Following Coventry City’s relegation into League 1 last season, Ipswich Town are now the Championship’s longest-serving side. This will be their 11th consecutive season in England’s second tier.
The aim has always been to get back into the ‘promised land’ of the Premier League but after several flirtations with the play-offs, these never really materialised as The Tractor Boys have now acquired a name as a mid-table side, settling only for mediocrity.
Last season was Paul Jewell’s first full season in charge and arguably little if no progress was made following Roy Keane’s disappointing tenure. Town mustered a 15th placed finish and Jewell was heavily criticised for his transfer policy of brining experienced ex-Premier League players in, who, to be honest, looked to be on their last legs, earning a nice little wager to go with it.
Ivar Ingimarsson, Ibrahima Sonko, Jimmy Bullard and Lee Bowyer all failed to live up to the hype of their ‘former-selves’ in their careers and have now been moved on by Jewell, who after realising his transfer inadequacies, has sought to bring hungrier and younger players to the club this summer.
And although Jewell has found it another hard pre-season to identify and sign certain targets, he has added four new faces to his squad so far.
18-year-old right back Elliott Hewitt looks to be a promising bit of business following his arrival from Macclesfield while goalkeeper Scott Loach will challenge Arran Lee-Barrett for the number one berth. Former Nottingham Forest captain Luke Chambers should also tighten up a rather leaky back-line while high hopes are held for Tottenham midfielder and loanee Massimo Luongo following his impressive performances so far in pre-season.
There is no doubt that the Tractor Boys are still a few faces short of a squad capable of competing in the demanding 46-game long haul of the Npower Championship.
I will now take an in-depth look at the current playing squad and highlight where they may be room for improvement.
A position which arguably hasn’t been resolved for a number of seasons, Jewell spent most of his summer targeting and signing an established number one who will give the club and defence the stability and security it needs.
And although Lee-Barrett has proved that he is a more than able shot-stopper, question marks still surround his consistency, something which Jewell obviously had his concerns about.
After seemingly dozens of apparent trialists and transfer targets such as highly rated ex-Hearts stopper Marian Kello and former Red Devil Tomasz Kuszczak, Jewell finally ended his search for a new number one with the signing of ex-England under-21 ‘keeper Scott Loach from Watford.
A boyhood Ipswich Town fan, Loach made his dream move for an undisclosed fee and although Watford fans often criticised Loach for some of his displays, he is still young and maybe just needed a fresh start at a new club. Having performed for the England Under-21’s and even been called up to the senior side, he obviously does have the talent, let’s just hope he fulfils that at Ipswich.
New signing Hewitt will add competition for current skipper Carlos Edwards at right-back. The Wales under-21 international, who has also captained the under-17 side, is currently recovering from a hip operation and is expected to be fit in September.
At centre-half, the versatile Chambers should settle alongside Tommy Smith, who has just returned from the Olympic Games with New Zealand. Damien Delaney will start as cover, although there has been speculation that the lanky Irishman could be on his way out of Portman Road, with Nottingham Forest reportedly expressing an interest.