Blues’ home from home

IPSWICH Town will be spending most of this pre-season on the training ground, rather than on the road.

That is in stark contrast to 12 months ago, when Town were on the move constantly with trips to Portugal and Ireland, and visits to Army barracks.

Manager Roy Keane has made a conscious effort to avoid a similar demanding pre-season programme, in an effort to avoid another dreadful start to the campaign – Town did not win any of their first 14 league games of last season.

To date, just one fixture has been arranged abroad, at PSV Eindhoven in Holland on July 17, with the highlight at Portman Road being the visit of West Ham a fortnight later.

“Last year was a bit hectic, because I took on the job a bit late into the previous season,” admitted Keane, who was named as Jim Magilton’s successor in late April 2009, just a couple of games before the end of the season.

“There’s not as many games this time, and not as much travelling, so I think we will be based around here (Playford Road training ground complex) a lot.

“I think that will help the players, with a touch less travelling, and we can get a bit more work done on the training pitch.

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“Pre-season will be a bit more organised this season,” added Keane.

And with the absence of any new signings, at least for the moment, there is likely to be less chopping and changing with Keane hoping to work with a more settled side.

The Irishman never had an established central defensive partnership, or a regular strike-force duo, during the opening weeks of last season, and David Norris’ early injury also led to disruption in central midfield.

Tommy Smith, fresh from his successful exploits at the World Cup, will be one of those players hoping to establish himself as a regular in the Town side.

Smith played in all three of New Zealand’s group matches in South Africa, on the left side of a three-man central defence. The Kiwis drew all of their three games.

While none of Town’s targets in the transfer market have been in action at the World Cup – by Keane’s own admission – Smith should hopefully have benefitted from the experience of playing on football’s biggest stage.

“None of my (transfer) targets have been playing in the World Cup,” explained Keane.

“There’s only one player at the World Cup who will hopefully be involved with Ipswich next year and that was obviously one of our own players, Tommy Smith.

“Tommy’s got another two or three weeks off. I thought he did reasonably well. I think the experience will do him the world of good. He was on loan (at Brentford) last year and played a few games for us. He’ll be a much better player for it.

“He’ll be fighting to get into our starting XI in the Championship, having played in the World Cup. It can only be good for our club,” added Keane.

Pre-season fixtures

Tuesday, July 6: NEWMARKET TOWN (away, 7.45pm); Friday, July 9: SOUTHEND UNITED (away, 7.45pm); Saturday, July 10: HADLEIGH UNITED (away, 3pm); Saturday, July 17: PSV (away, 7pm); Tuesday, July 27: LEISTON (away, 7.45pm); Wednesday, July 28: BURY TOWN (away, 7.45pm); Saturday, July 31: WEST HAM (home, 3pm); Tuesday, August 3: TOTTENHAM XI (home, 7.45pm)

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