Ipswich Town are heading into a summer of building for a Championship challenge. Mark Heath takes a look at the key tasks and dates for Mark Ashton and co....

East Anglian Daily Times: Will Town sign George Hirst this summer?Will Town sign George Hirst this summer? (Image: Pagepix)

Sign George Hirst

Obviously, recruitment is the sexiest job of the summer when it comes to what fans want to see.

And I'd hazard a guess that most Town fans want to see Hirst become a permanent part of the Blue revolution this summer.

The big striker had a huge impact after signing on loan from Leicester City in January, bagging seven goals in 23 games as he helped fire Town to promotion.

READ MORE: Will Town sign Hirst and TJJ? Stuart Watson's verdict

The potential relegation of the Foxes to the Championship could make things more difficult here, but hopefully there's a deal to be done.

Hirst fits the Town system perfectly, has the full confidence of Kieran McKenna and would surely be fired up to lead the line for the Blues in the Championship.

East Anglian Daily Times: Town have a call to make on Massimo LuongoTown have a call to make on Massimo Luongo (Image: Steve Waller)

Retained list

As well as recruitment, there will be players departing this summer.

We're likely to see the first few soon, with Town having to let out of contract players know by this Saturday what their intentions are.

Those players are Massimo Luongo, Richard Keogh, Sone Aluko, Kane Vincent-Young, Matt Penney and Joel Coleman.

You can see what Stuart Watson thinks will happen here.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mark Ashton's data dashboard will already be purring Mark Ashton's data dashboard will already be purring (Image: PA)

Fire up the data dashboard

Oh yes. Ashton's data dashboard is famous, and I'm sure it's already working overtime pumping out transfer targets and behind the scenes info on the daily.

Aside from the Hirst decision/deal, Town will obviously be looking to add even more quality across the team this summer as they prepare for a Championship challenge.

A striker - Hirst or otherwise - will surely be on the list. I'd like to see a utility striker/forward brought in too - someone to challenge and offer cover up top, and to Conor Chaplin in the Number 10 role.

Tyreece John-Jules could fit that bill, although there are clear injury issues to factor in there.

READ MORE: Town's support in 2022/23 among best in Europe

You'd imagine a centre-back will be targeted too, with Keogh likely to depart and the likes of Luke Woolfenden and Cameron Burgess untested at Championship level.

Midfield will be interesting as well - do you offer Luongo a deal, given his success alongside Morsy in that crazy unbeaten run? Or do you look for someone else to add to the engine room?

Last summer was all about focused upgrades, rather than the signing frenzy of the year before. This summer will surely follow the same targeted pattern.

East Anglian Daily Times: Idris El Mizouni had a great season at Leyton OrientIdris El Mizouni had a great season at Leyton Orient (Image: (C)TGS Photo tgsphoto.co.uk +44 1376 553468)

Make some tough calls

Part of the recruitment plan will clearly involve making tough calls on the playing squad you already have.

Aside from the retained list discussed above, there's returning loanees to factor in.

Idris El Mizouni had a great season at Leyton Orient - but could he step up and be a factor in the Champonship? If not, do you loan him out again, or look to move him on permanently?

There are similar questions around the likes of Elkan Baggott, Corrie Ndaba and Gassan Ahadme - with Town now in the Championship, where do they fit? Do they fit at all?

There's also calls to be made around fringe first team players - is there a value in moving some of those on, if it allows you to strengthen the group?

East Anglian Daily Times: Dom Ball is part of a host of midfield optionsDom Ball is part of a host of midfield options (Image: Pagepix Ltd)

Midfield muddle

The aforementioned El Mizouni is part of a log jam in midfield which needs resolving this summer.

Skipper Sam Morsy, Lee Evans, Dom Ball and - if signed - Luongo gives Town a solid quartet of midfielders with Championship class.

Factor in top prospect Cameron Humphreys, the fit-again Panutche Camara and returning loanees El Mizouni and Rekeem Harper and you have eight.

That's too many to carry, surely. Decisions need to be made here. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Town started their pre-season friendlies at Needham Market last summerTown started their pre-season friendlies at Needham Market last summer (Image: Pagepix Ltd 07976 935738)

Pre-season plans

Town have yet to reveal their pre-season schedule, but it appears likely that a first European tour since Covid is on the agenda.

That will be great for players and fans alike. Then its back to Blighty for, one assumes, the usual local trips for friendlies and perhaps a serious test as a finale.

We know there won't be a home warm-up this summer, given the new pitch - more on that shortly.

While friendly matches don't matter a jot, it will be interesting to see the strength of the opposition Town line up.

East Anglian Daily Times: The new Ipswich Town kits were revealed on June 16 last yearThe new Ipswich Town kits were revealed on June 16 last year

New kits

One of the most exciting days in any summer is kit release day.

This season's efforts were certified bangers, and will surely go on to earn classic status now they have a promotion added to their record popularity.

They were revealed on June 16 last year. It's unlikely the club will confirm ahead of time when the big day is this summer, but the middle of June looks a good bet.

One thing is for sure - Town's head of retail Paul Macro and his team have set themselves some lofty standards for next season's efforts! 

Fixtures released

After the kits are revealed, it's likely the next big day will be Thursday, June 22.

That's when we'll learn Town's fixtures for their first Championship season since 2018/19, with the schedule being released at 9am.

Because of the work on the pitch, Town are set to start away from Portman Road - and a marquee match-up is surely in the offing.

A Friday night start away at one of the sides relegated from the Premier League? That would be box office stuff.

East Anglian Daily Times: Portman Road is getting a new pitch this summerPortman Road is getting a new pitch this summer (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

Pitch perfect

As we've known for months, Town are installing a new state-of-the-art pitch at Portman Road this summer.

There's already aerial views circulating on social media of the current situation, with the famed green carpet now replaced by a lot of soil and what looks to be the start of the under soil heating system.

Getting the new pitch bedded in, healthy and ready to play on will be a key task this summer. 

We know Town want the maximum possible time to allow that to happen, requesting an away game to start the new season.

The big kick-off 

After all of the above is resolved and decided, all that's left is the day the Blues kick off their Championship season.

That will start over the weekend of Friday, August 4 to Sunday, August 6.