Ipswich Town Season Preview: Huws staying on

Based on Ipswich Town’s budget, 16th in the Championship is a respectable position. Based on recent play-off pushes however, it’s a disappointing one. The question is: should the management be blamed for an 11-place decline, or the board for not offering the funds to arrest it? Supporter Kieren Standley from Ipswich Town Talk offers his views ahead of the new season.

I think it’s a combination of the two. McCarthy came under immense scrutiny last season for bizarre team selections and terrible tactical decisions. Many Ipswich fans feel there is an uphill battle for McCarthy to win back the support of the fans but they also recognize that he’s been dealt a bad hand from Marcus Evans since he took over in November 2012. Admittedly, Evans backed previous managers Roy Keane and Paul Jewell with multi million pound signings but most of those turned out to be complete busts and his fear of getting his fingers burnt again has given McCarthy a real handicap against the rest of the Championship. Evans’ failure to strengthen the squad in January 2015 (When Ipswich were top 2) really derailed the season and we had to settle for a devastating play-off defeat to bitter rivals Norwich. This summer it seems the purse strings have been loosened a little and we have been able to bring in some much needed quality to the team. I’m still not fully confident that Evans will continue to back McCarthy in the transfer market but if he does, Mick has no excuses if another bad season is to occur.

One bright spark was loanee Tom Lawrence, who has gone back to Leicester. Is the hope that Bersant Celina replaces the individual magic he provided?

Tom Lawrence was nothing short of spectacular last season. He single handedly carried us through our worst spell of form in around 6 years with his no fear mindset, incredible dribbling ability and around 7 contenders for goal of the season. No doubt he will be a massive loss but there’s reason to be hopeful with Celina. He looks like a carbon copy of Lawrence, Quick, Direct & Tricky. The hope is he will come in and be a revelation but the overwhelming concern is the same as with Lawrence last season, He’s unlikely to stay beyond this season. Nevertheless, the Ipswich fan base can’t wait to see what this talented young lad can do.

Joe Garner scored goals in League One, but struggled in the Championship due to a lack of support. Does Mick McCarthy need to enable more players to get around the front man?

Garner’s Championship goal record is a slight concern but I think his all round game will really suit the way McCarthy likes to play. He runs down every ball, roughs and tumbles defenders and has that aggressive competitive bite that you like to see in a striker. It remains to be seen how many goals he will score this season but with players like McGoldrick and Celina around him, he certainly should see his fair share of chances. It’s just down to him to stick them away!

You could have two new strikers if John Marquis joins up. Given that Freddie Sears has five in 12 when played down the middle, is he a little unlucky?

Marquis would be an excellent addition to the squad and Ipswich fans are really hopeful on that one. Regarding Sears, I don’t think he’s unlucky. McCarthy often changes his forward options depending on the opposition so Sears should still see his fair share of game time. He’s so different to any other striker we have so regardless if he starts or not, he will more than likely come off the bench in the games he doesn’t start as Mick likes to carry 2/3 strikers on the bench.

Results improved when right-back Jordan Spence and midfielder Emyr Huws came into the team early in the New Year. Are you pleased both are staying on?

I think if you asked any Ipswich fan they would tell you just how happy they are to see Emyr Huws come back. He completely transformed a negative central midfield and became the man pulling the strings in the middle of the park. The fact we actually spent over £1m for him shows just how much the club wanted to keep him here and a 4-year contract suggests he will be a first team regular for many years to come. With regards to Spence I think he did a pretty decent job at the end of last season. He’s by no means a bad squad player to have and you can rely on him to come into the team to do a job. I’m just not sure how much game time Spence will get this season though with the recent arrival of England U21 defender Dominic Iorfa on a season-long loan from Wolves.

You’ve not yet signed a natural left wing-back this summer. Does this suggest a four-man defence will be used, or will Myles Kenlock fill the role?

The position is Kenlock’s to lose. Previous first choice LB Jonas Knudsen had a pretty poor year, bar 2 goals against Norwich! When Kenlock first came into the team I had reservations about him being too raw and not quite up to standard yet but he seemed to come on leaps and bounds in the last few months of last season so it would be really hard for McCarthy to leave him out of the team.

Christophe Berra has headed north of the border for family reasons. Does this weaken your centre-back options?

Not Particularly. Most Ipswich fans could see that Berra was becoming past it. Mistakes were becoming more common and he lost an extra half yard of pace. Letting him go was the smartest move for both parties. We currently have 3 centre-backs (Luke Chambers , Tommy Smith , Adam Webster) who are all good enough to be starting, plus Steven Taylor remains training with the club in an attempt to win an extended deal but he has to prove his fitness. If Taylor were to stay that would give us 4 solid CB options and with Spence and Iorfa also being able to play there, we have plenty of cover.

Academy graduates Teddy Bishop and Luke Hyam were highly rated midfielders earlier in their careers, but both have struggled hugely with injuries. With Tom Adeyemi signing, is there a way back for them?

I think its now time for the club to cut ties with Luke Hyam. He’s pretty much missed the last 2 seasons with knee problems and even when he does play he is a very limited player. In terms of Bishop you can see there is talent there. Only problem is that he’s also had his fair share of injuries and that has severely knocked his confidence. I think a loan spell to League One or Two would do him the world of good and hopefully would get him back to being the player he was in the 14/15 season.

What are your thoughts ahead of the Championship season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I think in terms of the quality of the teams in the division this year it’s actually weaker than last season but with all the money now in the league, its harder in that regard. It’s going to be extremely hard for a team like Ipswich to compete with some of the financial giants in this league but we’ve done it before and Huddersfield showed everyone last season that it can be done without having an astronomical budget.

In terms of a dark horse I would say that if we can sign a marquee goalscorer and a pacey right winger then we would fall under that category but removing all bias for a second I would probably go with Nottingham Forest. It may be a left field choice but I really rate Mark Warburton as a manager and with new ownership coming in, there’s reason to suggest that they could well be on their way back. They may not challenge for the playoffs but with the signings they have made so far, they should give it a good go of cracking the top 10. Especially if they continue to strengthen in key areas.

Where will you finish?

If i had to give a position now I would probably say around 11th but if we are able to secure a marquee goalscorer and some quality down the right hand side then I would give us an outside chance of pushing for the playoffs. Anything worse than that and I fear McCarthy’s days are numbered.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Huws looks a good addition for Ipswich while Celina has the potential to replace Lawrence. Boardroom frugality however, means they are otherwise signing players from a level below where the club is striving for. McCarthy’s tactics will help avert relegation fears, but his stubbornness encapsulates a stagnating club. 17th

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