Blackburn Rovers will be a huge test for my young team – Paul Jewell

Ipswich v Blackburn: Paul Jewell has tipped tomorrow’s opponents Blackburn Rovers to be in the promotion shake-up at the end of the season.

Jewell is under no illusions over the size of the task facing his young team – which is not expected to be boosted by the new face the Blues boss was confident of signing yesterday.

He said: “It’s going to be huge test for us. Blackburn are one of the favourites to go straight back up in a very tough league. It’s a game we’re looking forward to though.

“We have a young squad, one or two will be making their debuts and are excited to be involved in what will hopefully be a good game.”

While a season-opener against Blackburn is about as tough as it gets, Jewell believes it is in keeping with a Championship that remains as difficult as ever to get out of.

“I’m always optimistic, as every manager is going into the first game,” Jewell said. “We know it’s going to be difficult though.

“If you look at the teams that have come down, Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves, as well as the three that have come up, Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield, they are all big clubs with decent budgets.

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“I know we say it every year but it’s going to be as hard a league as it’s ever been.”

One boost for Jewell is that his limited squad has no new injury concerns. Damien Delaney, Josh Carson and Ronan Murray have all come back from international duty unscathed while Andy Drury has reported fit following his calf problem.

Now the manager must decide whether to stick with the same starting XI, and formation, which overcame Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night or revert back to the 4-2-3-1.

A lot might depend on how Jason Scotland recovered from his impressive performance in midweek and whether Jewell wants to push Lee Martin back into the centre behind Michael Chopra.

If so, Drury, Carson or Ryan Stevenson would seem favourite to start on the left.

New signings Scott Loach and Luke Chambers will make their Championship debuts, along with Massimo Luongo.

Town’s bench will again be half filled by youngsters with Jack Ainsley, Byron Lawrence and Ronan Murray all pushing for a place.

Jewell will come up against Steve Kean in the opposite dugout and admits he has some sympathy for the Rovers manager’s plight following public protests demanding his sacking.

The Town boss said: “I try not to take too much notice of what’s going on at other clubs because it’s hard enough trying to run this club.

“Looking from afar, I think Steve Kean has held himself with great dignity. It’s a tough role and some of the abuse he’s had has been unwarranted.

“We all accept we get criticism, but sometimes it has overstepped the line. It’s a lonely old job this and some of the stuff he’s had to put up with has been horrible.

“He’s dealt with it well though and he’d probably tell you he’s come through it stronger.”