The Ipswich View

ipswichWith the Championship season underway, The Football Lab spoke to Ipswich Town fan Tony Cowards. You can follow him on Twitter @TonyCowards and look at his comedy work here.

Ipswich Town reached the play-offs last year, exceeding the expectations of most supporters. Despite defeat to Norwich in the semi-finals, do you look back on that season with a degree of fondness?

Yes, definitely. Compared to recent seasons last year was a magnificent effort. It was wonderful to be looking expectantly at the top of the table rather than nervously towards the bottom.

Who would you prefer to see start in goal – Dean Gerken or Bartosz Bialkowski?

I think in the battle of the bearded custodians, Bialkowski established himself as the number one last season and was probably one of the reasons that our defence was more settled than it’s looked in a while.

Christophe Berra is seen as one of the best centre-backs in the Championship. Is the hype surrounding him justified?

Absolutely, he’s become a rock in both our defence and the Scotland team. He also chips in with some important goals (6 last season) which is very handy for a central defender.

Some argue that right-back Luke Chambers should play at centre-back alongside Berra, instead of Tommy Smith. Do you agree?   

I’ve never been a fan of players playing out of position and I think that Chambers is more naturally suited to playing in the middle rather than as a full-back. Tommy Smith is a solid player though, so it might be harsh to drop him in order to move Chambers into the centre. It’ll be good to have competition though and plenty of experience in those positions.

And if so, should Jonathan Parr take Chambers’ position, or is another right-back needed?

Jonathan Parr has always done a good job when called upon and we have an exciting prospect in Joshua Emmanuel who looks promising. He’s only 17 but tall, powerful and looks to have a lot of pace.

Ipswich signed left-back Tyrone Mings in 2013 for £10,000, and 2 years later, the club have received a fee of £8 million for him. Good work from Mick McCarthy there?

Of course! Especially as his performances seemed to dip a little towards the end of the season. Bournemouth will be hoping he’s not repeating the pattern of Ipswich’s last defensive wunderkind, Titus Bramble.

Back in 2011, Ipswich also received £8 million for Connor Wickham, and not much of that money was re-invested in the first team squad. Do you think things will be different after Mings’ sale?  

Mick McCarthy seems to work wonders on a tight budget, so, in some ways it seems unlikely that we’ll do anything to change that formula. Personally, I think by bringing in cheaper players and other club’s cast offs we’ve been able to generate a fantastic team spirit and collective work ethic, splashing a load of cash on one or two players could easily destabilise this. Having said that though, I’m sure if the right player was available at a decent price, Mick would be allowed to spend some of the Mings money.

Young defender Josh Yorwerth has signed for the club after impressing on a trial. Does he have a chance of breaking into the first team?

We’re reasonably well covered in defence but it’s a long and tough season so I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity or two, especially if we have a bit of a run in either of the cup competitions.

When loan signing Ainsley Maitland-Niles was born in 1997, Mick McCarthy was in charge of the Republic of Ireland! Are you hoping that Maitland-Niles will inject some pace into the wide areas?

Yes, pace and width is something we’ve been lacking for a number of seasons. In Ainsley and Ryan Fraser (on loan from Bournemouth) Mick seems to have identified this and picked up a couple of players who can fulfil this role, albeit on a temporary basis.

Cole Skuse is not always noticed in an attacking sense, but he has a good engine and will rarely misplace a pass. Would you say he is somebody who doesn’t get the credit he deserves?

Definitely, he’s one of those “bits and pieces” players who makes the whole team better than the sum of it’s parts. He does the simple stuff well and is a bit of an unsung hero.

Skuse has expressed his disappointment that teammate Luke Hyam has picked up another long-term knee injury. How much of a blow could Hyam’s absence be?

It’s a shame as Luke’s career seems to have been blighted by injuries and, so far, he’s not really been able to fulfil his potential. However, from a team point of view, I don’t think it’s a major blow as for the first time in ages we seem to have a bit of depth to our squad.

Daryl Murphy scored more goals than any player in England’s top 4 leagues last season. Are you pleased he has signed a new contract?

Yes, of course, I’m overjoyed. Murphy has gone from journeyman to a clinical striker in the last couple of seasons, it’s an incredible turn around and it’s excellent that he’s staying with us.

Forward David McGoldrick didn’t have as much of an impact on Ipswich’s 14/15 season as some people expected, partly due to injury. Do you think it could be hard for him to dislodge Freddie Sears?

It’s fantastic that we have competition up front and Sears adds an extra dimension to our attack with a bit more pace that Murphy and McGoldrick. I hope McGoldrick can get back to his pre-injury form which would give Mick a very healthy selection headache.

Ipswich aside, what are your thoughts on the Championship season as a whole? Who do you think will do well? Which teams might struggle?

It’s so difficult to make predictions. Who, at the start of last season, would’ve predicted Wigan to get relegated, or Brentford to do so well? The boring answer is to say that the usual suspects, Middlesburgh and Derby will do well, as will the teams relegated from the Premier League last season. As for strugglers, let’s go for eternal crisis club, Leeds.

You said last season that Ipswich would challenge for a top 6 spot, and indeed they finished 6th. What is your prediction for this campaign? 

I think top six again is definitely our target and with a bit of luck with injuries we could possibly take our challenge for an automatic promotion spot to end of the season. I’ll go for 4th.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Ipswich are easily underestimated. They might have lost Tyrone Mings, but the £8 million received for him is generous, and the Tractor Boys have otherwise maintained the squad that finished 6th last season. Ryan Fraser will add pace out wide, while Brett Pitman will provide a sprinkling of quality in attack. 4th

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