As few as four new faces could be all that’s needed

Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town - Credit: Archant

AS few as three or four new faces could turn Ipswich Town into a promotion-chasing force next season.

Six months ago, Mick McCarthy inherited a side that were cut adrift at the foot of the Championship table with just seven points from their opening 13 matches.

The feeling was that, if he did somehow steer the club to safety, it would take a complete overhaul over the summer months to achieve any kind of progress.

Now, if the likes of loanee trio Richard Stearman, Jay Tabb and Daryl Murphy are signed on a permanent basis, it could take just a few tweaks to end almost a decade of mid-table mediocrity in the second tier of English football.

And that’s working on the basis that the likes of Guirane N’Daw (loan ending), Lee Martin, Andy Drury and Arran Lee-Barrett (contracts expiring) may be heading for the exit door.

The Blues would be in fifth place in the table had the campaign started when McCarthy took over, with only Cardiff, Hull and Watford – the division’s top three – claiming more points over the last 32 games (Brighton also ahead of them on goal difference).

Not only has safety been already assured heading into Saturday’s curtain-closer at Burnley, but the core of a squad – containing a healthy mix of youth and experience – has slowly begun to take shape along the way.

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In Scott Loach, Elliott Hewitt, Luke Chambers, Tommy Smith, Aaron Cresswell, Tyrone Mings, Carlos Edwards, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Luke Hyam, Anthony Wordsworth, David McGoldrick, Frank Nouble, Paul Taylor and Michael Chopra, there is a core of 14 players to build around. Academy quintet Jack Marriott, Jonny Leddy, David October Mark Timlin and Tom Winter are also stepping up into the professional ranks.

Keep the likes of Stearman, Tabb and Murphy and you’re already at the magic 22 number – McCarthy having stated that he would like two players for every position.

That’s just as well, because it’s unlikely that owner Marcus Evans will embark on a multi-million pound spending spree given the fact that expensive academy upgrades and Financial Fair Play rules are pending.

Quality not quantity will be the mantra as McCarthy looks to dip into the transfer market and find the players who can provide depth and guile to a squad that has already proved it has bags of spirit and organisation.

Competing against numerous sides flush with Premier League parachute payments will not be easy, but it will not be impossible for the Blues to mix it at the top on a sensible budget.

Scouts Dave Bowman and Ian Evans have a proven track record of finding McCarthy some hidden gems at former clubs Sunderland and Wolves.

Repeat that feat this summer and there is a feeling that Blues fans may finally have something to shout about next season.

– In today’s EADT, Ipswich Town writer Stuart Watson takes a look at the areas of the squad which McCarthy will look to strengthen. Not in Suffolk or north Essex? You can download an e-edition of the paper from