Darren Bent to Robbie Keane – five free agent strikers Ipswich Town could turn to
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Following injuries to strikers Jon Walters and Ellis Harrison, manager Paul Hurst has some thinking to do. In part one of this feature, STUART WATSON looks at five options when it comes to free agents.
The former Town academy graduate went on to have big money moves to Charlton, Tottenham, Sunderland and Aston Villa, scored more than 100 goals in the Premier League and played 13 times for England.
Now aged 34, he was released by Derby County this summer having spent the second half of last season on loan at Burton Albion.
When fit, he found the net in the Championship for the Rams (10 in 15 in 2014/15 and 10 in 37 as recently as 2016/17), but his troublesome hamstrings would be a risk for potential new employers.
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He trained with Burton over the summer and has rejected a pay-as-you-play deal at the League One club to assess other options, admitting last month that he was interested in a move to Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.
A romantic notion, but they do say you should never go back. Remember, Town returning for the likes of Jason Dozzell (1997), Shefki Kuqi (2008), Kieron Dyer (2011), Jonny Williams (2015 & 2016) and Jon Walters (2018) has all ended in tears.
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This one looks highly unlikely given the 31-year-old’s recent claim that his love for boyhood club Aston Villa, who released him after 17 years’ service this summer, will prevent him from playing for another English side.
Villa’s all-time record Premier League goalscorer said: “I’ve had a couple of offers from the Championship but after being at Aston Villa for so long it’s not really something I’d want to do, play against them.”
He did, however, also admit that playing abroad didn’t appeal given it would separate him from his young family.
The powerful Nigerian striker spent nine years at boyhood club Everton and still holds the record as their most used substitute in history (95).
A knee injury sustained in February 2009, courtesy of a two-footed Kevin Nolan horror tackle, left a player with big potential struggling with repeated niggles over the last decade.
He had three years at West Brom and a further season at Sunderland, all in the Premier League, before spending last season at Chinese club Beijing Enterprises. He departed after reporting them to FIFA after claiming coaches asked him ‘not to try’.
Altogether, he’s been restricted to just 37 appearances over the last three seasons.
Strong as an ox and an expert at spinning defenders with his back to goal, he would provide a different kind of threat to the likes of Kayden Jackson and Freddie Sears in the lone striker role.
The Republic of Ireland legend may now be 38, but he hasn’t given up on playing yet.
After a prolific five years at MLS club LA Galaxy, he spent last season at Indian Super League side Atletico de Kolkata, initially under the management of Teddy Sheringham before overseeing the last three games as player-manager himself then departing to consider his options.
Speaking last month, the former Wolves, Inter Milan, Leeds, Tottenham and Liverpool star said: “I haven’t retired (from playing) yet. I have offers to play but they are not what I want.
“It has to suit me and not for the sake of playing. There has to be something with it, coaching a bit would entice me into something, that’s a road I want to go down.”
He would provide some valuable experience and leadership in the dressing room. Maybe Walters could even put in a good word?
The 6ft 5in three-cap Hungarian spent three years in the Championship with Portsmouth, Leicester and Blackpool between 2011 and 2013. He scored his first goal for the Foxes in a 6-0 thrashing of Town just days after Mick McCarthy had taken charge.
In more recent years he has been playing in Hungary (Diosgyor), Turkey (Mersin Idmanyurdu) and Croatia (Hajduk Split). In his first season at Split he was the league’s top-scorer with 18 goals before suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in June 2017.
Town have had, shall we say, mixed results when it’s come to Hungarian strikers in the past. Tamas Priskin scored that goal against Arsenal in the League Cup semi-final but ultimately went down as a big money miss under Roy Keane, then there was the towering Balint Bajner who ended up making just seven appearances during the Mick Mccarthy reign.