Crossing the East Anglian divide – Andy Marshall’s advice for Ipswich Town target Elliott Bennett
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Joe Royle believes Elliott Bennett could quickly win over any Ipswich Town fans who have a problem with his Norwich City past.
Speaking after Wednesday night’s pre-season 1-0 defeat at Barnet, Blues boss Mick McCarthy was asked about national reports linking him with speedy Blackburn winger Bennett.
He would only say that the 27-year-old was a player ‘he likes’, having previously managed him at Wolves.
It would be viewed as a controversial switch by some, given that Bennett made 79 appearances for Town’s bitter Norfolk rivals between 2011 and 2016.
Royle is one of only a handful of players and managers who have had a foot in both camps when it comes to the East Anglian football divide. He played 42 times for the Canaries at the end of his career and then became Blues boss in 2002.
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“There is always an initial protest from fans when someone makes that move,” he said. “I remember one fan being adamant that I’d called Ipswich a ‘small club’ when I was working on TV. That was ridiculous. I’d said something along the lines that Ipswich had done great to be up there with the big boys when they finished fifth in the Premier League.
“There was that little bit of doubt. A few bad results sees you labelled some kind of double agent, but I soon found out that if the results are right then that quickly gets forgotten.”
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Bennett only moved to Blackburn from Carrow Road in January, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal, but Paul Lambert, his former Norwich boss, has since been replaced by Owen Coyle in the Ewood Park hot-seat.
McCarthy never played Bennett during his time at Molineux, the youngster behind the likes of Matt Jarvis and Michael Kightly in the pecking order, but he will have worked closely with Blues assistant manager Terry Connor at that time in the reserves.
“I never have a problem with managers going for their former players,” added Royle. “I did it at Ipswich with Kevin Horlock and David Unsworth. It’s useful because you know their character, strengths and weaknesses.”
Keeper Andy Marshall was the last player to make the move from Norwich to Ipswich and he never really won over the Portman Road faithful. Now the keeper coach at Aston Villa, he said: “When you make that sort of move you really have to do something incredible on a consistent basis to win people over. The second something goes wrong for you personally, or for the team, then you become a target for the fans.
“I get the passion and the rivalry, I really do, but that negativity didn’t help me or the team. I felt people were waiting for any excuse to get on my back. If Elliott does make the move then he should be ready for a baptism of fire.”
Even Marshall’s wild celebrations following a win against Norwich did little to raise his reputation with Blues fans. He said: “That wasn’t contrived, that was just me. No matter who I was playing for or against, I wanted to win – for myself and for my team-mates. That one probably did mean a little bit more though.
“I go a lot of stick and grief off both Norwich and Ipswich fans which I always took in good humour. I enjoyed my time at both clubs and have no regrets about making the move.”