. One thing which was quickly apparent was our lack of high pressing in the early exchanges. We would occasionally try to close down an individual player but these were usually isolated.

Trevoh Chalobah was the deepest of our three midfielders and he found the going here a lot tougher than at Exeter. One momentary early slip set Mason Mount off but Derby were unable to capitalise on his error. He kept his fellow Chelsea loanee well shackled and was positionally comfortable but with less time, he was less threatening and he also struggled to influence the pattern of our play.

Gwion Edwards was as lively as ever but he also found the going tougher against a wily experienced left-back in Craig Forsyth. He got free on a couple of occasions but the Scotsman used his strength and occasional ruggedness to keep him quiet. Derby were not malicious, but they were streetwise, with Edwards and Jon Nolan being targeted with softeners in less threatening areas of the pitch.

They weren’t afraid to take yellow cards for the team. Craig Bryson and Richard Keogh cynically took Grant Ward out when we had 2-v-1 counter-attacks beckoning. Ward was alert and more energetic than in his Exeter showing and his set-pieces often were of a decent standard but his industry, like that of all of our midfielders, still lacked a focus and a purpose. Our attackers were all playing alone.

We used Ellis Harrison’s heading ability as a focal point from goal-kicks and deeper free-kicks, much as we did with Joe Garner last season. Everybody has referenced his isolation in post-match thoughts because this is true. Our wide attackers and central midfielders are not getting forward to support him. He would be twice the threat he is if his team-mates could get 10 yards further up the pitch.

If Harrison was struggling with his isolation, Jon Nolan found this game even more problematic. He seemed to pick up a knock early on which he ran off, but at no point did he look like dictating the tempo although he combined well with Knudsen. A couple of weak shots summed up his attacking threat and my friend’s comment about him needing to bulk up physically struck a chord with me.

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The scoreless first half was an accurate reflection of both the balance of the game and the fact that neither side looked capable of scoring. Chatting in the concourse at the interval, there was little to say about the game. It wasn’t quite pre-season as both teams were trying, but nothing happened. We were happy with what we were trying to do but I sensed an increasing impatience from the Rams.

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“Why do we always seem to get yellow cards as an afterthought?” Skuse’s early caution after the break heralded his departure. He had tried to push forward before the interval, harassing Carson at one point, but supporting a playmaker is not his natural role and more central creativity might have improved our balance. The feisty Flynn Downes replaced him but didn’t add greatly to our creativity.

We could have dealt more assertively with the corner-kick which fell to Joe Ledley for the opening goal, but one over-riding issue was Derby getting their shots on target when in dangerous areas whereas we were hitting and hoping or failing to connect when truly threatening moments arose. As well as supporting our lone striker from midfield, we have to be more ruthless with our finishing.

Watching Aristote Nsiala I often think of Tyrone Mings. Our new centre-back isn’t as cultured on the ball and often plays his passes half-a-Weetabix too heavy, but he is positionally good and solid in the tackle. His foul on Tom Lawrence which led to their second goal had more to do with the pace of the moment rather than any malice, but it brought back one comment Mings made at a fans’ meet-up.

“There are two big differences between playing at Chippenham level and at Championship level. The pace of Championship football is far quicker, and if you make a mistake, you will be punished.” It’s not just Nsiala who is on this learning curve – he just happened to be the player caught out last night - but it is a risk we will run with all our new recruits as they grow accustomed to playing at this level.

Derby fans had criticised Lawrence for being their archetypal circus act, scoring great set-pieces or goals of momentary individual brilliance but doing little else. This was true last night, and it was in no small part to Donacien’s shackling of him. Our new right-back could possibly have pushed forward to help Edwards, but he kept Lawrence properly under wraps with some superb running and tackling.

Kayden Jackson’s introduction for Harrison meant that we had a different type of striker but with the same underlying lack of support. Jackson was using pace, but one late break saw him drive towards the box with five Derby players covering and three Town team mates getting there too late. Nobody deserves individual criticism but collectively we are too weak and disparate as an attacking unit.

“Frankie, Frankie give us a wave!”, “Hurrah!”, “Super Frankie Lampard!” I smiled when the home fans cried out to acclaim their manager with the game petering out. About an hour earlier they had been murmuring the frustration and discontent I had picked up on over the weekend on their forum. The Rams will tolerate this circus but only for as long at it gets them results.

You could see the obvious disappointment on the players’ faces at full time but it was heartening to see the positive response from the away fans. As I said after the Exeter game, there are times when this feels like a terrifying gamble, but this inexperienced team need to know we have their backs. It was reassuring to see us bolstering their confidence last night as they will definitely need this.

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The walk back with a fellow Blue to our cars with took place in reflective silence, apart from one consoling comment from a passing Ram of “two mid-table teams, one of whom got lucky with a couple of goals”. I’m not so sure about that. There were elements of our display which had echoes of Barnsley’s performance at Portman Road on the night overshadowed by Mick’s theatrical departure.

I have always felt that our fate this season will hang on how we crack the final third of the pitch. The soft set-piece goals are a proper irritation, but they only turn one point gained into none. The issue of turning one point into three is a far more pressing concern, and right now it looks as though this is where we should be turning our gaze both on the training ground and in any transfer dealings.

We need defensive cover, but we have to crack the problem of moving the midfield up the pitch and narrowing the distance to our striker, along with working the keeper more with our finishing. I came away from last night praying for the safe return of Emyr Huws. Our midfield would have had a much better creative balance last night if we had a player of his ilk instead of Skuse or Chalobah.

The issue of fatigue within the squad came to mind as well as I sat in the car waiting for the queues to clear. The squad may not have pressed Derby so much due to the physical exertions of Saturday’s Villa game, but I was also mindful that there is a risk of mental tiredness with so many games coming on top of each other and so many new players getting to grips with playing at this new higher level.

Mick always used to say that Marcus Evans was very even whether we won or lost games. This will be a huge strength if we continue to stutter in these opening games, but if I was in Evans’s shoes my thoughts would revolve around the support Hurst was getting. This is a huge ask for him and an area of risk. It’s not just the players who are making a huge leap from lower-leagues to the Championship.

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I am glad we didn’t appoint Frank Lampard and I was relieved to get away from the circus at Derby. They may have won last night but their lack of patience with managers have left them with a bloated and unbalanced squad of high-earning misfits who they can’t offload. Relegation may not be a worry right now but Wigan were ultimately undone this way. This is a gamble which could really backfire.

As for us, well, it’s true that relegated teams usually have more than one thing wrong with them and this is where we are right now. I got back to Bath at 2am and the same hopes and fears were there heading down a quiet M5 as had been there heading up the same road from Exeter seven days earlier.

We can see what needs addressing. Some fixes will be on the training ground, some on the pitch and some through reinforcements, while the importance of maintaining the squad's confidence is huge right now. I am no less terrified than a week ago but I can see how our pathway is starting to emerge. As the great Hobbit once said, "There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something."


[Post edited 22 Aug 15:43]
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Lots of Little Victories – Late Reflections on Last Night's Game at Exeter
at 14:58 15 Aug 2018

I have fond memories of Exeter. In a previous job looking after a number of bookshops in the South West, the company I worked for had two shops in the City. One of these backed on to the Green by the Cathedral, and the manager who ran it had the best natural judgement I have ever known when it came to understanding her customers and knowing precisely the right books to put on the shelves.

“It’s about lots of little victories, you know.” Every so often a phrase hits you like a thunderbolt. We were sitting on the Green with our lunch when she came out with this sidewinder and it has never left me. So many businesses are wrecked by corporate egotists who believe that they can alter the world with one stroke of genius. Life doesn’t work like that. It’s the little victories that get you there.

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This conversation returned to me as I navigated my way through the maze of roads meandering to the centre of the City. This small labyrinth would have been especially unwelcome if you had made the six-to-seven hour trip from Suffolk. I made good time and was able to meander up to the ground and chat with a steward who seen first-hand the highs and lows of the Grecians’ last two decades.

The club have had their fair share of their corporate egotists, with John Russell and Mike Lewis (two directors in charge during the 2002/3 season) convicted of fraudulent trading at the club. I was also entertained by stories of train journeys involving Michael Jackson, David Blaine and Uri Geller, my host memorably concluding with the words “you were never sure quite what would happen next”.

It’s all very different now. With their new stand virtually finished and other construction work being planned, the tidy St James Park was a statement of progress and ambition. Our starting XI was seen as a positive contrast to Mick’s cup sides and there was excitement at Teddy Bishop’s appearance on the bench. Freddy Sears and Grant Ward weren’t out-and-out wingers but the shape looked decent.

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“Exeter have got drums.” They do, as anyone who watched their recent highlights will know. It must be hell following them as away fans as there is no escaping the noise. The Grecians didn’t lead with their strongest XI, but they emphasised experience with the likes of Craig Woodman and Lee Martin in the side. They had a 4-4-2 shape, but a style of play the complete polar opposite of Lincoln’s.

Off we started, and it was football but not as we have known it for years. We mixed clever short pass and move football with neat longer balls to switch direction and create space. Both full-backs were up by the corner flag, and I had never seen Jonas Knudsen ping so many crosses in as he linked up with Sears and Tayo Edun in particular. This was a vision of the future and I was quickly besotted.

Exeter battened down the hatches for the opening quarter of an hour. They had little choice because we were all over them. The only problem was converting this into hard chances as the pretty build-up play foundered on a lack of a final shot or killer pass. I could see how we had flattered to deceive at Rotherham and was tempted to dig out clips of how Shrewsbury actually did score last season.

One foray by Kayden Jackson down the right saw Edun on his own with five Exeter defenders in the box, and this was followed was an eight vs two imbalance when the ensuing corner was quickly taken. We varied our corner routines during the game as we lacked the aerial dominance to combat Exeter’s titans, but you could see the wider problem that we haven’t worked out how to score yet.

When the goal did come, it was due to Edun’s persistence as much as anything. He slalomed his way past a series of meaty challenges before releasing Jackson. Edun is highly talented with a good vision and a knack for a delicate pass in a congested area, but he was unthinking and raw with some of his passing. One telegraphed pass across the Exeter area released the alert Lee Martin on the counter.

Jackson is all about pace, but his goal highlighted his streetwise side as he knew what he was doing when drilling the goal past Christy Pym’s near post. He skinned Troy Brown on a few occasions but he often lacked support and grew increasingly isolated as the game progressed. He needs supply from the wings and more importantly he needs midfield support if we are to get the best from him.

Therein lies what would become an increasing problem as the game progressed. With Knudsen and Janoi Donacien hammering up the wings, it was incumbent on Sears and Grant Ward to either hit the penalty area or provide overloads on the wings. While both were alert and industrious as ever, they seemed incapable of reading the signals and neither contributed little of effect to prise Exeter apart.

There were some familiar groans when Knudsen’s final ball wouldn’t quite come off, but to be fair to him he never stopped attacking and linking with Edun and Jackson. He did get caught out of position several times and Lee Martin was ever-eager to pounce. The former Town man fired in a cross which City’s Matt Jay bundled wide, this being Exeter’s only decent first-half chance before our opener.

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A chorus of ‘Edward Ebenezer Jeremiah Brown’ bellowed out as the half drew to a close. The mood at the interval was pretty relaxed. Exeter had grown more into the game as it progressed but they really didn’t give Bart anything to do. One small detail I did pick up was the intense short-passing drills being worked on by our substitutes in contrast to the Exeter long-range showboat passing.

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As is often the case, the team trailing came out with renewed purpose after the break. I was alarmed by our static defending when Grecians’ substitute Archie Collins broke into the area and hit the side-netting with his shot. City’s heralded midfielder Hiram Boateng had a quiet first half but now broke free on the left, but Canary loanee Tristan Abrahams didn’t connect. These were warning signs.

Toto Nsiala looks a confident and athletic defender. He takes up good positions, is physically capable of handling most striking units and his tackling, intercepting and timely nudges were all good to see. He was a far more reassuring presence than Luke Chambers, whose passing was often wayward. One wild Chambers’ clearance yielded up the set-piece from which Exeter would grab their equaliser.

After the game I worried about Chambers, but the wider truth is that we as fans are fretting over the wrong players. The new arrivals were comfortable throughout the 90 minutes with what is asked of them. They are naïve and raw at times (and this will cost us) but the established players are having to adapt to a new footballing and tactical model after up to five years of doing something different.

I felt that Jon Nolan had a quiet game. He had one deflected shot in the first half and should have hit the target with one second-half effort, but his link-up play was subdued partly a result of people not being on his wavelength yet, but he was also corralled by Exeter’s holding man Jordan Tillson and targeted with some nasty challenges, one of which could have seen City’s Jake Taylor dismissed.

Which brings me to the subject of the referee. Mr Huxtable had a poor evening and I felt that there were differing burdens of proof for each team. Marginal decisions increasingly favoured the hosts as the game wore on. He criminally killed one Town advantage with the Exeter defence spread-eagled and we had a huge counter-attack building. Call me cynical, but he didn’t have a long journey home.

Although the game finished at a canter, we had become ragged and frustrated, and Jordan Spence can count himself lucky that he remained on the pitch after one late petulant stamp. Spence worked hard, but he fitted the wider pattern of the inherited squad struggling to adapt to the new model of playing. I felt that Janoi Donacien as an up-and-down attacking right-back had been more effective.

The game concluded with both teams going for it but it was in many ways thanks to Trevoh Chalobah that it went to spot-kicks. I have saved this guy to the end because he was the most special thing I witnessed on the night. If we are to climb out of this early-season predicament, we will look back to the Chelsea loanee and thank him for the fundamental part he will have played in doing this.

I have not seen a Town player with a better positional sense in years. Cole Skuse is effective at this, but Chalobah’s reading of danger and knowing where to be is unnatural. Time and again as Exeter broke forward he was on hand to flick a header, intercept a pass or collect a parry away from Bart. You could usually read how well or otherwise we were doing by looking at where he was stationed.

In possession, he has a lovely touch and a knack of taking a player out with a simple trapping of the ball. With Nolan finding options hard to come by, Chalobah would often move forward as a deeper-lying playmaker to link play with Edun or the over lapping full-backs. He was the most defensive of the three midfielders on the team sheet, but he was instrumental in much of our build-up play.

It was so unfair that Chalobah’s penalty hit the van in the building site behind the goal, although we wonder if you should get bonus points for this. The shoot-out was hardly England-Colombia. There was an amusing sight of one Exeter player sprinting forward to embrace Lee Martin after he scored the winner only to stop when he realised none of his team-mates were overcome with emotion.

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Before the game, one Town fan chatting in the pub had compared the parting of Mick to a divorce. The fear of the consequences breaking away need to be benchmarked against previous unhappiness. It was a very apt analogy – Mick himself said that things had become stale – but a divorce requires an act of destruction before you can build a new future, and innocent bystanders will be affected.

Reflecting on the journey home on the M5, it was clear to me just how broken things are right now. If we play like this all season we will be relegated, but we know that we won’t. There’s enough in this squad to build a competitive team, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the impact these changes are having on the remaining players from last season. If anything, this is a far more pressing concern.

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The problem with early season games is that they promise all knowledge but reveal glimpses. We still know nothing and probably won’t until the clocks go back in October and the coming months will be about making those small tactical changes and players making those small improvements with each game. Treat everything – good and bad – with a huge dose of suspicion right now.

This feels risky – no, in fact it is bloody risky – and it could end up in disaster, but after the hopeless prospect of infinitely grey football I wouldn’t turn the clock back. The number of little victories needed on the training ground seems to be quite vast and it all feels a bit frightening, but as the immortal Bilbo Baggins put it, “I’m going on an adventure.” I’m terrified, but I wouldn't have it any other way.



[Post edited 15 Aug 17:00]
Prediction
Prediction Logged by at 13:05:38
Rotherham United v Ipswich Town prediction logged
Forum
Thread
Former Clubs’ Fans’ Assessments of (Most) of Our Arrivals…..
at 21:08 9 Aug 2018

I thought it might be helpful to have a look at forums of all of the relevant clubs to see what they have said about each of our new acquisitions. Trying to work out how they fit in is quite a conundrum, so a few insights might prove helpful.

The running order is Toto Nsiala, Jon Nolan, Kayden Jackson, Janoi Donacien, Tayo Edun, Jordan Roberts and Gwion Edwards.

I have added an earlier summary from Bristol Rovers’ fans on Ellis Harrison at the bottom of the page and I apologize for the lack of information on Trevoh Chalobah as there was little Chelsea comment to be found on their youth players.

Apologies for it being a bit of a long read - a cup of tea might be in order before diving in. Finally, a huge word of thanks to Mullet for unearthing a stack of interesting comments from Fulham fans on Tayo Edun via Twitter…

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“Toto Nsiala is one of the best centre-backs in the league, if not the best in terms of quality”, “He’s big and strong, he wins a lot in the air for us and has been brilliant”, “He’s consistent, outstanding in the air, with a superb positional sense and fabulous pace”, “He also crops up with crucial goals.”

“Nsiala is much more than a stopper. His reading of the game, pace and tackling ability make him a formidable defender”, “He always puts a shift in”, “He still has the occasional rush of blood to the head and he needs to keep working on his distribution but he has been great this season.”

Shrews really rated his defending, but felt that his work with the ball could improve. “The key area that needs to improve is his distribution. Too many loose balls and he’s not confident to run forward with the ball across the halfway line in the way that (e.g.) Connor Goldson could do with ease.”

“If he is to step up and play at a higher level there is work for him to do but after some of the central defenders we’ve had recently, I’m happy if he sticks to being a solid defender and forgets about the attacking side of things”, “He should stop thinking he's a ball playing centre-back and concentrate.”

“Nsiala is a beast, but don't underestimate the role of Sadler in his growth as a player.” One ongoing theme was the importance of 33-year-old Mat Sadler as his centre-half partner. His experience was a huge factor Nsiala’s development and it’s hard not to see Luke Chambers playing a similar role here.

“How much of a better player is Toto with Sadler alongside him”, “He is a confidence player who listens to Sadler who's been there and done it. Oldham away was a perfect example, where we were under pressure. Toto buckled with a few fly hacks but a word from Mat and he was immense after.”

“Toto seems a great lad, a very grounded individual”, “If asked who were the best partnership at the club over the years, I'd say Sadler and Toto are right up there”, “He’s a fine player who hit a rich vein of form, absolutely immaculate defensively and his passing and ability on the ball are improving.”

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“Jon Nolan is technically the best player I've seen in Blue and Amber”, “He has good ball skills and a quick-thinking footballing brain, and he sure does not flinch from a challenge either”, “He looks like he could hurt teams. He can ghost past defenders and he tries to make more killer forward passes.”

“He makes us tick and a is huge reason we are where we are”, “Just when I thought the concept of a box-to-box midfielder had disappeared, he arrives on the scene with a wide range of defensive and attacking skills. I still think a role behind the lone striker may yet prove to be his most effective.”

“Nolan is a fantastic player, composed on the ball and he has great vision and ability.” The words composure, vision and an ability to spot a pass were constantly repeated. “A real quality signing, composed, tenacious, a silky passer and someone who is excellent at doing the simple things well.”

Although a different midfielder to Brentford’s Ryan Woods, many Shrews put them on a similar level ability-wise. “Nolan looks better than Woods when he was with us. Woods was comfortable on the ball and nice to watch but never really hurt teams. Many of his passes went sideways or backwards.”

“It’s Woods for me at the moment. The reason is that when Nolan is having an off-day he's just not that good. He has been immense many times this season but he has also had a few shockers. He has got the lot and some real quality, I’m sure he will have a stellar career but he’s not quite there yet.”

Consistency did crop up a few times. “Nolan is too inconsistent to be anything more than a decent Championship player, at his best he looks far too good for this level though”, “He’s class on the ball most of the time and the best finisher at the club. He’s certainly better than any of the forwards.”

“Nolan would be an even better player with different types of players around him. If he could play a little deeper next to an out and out holding midfielder (as he often drops deep to pick up the ball and construct play) and then a goal scoring support striker ahead of him it would suit him better.”

“Nolan plays further forward than Woods and is expected to threaten teams more directly, he's even played in a No.10 role”, “He looks an absolute class player”, “The best player to play for Salop since Grant Holt”, “I think he'll go in the summer and it may well be to whoever Paul Hurst is managing.”

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“For my money Kayden Jackson is the best striker we had since our return to the league, we will end up getting some real serious dosh for the lad if he continues to show the form he’s displaying”, “I’m struggling to think of the last forward who had blistering pace”, “Very mobile and puts the effort in.”

“He didn't set the world alight on loan at Grimsby, he got two goals in 24 games”, “Grimsby played him on the wing. We’re playing him in his preferred position, that’s probably why. He certainly looks the part, his attempts are certainly there or thereabouts”, “The lad’s a main striker, not a winger.”

“Jackson's pace always a danger.” Pace, athleticism and industry are words which regularly cropped up when discussing him. “He reads the game well for one so young and is quite skilful”, “A totally positive player who works his socks off and causes defences trouble when he puts the burners on.”

“Jackson came and scored for fun but that has stopped.” He had a barren spell between October and mid-December which many fans put down to injury and poor form of creative suppliers. “We played 10 league and cup games since Jackson last scored, that's 15 hours of football without a goal.”

“Jackson is a worry for me. Too much finger pointing at others and throwing his arms around and his work rate was mediocre.” Towards the end of this run, fans sense his frustration in one game against Lincoln but seven goals in a five-game spell starting on Boxing Day sparked his resurgence in form.

“I fondly recall Kayden’s first goal that announced him to us all and the league on the opening day, a break from defence, held up and laid off by Billy Kee, and a defence splitting through ball to Jackson and a lightning burst of speed and finish”, “He is constantly giving defences all sorts of issues.”

“Jackson is a handful with his pressing. He looks dangerous and never gives defences peace.” The words “caused a lot of trouble for defences” or similar also occurred regularly, although many felt that he was at his most potent playing in a two-man attack beside former Burton striker Billy Kee.

“Kayden Jackson is a confidence player, but rather than have him on the wing he looks better up front with an experienced strike partner alongside him”, “The Kee - Jackson partnership are major cogs in our success”, “Kee and Jackson link up and work well, they look lethal combining up front.”

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“Janoi Donacien is big, strong skilful and brave”, “I am a Donacien fan, but I do think he needs to be playing much further up. He can put balls in to the strikers with pin point accuracy at pace”, “I would like to see Donacien play right wing further up”, “He has looked the part playing as a wing-back.”

Accrington fans have a high regard for our new signing, but they see him very much as an attacking right-back and if he has any additional role in the side it’s further up on the right flank. “He’s brilliant when he is forward on the wing. He’s better playing in a forward role, pumped some great balls in.”

“The Don is better in a forward role, the source of much of our counter-attacking on the right”, “I am always impressed by his overlapping”, “He spreads play wide working with the centre midfielders, he can put top quality balls into the box. I think he would be better played out on the right up front.”

“Donacien had a nightmare at left back, I’m not sure why he was playing there as I thought he was a natural right back”, “He was awful when playing at left-back. His passing was woeful and his decision making was a good few seconds slower than any of the other players on the pitch.”

“I hope Donacien starts on the right this time.” He has been moved to left-back on a number of occasions at Stanley and the switch has never been successful. “The Don playing out of position? Christ, it's like sticking a Rolls Royce engine to a tricycle. In theory it should go faster but it won't.”

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I see Tayo Edun scored for Ipswich today. “I'm pleased for Edun, he's a good promising player”, “I was delighted for Edun but it did look a bit of a freak goal, hit from distance not exactly hard and missed by the defenders. No matter they all count and it will do a lot for his confidence.”

“I’m delighted for Tayo, I think this season could do wonders for him.” Cottagers highly rate our new loan signing, but many want him to nail down one specific position as his versatility could ultimately hold him back. The consensus seems to be that he will ultimately flourish in a holding midfield role.

“He is definitely seen as more of a holding midfielder and playing with Andre Dozzell for the England U19s I believe in the centre. He can also play left-back but future is in a central defensive midfield role. He played one Championship game (a decent performance) but mostly in the Carabao Cup.”

“His profile on the club website says: ‘comfortable operating anywhere on the left, either as a full-back or wide midfielder’ but I always thought he was more of a defensive midfielder. He impressed me with his positioning and discipline”, “More of a holding midfielder than a Ryan Sessegnon kind.”

“Tayo is a definite prospect. I wouldn’t say he’s brilliant at the moment but he is very versatile and can do a job”, “I don't think he will start but should definitely get minutes, as he doesn't have much first team experience. He's talented enough to play his way into most Championship squads.”

“He’s a breath of fresh air, the enthusiasm of youth coupled with the confidence in his own ability. He certainly caught the eye”, “Right now I think he’s possibly a bit small, especially for the Premier League, but he’s a great passer of the ball who likes to get forward from the centre of midfield.”

“A good little player, he was in the Team of the Tournament as England won U19 Euros. He came through as a left back but settled down as a decent deep midfielder. A nice left foot, a comfortable distributor and an efficient player. I rate his passing and he is so calm and comfortable on the ball.”

“Edun has great potential but often plays like he doesn’t give a ****”, “One thing that maybe needs looking at is the fact that he has been sent off three times playing for England”, “Shrewsbury almost signed him on January deadline day on loan but it fell through, so Hurst will know all about him.”

“He needs games to be certain of his best role.” There is wide agreement about this. “He works his socks off but needs game-time”, “He has real potential. He needs games but could definitely have what it takes to be top class. He is more box to box than an attacking midfielder, but he’s still developing.”

“A versatile player who can player as a number 6 or 8, or anywhere down the left and centre of the midfield. Great engine, great potential and will be a solid signing for Ipswich. He looks quality passing and ball retention is spot on. He reminds me of a young Scott Parker and he gets around the pitch.”

“He’s a great ball playing left back or left midfielder, talented with good passing ability and agility”, “In one lovely moment he had two defenders marking him near their left corner flag. He did a couple of drag backs and turned them both inside out, delivering a useful cross to finish. Great skills.”

“He’s tough, and energetic, a tidy little player who is very good defensively and has a unique style on the ball”, “He was thrown in at the deep end against Derby’s midfield of Ledley and Huddlestone and he really shone, energetic midfielder with a lot of room to grow still. He’s highly rated for a reason.”

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“Not being able to command a transfer fee for Jordan Roberts does look as though the management made an error with his contract negotiations, although if a player wants to leave it is best they go”, “The club missed a trick by not selling Roberts in January. Letting him go clearly looks like an error.”

Crawley fans regret not having been able to command a fee for the winger who switched to Town on a free transfer in July. That said, some have their doubts. “It will be interesting to see if he really has it in him to actually manage bigger and better things and whether or not we've scored an own goal.”

“The [Crawley] Argus reported that Shrewsbury were in for Roberts in January. It is strange how we turned down the bid and hardly play him second half of the season. We then released him on a free at the end of season without offering a new deal”, “I can’t see him starting many games for Ipswich.”

“To be honest, I felt that Roberts could have been mentally stronger. He would break a finger nail and convince himself that he wasn’t fit to play”, “He has ability when he can be bothered or isn’t injured”, “He offers quality at times but often flatters to deceive", “He’s consistently inconsistent.”

“When Roberts was focussed he looked a good player. However, I felt that during last season he was looking for fouls too often and would fall rather than continue his runs”, “He possibly ‘looks for fouls’ rather than out-and-out dives”, “He has ability but can be lazy even at the best of times.”

“Last season he was a winger playing out of position for the good of the team.” Although widely described as a winger he often covered as a striker or central playmaker last year. “He chased down everything but seems to suit a more counter-attacking game running in behind or at the defence.”

“I am a fan of Jordon Roberts but he’s not a central striker”, “He’s not a striker, but he knows how to score if played up front”, “He scored a couple of cracking goals this season”, “He has a lovely leap off the ground and will win a lot of headers running onto the ball”, “One of our best players in the air.”

“Roberts tends to win headers when playing wide against fullbacks”, “He divides opinion but he can head a ball. We have all watched him when he was on the wing and many a time winning headers and flicking the ball on almost every time”, “Fighting for long balls is not a Roberts strength at all.”

“Over last two seasons there have been a high number of 1-v-1’s where he had no composure, often going around the keeper and getting himself in a muddle. He plays with his head down so he often won’t see the simple pass, although long range power shooting and crossing are his main strengths.”

“Roberts plays in purple patches but he tends to be selfish”, “He can put in fantastic freekicks but the thing with him is he has no right foot, so he has to do that funny 'Billy Clarke shuffle' to get on the left peg”, “Anyone that scouts us will know that keeping him on his right foot will nullify him.”

“I can’t see Roberts starting many games for Ipswich”, “He’s not good or consistent enough for a lower mid-table League Two club - we never even offered a contract, remember - and yet he gets a Championship move. Football's a funny game, but good luck to him at Ipswich.”

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“Gwion Edwards scores after four minutes of his Ipswich debut, a nice far post header on the edge of the six-yard box”, “Gwion was undoubtedly the man-of-the-match, one flick and run in the second half was sublime.” Peterborough fans kept close tabs on how our new winger fared on Saturday.

“Gwion can beat a man and create”, “Actually seeing a player with the intent to take on a man, beat him and then look to set something up is refreshing”, “He adds something no other individual can, genuine pace that terrifies defences at all levels, something that makes him a real fan favourite.”

“Many of his goals come from headers (a mean feat given that he’s 5 foot 9), his knack of ghosting into the right place at the right time creates chances aplenty for his side and most notably, his searing pace and direct dribbling mean he is a lethal weapon going forward.”

He started 25 league games for Peterborough last season but an ankle injury sustained at Fleetwood sidelined him between December and March. “His leaving is a double-edged sword for me. He’s a crucial but his getting injured and leaving us missing him desperately is a disaster every season.”

“In February 2017 we had to endure the sickening sight of Edwards leaving the field on a stretcher during a shambolic defeat to Walsall. Whilst the injury kept him out for eight weeks as opposed to the eight months that was initially suspected, it was still a season-ender for Gwion.”

“I honestly think that if he is fully fit, Gwion will be the biggest loss.” His injury record is a concern. “A common theory behind Gwion’s woeful injury record is due to the nature of his game. Explosive runs and quick turns on his low centre of gravity mean strains and twists are pretty frequent.”

“We play with more width due to Gwion”, “He adapted when we switched to the wing-back role. The exciting attacking play from his debut season continued and he didn’t buckle under the added defensive pressure that this unfamiliar position required.”

“Edwards will be dearly missed and as delighted I am for him to take a step up, I am gutted that it couldn’t be with us. I’m willing to bet that if Edwards stays injury free, he will be a successful Championship player.”

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In case you missed it, here is my earlier Ellis Harrison summary...

Bristol Rovers’ Supporters Thoughts on Ellis Harrison… by HarryfromBath 25 Jul 22:19
I thought it might be helpful to piece together the views of the Pirates on our new striker, whose arrival was confirmed on Monday. The Newport-born man and Wales U21 international came up through the Rovers youth system and made his debut for the club in 2011.

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“This is a bit of a shock. I thank him, wish him well and hope he's earning a decent pay increase”, “He has improved hugely over the last 18 months and was a very important player for us last season. He will take some replacing”, “It’s a good time for him to try and kick on at a higher level”, “Good luck Ellis, you have done us proud and deserve your chance. We are poorer and weaker without you.”

The was a genuine outpouring of affection when news of his transfer broke. Harrison has been with the club through it’s odyssey down to the National League and back up to League One. He secured his place in Pirates’ folklore for his equalizing goal in the Wembley Play-Off final against Grimsby.

“Without that Wembley goal we could still be stuck in non-league. Who knows. At times you carried the team on your shoulders last season and showed us signs of the player you could be. I suspect there is better to come. You can walk out the club with your chest out and your head held high.”

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“I have been his biggest critic, simply because I knew he had all the talent, but he didn't show it enough. Last season he was brilliant though and he is going to be hard to replace”, “His development has been in fits and starts. However, he did develop into an integral member of our squad.”

Harrison has taken time to blossom. “One of the most frustrating players we've had for a long while if I'm honest. You always knew he had it in him but he was too inconsistent and didn't help himself at times. It was brilliant to see him finally show his potential last season and IMO he was our POTS.”

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“Ellis brought goals and assists last season whilst playing upfront in his own as well as his high work rate and decent defending at set pieces”, “He works hard chasing the ball down and causing issues for the opposition”, “Pace, power, good in the air and on the ground and an improving finisher.”

“I will never forget the way he could strike terror into the opposition defence by sprinting at them from halfway across the field only to leap in front of them and win the ball with his head. He has become more confident in his own strength and physical presence, learning to use his pace better.”

Harrison has been singled out for praise for his industry, athleticism and ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch. The feeling is that his ability as a finisher has only started to come to the fore as he has grown in athleticism and experience, and he could really push on in the next few years.

“His work-rate last season was top notch and his goals were just starting to match his ability as a player”, “He is still very raw in my eyes. Pretty good defensively and has scored some fantastic goals in his career with us. His final ball can lack quality but has improved as each season has passed.”

“Good luck Ellis, I hope it works out for you. thanks for the magic, not forgetting your sterling work in defence”, “We will miss his work-rate and helping out defending”, “He cleared many set pieces from our penalty area, a great many more than our central defenders often managed to clear.”

“We’ll miss Ellis for his all-round contribution although he not yet a natural finisher”, “The one player we looked for that bit of magic from. I still remember ‘that’ debut goal when he cut in from the left and from corner of the box he hit a belter into far top corner, the joy on his young face!”

“His hold up play improved greatly and he developed a much keener eye for scoring opportunities. He isn't the finished article yet but he is progressing towards that”, “He was very good super sub, stretching oppositions defences late in games and even scoring a fair few goals too off the bench.”

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“Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Ellis Harrison will tell you what a kind, caring and genuine person he is. A far cry from the stereotypical modern-day footballer. It’s easy to forget that this lad is still just 24. I hope he goes on to fulfil his potential”, “Absolutely brilliant with young fans.”

“A massive part of a very positive dressing room.” Pirates were quick to praise his contribution away from the pitch in the dressing room and with supporters.

“A couple of years ago at one of the open days, me and my kids were standing in line to get player autographs, absolutely scorching hot, my daughter was moaning that she was thirsty but she didn’t want to leave the queue. Harrison clocks what’s going on and pulled her out of the queue, gave her his drink and got all the lads to sign her autograph book!! She still tells her friends about it now.”

“A massive part of a very positive dressing room”, “A lovely lad, a bit "daft" but he’s a real cog in the great team spirit we've got here and he will be missed”, “Your next dressing room will become a happier place because of your infectious spirit. Don't let them coach all the fun out of your game.”

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“Go bag four at the gate please son!”, “The best accolade I can give you is that I have enjoyed watching you play. All your goals, hard work, determined defence work, chasing lost causes and being a great lad will stand you in good stead for wherever you end up.”

One thing which can be guaranteed is that his progress will be keenly followed. “He has been there from the roller coaster journey from League Two to the Conference to League Two and to League One and he feels like a part of the family to me.”

“I love the lad, one of the nicest guys we’ve had play for the club and he thoroughly deserves his opportunity to show what he’s got in the Championship. I hope he emulates Marcus Stewart and goes on to shine for the Tractor Boys. Good luck Ellis.”


[Post edited 9 Aug 22:56]
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West Brom Mascot Today
at 21:29 4 Aug 2018

On a lighter note, I don't think we have done this story on the forum yet....



West Brom's new mascot is a combi-boiler.


I love football.




Prediction
Prediction Logged by at 10:48:34
Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers prediction logged
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Some Last Minute Thoughts Ahead of Today's Game...
at 09:04 4 Aug 2018

With things settling down on the previews front, I had a look around on the Blackburn forums last night to reflect on today's game. This is not a summary of their thoughts, but more about our wider mood and things to watch out for today...

One thing which is abundantly clear is just how different and utterly positive the mood has been among supporters in the last few weeks. It's as if this is a completely new club. I can't remember a buzz on the opening day build-up quite like this in years.

Don't underestimate the importance of this or how beneficial it will be. Just as we saw the downbeat mood last year affect us, we can harness this optimism to really help galvanize the team and get the season off to a flyer.

It has been hard to keep up with all of the news stories about players we have been linked with, but for me the best news was Bart's new three-year contract. The starting XI is full of young peppery players, but Bart will help keep the balance of age and youth with his experience, plus the fact that he's a bloody brilliant keeper.

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As for Blackburn, they have agreed a deal to re-sign striker Adam Armstrong from Newcastle but the Newcastle Chronicle said that this would happen "next week". They are light in options up front and will rely on Bradley Dack and Danny Graham heavily today, but this late signing confirms that they are lightweight up front right now.

Dack was described by one Rover as "a cross between Gascoigne and Tevez", and he uses his strength to bounce off players in the number 10 role. His battle with Skuse today will is a great side-show throughout the game. He's "a niggly little git" and nutmegged Liverpool's Ragnar Klavan in a pre-season friendly. Much of what they do goes through him.

Kasey Palmer is expected to come off the bench as he builds match fitness. He played in the Huddersfield promotion team behind Nahki Wells and alongside Aaron Mooy, but has an injury-hit campaign last year before being used mostly as a bench option by Gary Rowett's Derby in the second half of the season. He is their plan B with his mobility and trickery.

Watch out for centre-back Charlie Mulgrew at set-pieces. His free-kicks, especially from the right side, are very dangerous and he is very good at picking up flick-ons and headers at corners. He scored 15 goals last season in League One.

Their central midfielders are solid, although Richard Smallwood does switch off when teams counter-attack against Rovers. This came up a fair few times so we could overload them on players breaking into the box on the counter.

While their centre-halves are defensively consistent, their full-backs Nyambe, Bell and Williams are still raw and Hurst may well target Rovers on both flanks here. The keeper Raya is a brilliant shot-stopper, but is also still a work-in-progress on crosses and commanding his box.

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Blackburn have momentum, losing only three of the last 35 league games last season, but we will definitely be a step up in quality compared to anything they faced last year. They are a close-knit team who trust each other and there have been few changes from last season.

Bearing this in mind, patience may be needed and it could be a test of how Hurst reads the game and makes alterations up against an experienced Tony Mowbray. That said, it promises to be entertaining, and it will simply be a thrill for everyone to see a Town team properly going for an opponent again at Portman Road!

Have a great day everyone! Come On You Blues!





[Post edited 4 Aug 9:45]
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Bristol Rovers’ Supporters Thoughts on Ellis Harrison…
at 22:19 25 Jul 2018

I thought it might be helpful to piece together the views of the Pirates on our new striker, whose arrival was confirmed on Monday. The Newport-born man and Wales U21 international came up through the Rovers youth system and made his debut for the club in 2011.

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“This is a bit of a shock. I thank him, wish him well and hope he's earning a decent pay increase”, “He has improved hugely over the last 18 months and was a very important player for us last season. He will take some replacing”, “It’s a good time for him to try and kick on at a higher level”, “Good luck Ellis, you have done us proud and deserve your chance. We are poorer and weaker without you.”

The was a genuine outpouring of affection when news of his transfer broke. Harrison has been with the club through it’s odyssey down to the National League and back up to League One. He secured his place in Pirates’ folklore for his equalizing goal in the Wembley Play-Off final against Grimsby.

“Without that Wembley goal we could still be stuck in non-league. Who knows. At times you carried the team on your shoulders last season and showed us signs of the player you could be. I suspect there is better to come. You can walk out the club with your chest out and your head held high.”

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“I have been his biggest critic, simply because I knew he had all the talent, but he didn't show it enough. Last season he was brilliant though and he is going to be hard to replace”, “His development has been in fits and starts. However, he did develop into an integral member of our squad.”

Harrison has taken time to blossom. “One of the most frustrating players we've had for a long while if I'm honest. You always knew he had it in him but he was too inconsistent and didn't help himself at times. It was brilliant to see him finally show his potential last season and IMO he was our POTS.”

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“Ellis brought goals and assists last season whilst playing upfront in his own as well as his high work rate and decent defending at set pieces”, “He works hard chasing the ball down and causing issues for the opposition”, “Pace, power, good in the air and on the ground and an improving finisher.”

“I will never forget the way he could strike terror into the opposition defence by sprinting at them from halfway across the field only to leap in front of them and win the ball with his head. He has become more confident in his own strength and physical presence, learning to use his pace better.”

Harrison has been singled out for praise for his industry, athleticism and ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch. The feeling is that his ability as a finisher has only started to come to the fore as he has grown in athleticism and experience, and he could really push on in the next few years.

“His work-rate last season was top notch and his goals were just starting to match his ability as a player”, “He is still very raw in my eyes. Pretty good defensively and has scored some fantastic goals in his career with us. His final ball can lack quality but has improved as each season has passed.”

“Good luck Ellis, I hope it works out for you. thanks for the magic, not forgetting your sterling work in defence”, “We will miss his work-rate and helping out defending”, “He cleared many set pieces from our penalty area, a great many more than our central defenders often managed to clear.”

“We’ll miss Ellis for his all-round contribution although he not yet a natural finisher”, “The one player we looked for that bit of magic from. I still remember ‘that’ debut goal when he cut in from the left and from corner of the box he hit a belter into far top corner, the joy on his young face!”

“His hold up play improved greatly and he developed a much keener eye for scoring opportunities. He isn't the finished article yet but he is progressing towards that”, “He was very good super sub, stretching oppositions defences late in games and even scoring a fair few goals too off the bench.”

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“Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Ellis Harrison will tell you what a kind, caring and genuine person he is. A far cry from the stereotypical modern-day footballer. It’s easy to forget that this lad is still just 24. I hope he goes on to fulfil his potential”, “Absolutely brilliant with young fans.”

“A massive part of a very positive dressing room.” Pirates were quick to praise his contribution away from the pitch in the dressing room and with supporters.

“A couple of years ago at one of the open days, me and my kids were standing in line to get player autographs, absolutely scorching hot, my daughter was moaning that she was thirsty but she didn’t want to leave the queue. Harrison clocks what’s going on and pulled her out of the queue, gave her his drink and got all the lads to sign her autograph book!! She still tells her friends about it now.”

“A massive part of a very positive dressing room”, “A lovely lad, a bit "daft" but he’s a real cog in the great team spirit we've got here and he will be missed”, “Your next dressing room will become a happier place because of your infectious spirit. Don't let them coach all the fun out of your game.”

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“Go bag four at the gate please son!”, “The best accolade I can give you is that I have enjoyed watching you play. All your goals, hard work, determined defence work, chasing lost causes and being a great lad will stand you in good stead for wherever you end up.”

One thing which can be guaranteed is that his progress will be keenly followed. “He has been there from the roller coaster journey from League Two to the Conference to League Two and to League One and he feels like a part of the family to me.”

“I love the lad, one of the nicest guys we’ve had play for the club and he thoroughly deserves his opportunity to show what he’s got in the Championship. I hope he emulates Marcus Stewart and goes on to shine for the Tractor Boys. Good luck Ellis.”

[Post edited 26 Jul 0:41]
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St Mirren Supporters’ Thoughts on Jack Ross…
at 21:11 10 May 2018

I thought it might be helpful to gather the thoughts of St Mirren supporters on their manager Jack Ross in the light of Phil’s story today confirming that we had asked the Buddies for permission to discuss our manager vacancy with him.

Ross left Alloa Athletic to take charge in of the Paisley-based club October 2016 with the side bottom of the Scottish Championship table with just four points from their first eight games. After steering them to a seventh-place finish last season, they won this year’s league title by a 12-point margin.

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“What we are seeing now is what we having been hoping to see for years. Guys are playing well as a cohesive team under the guidance of a manager who is very good at his job and passionate about our team. The atmosphere at our stadium is now much better and there far more positivity.”

There is an understandably euphoric mood in the club right now. “I used to look forward to away games because the support was far more behind our team, but now we have that at home. I even have work colleagues who support other teams saying how great our team is.”

“We all need to be eternally grateful to Jack Ross and [assistant manager] Jack Fowler for giving us a season which must rank as one of our best ever in terms of sustained excitement and satisfaction as Saints fans”, “I truly believe we have an absolute diamond of a manager on our hands here.”

“The short time he has been with the club have been some of the most enjoyable and memorable times I have had as a Buddie. He likes the club, gets on well with the Chairman, likes the fans and in return is liked by the massive majority of us and has a group of players who respect him massively.”

“I can’t remember liking a manager as much as Jack, the guy is brilliant”, “It's great to hear the passion he and a number of the players have for the club. It's not a forced thing. it's a genuine affection for our club. I love listening to him chat about us”, “Manager of the fecking Century!”

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“This is going to be a long haul for Jack Ross”, “He inherited the poorest squad in a generation.” Turning the clock back to when he arrived, there is wide agreement that the playing side of things was in some chaos. He had no honeymoon period, losing his first six league games in charge.

Despite the poor results, fans could still see what he was trying to achieve. “There is a deep-rooted problem within the playing staff. Or another way to say it is an unbalanced squad which Jack Ross inherited that. Mary f**kin Poppins could not wave her magic wand to fix this sorry state.”

“You could see the level of performance improving, even though it as worrying as it was that we were not getting any points. The players were growing in confidence and it was evident that Jack was working hard to introduce his methods.”

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“Before the transfer window closed - 13 points from 22 games. After the transfer window closed - 26 points from 14 games. Jack did an incredible, incredible job to rebuild a team mid-season, get the new boys to gel, get the fans and team united and, ultimately, keep us up!”

“This has been one hell of a window.” Ross moved swiftly and ruthlessly to overhaul the squad in his first transfer window in January 2017. There were no fewer than 10 arrivals and 11 departures, but fans in hindsight believe that much of the success which followed stemmed from this overhaul.

“The January signings stepped up and took the pressure off the younger players. Performances have transformed since he had a chance to complete his January transfer dealings. When was the last time we brought in so many players and they all worked? Not one has been poor when selected.”

“You saw the problems we had, and Jack had to work in what is usually a very difficult window to change things around. But change things around he did and brought in some needed cash. The squad on paper looked far stronger, more balanced and deeper than it had two weeks previously.”

“He was frustrated at the attitude of most of the players when he arrived at the club. They weren't interested on high intensity training and he couldn't wait to get rid of them. My observation was that at that time something was rotten about the club culture.”

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“Ross strikes me as man of substance. He is clearly analytical in his approach, but there is a thread of pragmatism running through that and he has genuine passion”, “He believes in what he is saying and doesn’t offer clichés. One thing I like is that he never bangs on about budgets unlike predecessors.”

He has a hard-working and pragmatic management style. “Ross identified the areas we needed to strengthen and did a fine job bringing in the correct personnel”, “He trusts his players and if they adapt to his ethos he will back them to the hilt. If you don't like his methods you're out the door.”

“Articulate, driven, confident and focused” “There's a controlled passion in there, and you can see that this is a man who wants to succeed”, “I particularly like the fact that he is prepared to question his methods continuously”, “He doesn't seem the sort of guy that would walk away.”

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“I like and admire the Jack Ross energy and high press set up”, “Jack appears to favour a playing style whereby strikers who thrive on route-one style balls into the box are not part of the plan. He wants players who move the ball about and create goals from the 18-yard area, not the six-yard area.”

“If you like your teams to shell it up to a big guy up front and then playing for scraps, then Jack is not your man”, “Results over the season have been excellent and those have almost invariably come via our busy passing and movement”, “Honest and attractive football using width and pace, hallelujah.”

“We are not a physical team.” St Mirren’s success has come from pass-and-move brand of football using a 4-2-3-1 shape and keeping more possession. Fans have felt that he is not wedded to this philosophy and that he would be prepared to alter it in the more demanding Scottish top flight.

“Jack’s refusal to be tied down to a ‘philosophy’ takes pressure off him and makes it easier to change the approach if needed. Clearly his preference is for his teams to get the ball forward quickly and to make the most of the time spent in the final third of the pitch.”

“The big problem as everyone can see is Plan B. Jack is a ‘Do Plan A’ better type guy who believes in his wee players. On some occasions Jack has shown how our wee team can destroy bigger stronger teams and give them a good thumping but if that team also has any kind of ability, we can't cope.”

“Teams like Livingston and Dundee United used physical, psychological and rule bending tactics to stop us playing. This lack of plan B and the consistent push of passes on the ground makes it harder for us to score. Other teams now know that we don't do high balls apart from set-pieces.”

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“It's taken a bit longer than I had thought but we are now seeing some great signs on the park and finally getting a bounce”, “We are playing as a team and some of the new signings are starting to really look the part”, “The belief and positivity amongst the squad is apparent for all to see.”

Although it took several months for the team to click, St Mirren fans by last summer could see the team starting to blossom. “The form of established stars has improved beyond compare since the new squad has been in place”, “We possibly have had the best midfield in the league since January.”

In August, many sensed how well this season would play out. “To finish seventh albeit on goal difference is stunning, but it’s the way we did it, the style, the goals, and the fact that he has got 1500 fans back when we were not chasing glory but relative survival. Basically, what a guy!”

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Lee Mair played alongside Jack Ross and he discussed his leadership on the pitch in one interview which St Mirren fans picked up: “I know Jack well. I played alongside him at St Mirren and you could tell he was a leader. He commanded respect amongst the boys and always gave 100 percent…

“You tend to find with every manager there will be one or two who are saying quietly away from training, 'he’s rubbish', or 'he’s no good' but with Jack, I haven’t heard one. Honestly.

“The way you can tell is that even boys he has dropped are still saying good things about him. He has that respect. He lets them go and express themselves and understands they will make mistakes.

This was echoed by the recollections of one St Mirren fan: “Jack Ross was the guy all those years ago who geed the team up in our do-or-die battle against Falkirk and we utterly destroyed them…

“He took that match completely by the scruff of the neck but more importantly in this case, he made sure that the match was won in the dressing room before it by saying the right things to the right people about what former team mates in the opposing dressing room were saying to him all week.

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“I hope Jack stays with Saints but I'm sure he'd be a great appointment for Ipswich”, “This approach is definitely more worrying than the Dundee or Barnsley ones.” Ross has also been linked with both of these clubs in his time at St Mirren.

“Jack restored pride, passion and pleasure to our team”, “He has been a great find but it scares me to think what could happen if he goes”, “I'm praying that it won't come to that but Ipswich are a big club, much bigger than Barnsley, I'm not surprised he wants to go and hear what they have to say.”

“Let's face it if it's not Ipswich it will be another club next week and so on. It looks pretty inevitable to me he won't be here come the first game of the new season.”

For many St Mirren fans, the risks involved revolve around Ross’s relative lack of experience, the step up in scale and pressure from a club with average home gates of 5,000 and the perceived hit-and-miss track record of lower-league Scottish managers who have switched to the Championship.

“Ipswich could provide Jack with a fantastic platform to further his ambitions or they could ruin them like so many Scottish managers have had them ruined by going down South. The money will be ridiculous in comparison, I would imagine, and that surely is a massive factor.”

“I wouldn’t imagine it’s a done deal by any means as Jack, good as he is, would represent a gamble by Ipswich and hopefully they’ll look for more experience for their next manager”, “He would go with our best wishes, but in all honestly I'm sure we would rather that he didn't.”

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