Crucial month ahead for Jewell

IN just four weeks’ time, Ipswich Town will kick off their new Championship season with a visit to Bristol City.

But what state are Paul Jewell’s men in?

Four new signings were swiftly introduced before the start of pre-season but that initial optimism has been tempered somewhat by the sale of teen sensation Connor Wickham.

Now with some cash to burn – although chief executive Simon Clegg has stressed the word ‘some’ – Jewell will have to work overtime to quickly bring in another three or four new players to make a promotion push a realistic proposition.

After such an encouraging start to the summer, there is an undertone of slight concern among a section of Town supporters desperate for more additions, even if there are disagreements over what the priorities are.


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While talk of two new players has stalled this week, Town’s Championship rivals have flexed their financial muscles with Leicester City the division’s big spenders and even newly-promoted Brighton forking out �3 million-plus on sought-after striker Craig Mackail-Smith.

The next month promises to be a busy one for the Holy Trinity of Jewell, Clegg and owner Marcus Evans.

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It needs to be to ensure Town fans go into the new season in even greater heart.

So what are the priorities?

GOALKEEPER

YOU would think an international goalkeeper and a more-than-able deputy would be enough. But his man-of-the-match heroics against Cardiff City aside, doubts remain over Marton Fulop’s ability to be the No. 1 next season. Watford’s Scott Loach didn’t help himself by mentioning on Twitter he would love to play for the club where he was on schoolboy terms, while Richard Wright is said to be training with the Blues but that could well be just as a favour to an ‘old boy’.

Verdict: Not a priority for me, although Paul Jewell might spring a surprise if the right person becomes available.

RIGHT-BACK

SINCE the controversial departure of David Wright, the right side of the back four has been labelled a problem area. The ever-willing, and flexible, Jaime Peters has impressed fans, but seemingly not managers, while Carlos Edwards made the position his own towards the end of last season. The Trinidad & Tobago international might offer an attacking option, but his positional sense can make him a liability – even if he has the pace to atone.

Verdict: More important than a new keeper, but less of a priority than other positions.

CENTRE-BACK

IVAR Ingimarsson, Tommy Smith and Damien Delaney are a solid and dependable trio. But with Jewell unlikely to go with two left-footers in the heart of the defence, it currently seems to be the big Iceman and one other. A fourth, younger, central defender would be welcomed by most, although top target Sean St Ledger has since decided to join Sven Goran Eriksson’s own revolution at Leicester City.

VERDICT: Creativity in the final third is arguably more pressing, but a bit more pace at centre back wouldn’t go amiss.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

ASSUMING Lee Bowyer signs on the dotted line, a much more likely proposition than fellow veteran George Boateng who is said to be training with the Blues, that should solidify the centre of the team. But there remains a huge void where creativity should be. Grant Leadbitter needs to find the form he showed when he first moved to Suffolk but is he the man who could make the team tick?

Verdict: Absolutely crucial. It’s great having more experience and characters in the team, but there needs to be someone in the middle of the park who dictates play. Sadly it doesn’t look likely that his first name will be Jimmy.

WINGERS

THERE are players in the squad who could provide a spark from out wide. Josh Carson showed more-than-promise last year while we all continually hope Luciano Civelli finds his form and Lee Martin finds some consistency. Carlos Edwards is another option of course if Jewell decides to go for a different right-back.

VERDICT: If creativity is essential in the centre of the park, it is equally important coming from the wings. A new wide-man, someone like the heavily-linked Keith Treacy, should be a top priority.

STRIKERS

ISN’T bargain buy Michael Chopra and something-to-prove Nathan Ellington enough? Quite simply, no. Had Wickham stayed, that trio and one from Tamas Priskin or Jason Scotland might have sufficed. But without the 18-year-old, Town’s new-look strike-force remains a little short, although Jewell might decide to make do with the aformentioned frontmen and prioritise elsewhere.

VERDICT: Another essential purchase for me. Chopra and Ellington should both bring something to the table but how good would the options look with the addition of a Billy Sharp or Nicky Maynard?

CONCLUSION

THE fact that I, and many other Town fans, are still concerned after four new signings illustrates the massive task facing Paul Jewell. But the canny manager would have understood what was needed early on. Chief executive Simon Clegg was right to talk of patience this week, but some money will have to be spent soon. Creativity and pace remains crucial with a playmaker and a new winger both key, along with another centre-back. Then a big decision will be needed over how much money can be afforded for a new striker. With the likes of West Ham, Leicester and newly-promoted Southampton and Brighton all spending big, many Ipswich fans will be watching the last few weeks of pre-season with interest.

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