Innovations on and off the field for Jim

JIM Magilton may still be regarded as a rookie manager, but he has not been afraid to make innovative changes in order to get his team best prepared for the challenge ahead and perhaps pull off a surprise or two.

By Derek Davis

JIM Magilton may still be regarded as a rookie manager, but he has not been afraid to make innovative changes in order to get his team best prepared for the challenge ahead and perhaps pull off a surprise or two.

While Magilton has slowly moulded the team to the way he wants it over the past 12 months, he has also overseen changes off the pitch.

For a start, the Blues players will step out of a new, enlarged dressing room for the season-opener against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, with the old weights room and away locker room knocked into one big home changing area.

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He has tinkered with the way they train - doing so in the afternoons now, to adjust the players' mind set - and of course the squad came back earlier than everyone else during the summer.

Magilton said: “We are looking for anything that will give us a slight edge. We are trying to push the very limits of sport because it is the little things, little moments that can change a game.

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“The 3pm training replicates match days and we want to stick to that. What we don't want is players going home after a morning's training and going for a nap around 3pm because it is important for the body clock to get used to playing and not dozing at 3pm on a Saturday.”

All this is designed to help give the Blues an edge in a fiercely competitive Championship division but one where Magilton feels Town can be a surprise package.

Ipswich are widely regarded as being a side that will hover around mid-table but Magilton's goal is the top 10 at least.

Magilton said: “I will probably still be regarded as a rookie, but I'm in my second season as a manager now - although I'm still learning.

“Expectation levels will always be high and I have set myself very high standards. I would like to be pushing for top six or top two but let us get into the top 10 first and then push on from there. Getting into the top 10 is very important to us, getting off to a good start is important.”

While not many people will look much further than the big-money clubs to be challenging, there is usually one surprise side, and while Magilton remains realistic he also allows a little daydreaming.

He said: “Money will talk in this division because if Charlton, Watford or Sheffield United, for example get into trouble, then they can go out and spend.

“The three relegated clubs, along with West Brom, Southampton and Wolves, will be promotion favourites. We can make these assumptions and be totally wrong, but they are very strong.

“We can be that team that comes from the pack and surprises everyone. On our day we can beat anyone, and last year we went into every game here at home knowing we could win.

“We also know we need to do better away from home. That was an area of concern that we have looked at and we have laid down certain things, which we hope the players have taken on board.

“We start every game with at least a point and especially away from home it is important to remember that philosophy. When we have really dug in during games we have done well - Stoke away last year, for example. When we play like that we know we won't be beaten.”

Magilton doesn't share the pessimistic view that neighbours Colchester will be relegation candidates.

He said: “Colchester have seen many people go out the door. I'm sure that will hurt because they have lost players who have been there some while.

“But George (Geraint Williams) is now building a side for this division and they will go out and be just as dangerous at home as they were last year.

“I fancy them to stay up. They have the players of the quality of Teddy Sheringham and will go into games expecting to do well so can be optimistic.”

He also sees another nip and tuck battle with Peter Grant's Norwich City once more. Magilton said: “Peter will go into the season very optimistic. They have made positive changes. He will view them as his players, and like ourselves they will have to build up form at home and look to pick up points away

“The one thing we all crave is momentum and if players get that and the confidence then they, like us, can do well.”

This is the year Magilton intends coming of age, and he hopes the gentle revolution starts getting the results he needs to take another step towards the veteran manager stage.

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