Byron and Bullard prove there is life after Leadbitter
IT was a case of the old, the new and the something-to-prove at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday.
There was no Grant Leadbitter in Town’s matchday squad after the midfielder finally decided that his future lied elsewhere – leaving with words of praise from Blues boss Paul Jewell.
But cameo roles for surprise sub Jimmy Bullard and 16-year-old Byron Lawrence, not to mention a cracker-jack goal from Ryan Stevenson, suggested hope for the future.
Master Lawrence certainly impressed the manager after coming on for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas in the 79th minute, with Town 3-1 up.
Jewell said: “He’s lively. You see the keeper making a save at the end, who was following in? It was Byron. We’ve been trying to get him the team for a while and today I thought I’d give him ten minutes after the third goal.”
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At the other end of the age spectrum is fit-again Bullard, a crowd favourite but one who owes everyone at Portman Road a big year next season.
And Jewell moved to allay any fears that he might be looking to offload the midfielder, who turns 34 next season.
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“Jimmy’s had his difficulties with illnesses and other stuff, but he is here next year,” Jewell said. “Every team is picked on its merits, no-one is in the team or out the door.”
While the Town midfield didn’t always show they could cope with the loss of Leadbitter, Stevenson had his best game in an Ipswich shirt – capped with the Blues’ cracking second goal – while Andy Drury and Luke Hyam will also be in contention next season.
Jewell admitted: “We’ve got people like Ryan and Andy Drury who are not on big money, but they’re hungry and they enjoy being here.”
24 hours after Leadbitter went public on his reasoning to leave Portman Road, Jewell only had positive things to say about his former captain.
The manager said: “I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Grant Leadbitter. He’s a terrific professional, but the longer it went on the more I realised it wasn’t going to happen.
“We wish him well, we would have liked him to have stayed, but the football club moves on. I didn’t get involved in the finances, but I guess if we’d have offered him 50 grand a week he might have signed.
“The decision was entirely up to him. I don’t know if he’s got something lined up or not. I think Grant was one of them that was brought in for a big transfer fee, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
“If he’s talking about ambition then no-one is more ambitious than me and Marcus Evans. That doesn’t always mean going out and spending big money on players.”