Comment: Five players needed to make Town contenders

While still trying to recover from Thursday night’s horror show against Norwich City, TERRY HUNT says that the gulf between the teams shows the size of the task ahead for Ipswich Town boss Paul Jewell

ARE you feeling better yet? I have to admit that Thursday night was one of the most painful experiences I’ve suffered in 43 years of supporting Ipswich Town, and there have been quite a few low points in that time!

We weren’t just beaten, we were humiliated, taken apart almost at will by a neat and tidy Norwich team, who now look capable of going all the way to the big-time. The gulf between the two sides was, to use Paul Jewell’s word, embarrassing.

We were simply outclassed by a better team. But where was the passion from the players in Blue and White? Not a single yellow card for a Town player tells its own story. I’m not suggesting they should go and kick lumps out of anything in Green and Yellow, but a bit of aggression wouldn’t have gone amiss.

What we suffered on Thursday night was the legacy of two disastrous management reigns at Portman Road. Jim Magilton was simply too wet behind the ears to succeed at this level, and Roy Keane’s tenure looks ever more disastrous as each day passes.

Paul Jewell has inherited a mess. He knows that and, if any supporters were in doubt, then we all had the message rammed home to us in agonising fashion by the Canaries.

This Ipswich squad is nowhere near good enough to challenge for promotion. Millions of pounds have been wasted on mediocrity. Meanwhile, up the A140, Paul Lambert has assembled a quality squad on a shoestring. In less than two seasons, he’s transformed the Canaries from East Anglia’s laughing stock to the brink of the Premier League.

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Do you remember the humiliation Norwich suffered at the hands of Colchester at Carrow Road on the opening day of last season? That was when Town fans were rubbing their hands at the prospect of the Canaries not only being relegated to League One, but also struggling at that level. But Norwich instantly removed Bryan Gunn, controversially replaced him with Lambert, and they’ve not looked back since.

Ipswich, meanwhile, have spluttered along, making no discernible progress. How we Town fans secretly envy Norwich having players like Wes Hoolahan and, yes, even Grant Holt.

Paul Jewell is no fool. He knows the size of the task ahead. He knows that his current squad is way short of the quality needed to mount a serious challenge for promotion. He knows that he will have to make changes during the summer. Let’s hope that multi-millionaire owner Marcus Evans opens his wallet.

Here’s my assessment of the current squad:

Goalkeepers: The jury is out on all three – Marton Fulop, Brian Murphy and Arran Lee-Barrett. All have impressed at times this season, but equally there have been some shaky moments for the trio. Verdict: New keeper needed.

Full-backs: Well, we don’t have a right-back at the club, do we? The last one was David Wright, and Roy Keane inexplicably shipped him out to Crystal Palace. Stand-in Carlos Edwards looks good going forward, but he’s not a defender. At left-back, Mark Kennedy is 35 next month and injury-prone. Young Shane O’Connor looks good bombing forward, but can he defend? Verdict: Two new full-backs required.

Centre-halves: Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney have been impressive this season, but have both been taken to the cleaners in the last two home games, by Middlesbrough and Norwich. Verdict: Stick with McAuley and Delaney.

Midfield: Do you remember the cruel moment on the darts-based TV game show Bullseye when the losing contestants were shown “here’s what you would have won?” I feel like that with Jimmy Bullard. We are being shown a tantalising glimpse of a class act, knowing we can’t keep him. Rather like Gio dos Santos before him.

Assuming Bullard doesn’t stay, we’re left with journeymen and the oh-so-promising but oh-so-young Josh Carson. Somehow, Jewell needs to unearth another Bullard. Verdict: We need a new class act in midfield who can unlock defences.

Strikers: Big, big problem. We all know that Connor Wickham is a star of the future. Neither Jason Scotland nor Tamas Priskin will score enough goals. We should stick Connor up front to terrorise defenders, and get a little, busy striker to be a pain in the backside to defenders. Someone like Billy Sharp of Doncaster would fit the bill. He certainly knows where the back of the net is. Verdict: Sign Billy Sharp – or someone in that mould.

So, that would mean five new players: A keeper, two full-backs, a dominating midfielder, and a busy little striker to play alongside Wickham.

That would give us a chance of making a challenge. Mr Jewell, Mr Clegg and Mr Evans – it’s over to you.