Ashton: Late Celina and Morsy deals were 'touch and go'
- Credit: ITFC/PA
Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton says the eye-catching deadline day signings of Bersant Celina and Sam Morsy were 'touch and go'.
A summer-long pursuit of skillful attacker Celina was full of twists and turns. At one stage a heart condition related to Covid looked to have scuppered the deal, but Town's persistence paid off and they were able bring the Kosovan international back to Portman Road on loan from French club Dijon.
Then, with just an hour and half until the window shut, tenacious midfielder Morsy - who was Paul Cook's trusted captain at both Chesterfield and Wigan - was landed on a permanent deal from Championship club Middlesbrough, the 29-year-old penning a three-year deal.
That made it 19 summer signings for the Blues, with many of them having turned down higher level interest to join the exciting new US-funded project at Portman Road.
“The last two were the two most difficult deals I have probably done in my career," reflected Ashton, in an exclusive interview with with the EADT and Ipswich Star.
"They were really, really complicated and at times it was touch and go on both whether we could get all the parties to agree and get them across the line."
He continued: “If you talk to my staff, particularly the likes of Andy Rolls, they will tell you Mark normally does not normally do lastminute.com.
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“I don’t like deadlines. I think the closer you get to deadlines the more likely you are to make bad decisions.
“But we all knew as a leadership team that we wanted to bring those two players in.
"Bersant was the very first player I spoke to Paul Cook about. At first, we didn't know if it was a realistic opportunity.
"Also in those very early meetings, Sam Morsy was right at the head of Paul Cook’s lists. He’s a leader, captain, experienced, does what it says on the tin. Paul was really clear he wanted him. The challenge was we did not believe he was available.
"You can spend a lot of oxygen and a lot of time on players that aren’t available.
"But what you have to do is keep monitoring the market. We kept in contact with all parties and, over the last four or five days (of the window), it became apparent that there were opportunities there. And we moved swiftly to bring them in."
Goalkeeper Christian Walton also arrived on loan from Brighton last week, Cook beefing up his already talented squad following a six-game winless start across all competitions.
Asked if the late additions were players the club would have tried to sign regardless of early results, Ashton replied: “Absolutely. As I say, Bersant and Sam were two players of the very first players we discussed. And we were really clear from day one we wanted another goalkeeper in the door. Christian was one we'd always monitored because Paul had worked with him before too.
“Sometimes you just have to wait for opportunities to do deals.
"It’s very unlike me to wildly change the plan at the end."
Cook now has a first-team squad containing 28 players, with at least two for every position.
"I’ll be honest with the fans now – I do not like January transfer windows," added Ashton. "January is a time when you overpay. You can make the facts fit the emotions and stretch and reach for something that you don’t need and unsettle the rest of your squad.
“I’m not saying that you don’t do business in January, but I always prefer to build a squad in the summer that can get you through that whole season. I think we now have a squad which has depth and quality."