Contract conundrums: Skuse, Dozzell, Edwards and Rowe among those in final year of Ipswich Town deals
Ipswich Town extended several contracts in the middle of last season. STUART WATSON takes a look at which players might be next in line for new deals.
Cole Skuse will turn 34 in March. Town have the option to extend his deal by a further year, though he is keen to sign something longer than that.
He's playing well and insists he is 'forever being told by people that I can go on until I'm 38/39'.
Perhaps a contract can be negotiated that includes some sort of pathway into coaching or behind-the-scenes role at Portman Road? Or perhaps owner Marcus Evans will decide there is no room for sentiment.
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Much could depend on how strong a position the Blues are in come the turn of the year. At least half an eye might be on who would be up to the job if the club were to be promoted back to the Championship.
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Town are in quite the predicament with Andre Dozzell.
Ipswich born-and-bred, the son of a former hero and a long-established England youth international.
He finds himself well down the midfield pecking order though. Sixth, as it stands, behind Skuse, Flynn Downes, Alan Judge, Emyr Huws and Jon Nolan. There's Teddy Bishop to come back from injury too.
Why? Well, it's fair to say he hasn't always grasped opportunities when they've come his way. Then again, it's hard to boss games when you're parachuted in for the odd match every few months.
The 20-year-old loves Ipswich Town. You get the sense he loves playing football even more. He hated missing a year with that cruciate knee ligament injury and, with the current lack of game-time, you'd imagine he won't be rushing into signing a new deal any time soon.
It could leave the club triggering a one-year extension clause and then reluctantly having to cash in before a prime asset's value depreciates too much.
For a Premier League club it would be an everything to gain and little to lose gamble.
Who else is in the last year crew?
Gwion Edwards, you would imagine, will sign an extended deal at some stage over the coming months. Danny Rowe, who appeared to have one foot out the door not so long ago, has got his Town career back on track but might still have a little bit more to prove before the club start any negotiations with him.
There was interest in Jordan Roberts leading up to the recent transfer deadline day, but Town decided to keep hold of him as a squad player. Once the early cup games are done and the likes of Will Keane and Freddie Sears are up to speed then he'll be even more on the fringes.
Keane, who only signed for a year, needs to prove his fitness.
Wilson, who only signed until January, has done well so far and could very well be kept on until the end of the campaign to compete with Luke Chambers, Luke Woolfenden and Toto Nsiala.
Don't be surprised to see Armando Dobra's impressive progress rewarded with a quickfire contract extension following a recent first pro deal, as was the case with Jack Lankester last season.
Bailey Clements and Brett McGavin have a year with the Under-23s to convince Paul Lambert they are worth keeping on.
RISK VERSUS REWARD
It's always a balancing act when deciding the length of contracts.
On one hand you want to protect your assets if their star suddenly rises, on the other you don't want yourself tied to a long-term financial commitment if a player flops, fades, is always injured, or their face simply no longer fits.
It's been a while since a sellable asset has walked away for nothing. You have to go back 7/8 years for the Bosman exits of David Norris and Grant Leadbitter. The more recent releases of David McGoldrick and Christophe Berra may have been controversial, but nevertheless were on the club's terms.
There's a lot more evidence of the club getting stuck with players.
Cameron Stewart made just two sub appearances in three years before his deal finally expired. That won't have come cheap. Elliott Hewitt started just 10 times for Town during his three-year deal. The injury-struck Giles Coke started just four times in two years.
Then there's the 'left by mutual consent' lot. That's essentially when the club buys a player out of their contract. How much will we have to pay you between now and X? Fancy taking Y now and finding yourself another club? Deal.
In no particular order, we've had the following in that category: Jimmy Bullard, Alex Henshall, James Alabi, Jason Scotland, Josh Carson, Jaimie Peters, Ivar Ingimarsson, Freddie Veseli, and Josh Yorwerth.
LEAVING IT LATE
Skuse signed his last two-year deal in February 2018. He personally contacted owner Evans to kick-start negotiations as the clock ticked down on his previous contract.
Twice, captain Luke Chambers has signed new two-year contracts late in the day - first in May 2017 and then again in May this year.
Speaking in August 2017, Chambers said: "I think that, having played the most games for the club over five years, it would have stood me in good stead to maybe not have had to wait until two days before the trigger option on my contract expired before I found out the club wanted me to stay."
Then, once again speaking honestly this summer, the Blues skipper - recalling the time he almost joined Nottingham Forest in January 2017 - said: "I was put in a difficult situation. I was being told that they weren't sure if they were going to offer me a contract. Then all of a sudden Forest came in and I was like 'I've got a family to look after'.
"I think, personally speaking, that has been an issue with the club. There are massive examples in the past where the club has let contracts run down, good players have gone for nothing and gone on to do well when maybe a little bit of forward planning would have worked better.
"I just didn't think it warranted me to go into the last three months of my contract having barely missed a game in five years. It was difficult because the other lads were thinking 'hold on a minute, if he's going through that, where do we all stand?'"
In general, the policy at Portman Road has been to hand out two year deals with the club holding the option to extend that by a further year. The length of contracts are starting to creep up again now though as Evans and Lambert talk about building for the future.
Kane Vincent-Young recently became the first player to be handed a four-year deal since Emyr Huws in 2017.
James Norwood, Flynn Downes, Jack Lankester, Luke Woolfenden, Myles Kenlock, Corrie Ndaba and Dylan Crowe have all signed until 2022 this calender year.
The rest are contracted until 2021: Luke Chambers, Freddie Sears, Alan Judge, Toto Nsiala, Jon Nolan, Tomas Holy, Teddy Bishop, Janoi Donacien, Tristan Nydam, Idris El Mizouni, Harry Wright, Ben Morris, Ben Folami, Kai Brown, Adam Przybek, Barry Cotter, Aaron Drinan and Zak Brown.