Exit Interview: Harrison’s Ipswich career never got going despite flashes... but his departure comes with added risk
- Credit: Archant
Ellis Harrison left Ipswich Town for Portsmouth yesterday. ANDY WARREN looks back at the Welsh striker’s one season at Portman Road.
Any striker who arrives at Portman Road with a reference from the great Marcus Stewart is likely to have a fair amount of expectation on his shoulders.
The Ipswich icon was Ellis Harrison's mentor while assistant manager of Bristol Rovers, overseeing the Welshman's rise from non-league football to League One.
If you then factor in Paul Hurst and Ipswich ultimately asking £750,000 signing Harrison, as well as fellow newcomer Kayden Jackson, to replace the combined 42 goals of Martyn Waghorn, Joe Garner, David McGoldrick and Bersant Celina, his task was an extremely difficult one.
The early signs were good, as he showed flashes in his pre-season debut at MK Dons before scoring a superb goal against West Ham in the final warm-up game, but things weren't easy as he tasted Championship football for the first time.
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He started Hurst's first five games in charge but had few sights of goal, before finding himself being played on the left of midfield at Sheffield Wednesday and struggling to make any kind of impact.
He started just once more under Hurst but was replaced at half-time against Brentford, before an ankle ligament injury, suffered in training, kept him sidelined for several weeks.
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His season never got going again from there.
His first of only three starts under Paul Lambert saw him score an excellent goal against Sheffield United in December, but that was as good as it got.
You get the sense he never truly convinced Lambert of his ability, despite an encouraging display against Millwall on New Year's Day, with a back injury essentially ending his Ipswich Town career in February.
In total he made just nine starts, featured just eight more times from the bench, scored one competitive goal.
What went well
"He's got a bit of everything. He's got pace and power, he'll put himself about, he'll work hard, win headers in both boxes and add value to the team."
That was Stewart's assessment of Harrison in the days following his move from the Memorial Stadium to Portman Road, with the early signs positive.
Pace and power were on display at MK Dons in pre-season, with the striker having two good headed efforts as he generated speed on the ball a long way from the goal, while the physical side of his game was clear to see.
His movement and neat finish to convert an Andre Dozzell pass against West Ham certainly whetted the appetite, while his hold-up play and ability to deceive defenders on the opening day against Blackburn was promising.
His goal against the Blades was superb, as he drifted in from the left and sent a well-struck shot past Dean Henderson with the aid of a slight deflection, while his performance as the central striker against Millwall on the first day of 2019 again suggested he might be the answer for Town's lack of a focal point.
However, within a few days, Will Keane and Collin Quaner had been signed and Harrison was relegated to a back-up role before his back injury struck.
Areas to improve
While there were positive flashes, that's sadly all they were.
We didn't see enough of Harrison to truly judge what he is capable of and he will now have to work his way back to the second tier from League One.
His own false dawns were perhaps symbolic of Ipswich's last season.
He says he 'never really got going at Ipswich' and he's right.
He had a total of just 18 shots in Ipswich blue and hit the target five times in nearly 800 minutes of action.
That says as much about the Blues as a whole last season as it does Harrison, with the lone frontman lacking support from midfield and wide areas throughout.
Harrison has joined a Portsmouth side expected to challenge the Blues at the top end of League One next season.
The decision to allow him to join a promotion rival of course comes with an element of risk but, with Lambert having already signed 32-goal striker James Norwood from Tranmere and searching for further reinforcements, it's a risk the Town boss is clearly willing to take.
For Harrison, the chance to link up with a manager who has chased his signature for 18 months will be a welcome one.
The Welshman will hope regular gametime under Kenny Jackett will get his career back on track following a stalled year in Suffolk.
Only time will tell if the move is the right one for the Blues or the player.