EXCLUSIVE: Michael Chopra close to Sheffield Wednesday switch
- Credit: Archant
Michael Chopra’s troubled time at Ipswich Town is set to come to an end this week with a move to Sheffield Wednesday, we understand.
With his two years in Suffolk blighted by a series of off-field issues – including an on-going battle with a severe gambling addiction – the 29-year-old was transfer-listed by manager Mick McCarthy at the end of last season.
Chopra, understood to be by far and away the club’s top-earner on £18,000-per-week, still has a year left to run on his contract and had repeatedly told his followers on social networking website Twitter that he would not take a pay cut to leave.
The EADT understands that a move to Barnsley fell through last week after the striker failed to reach a financial agreement with the Blues over the remainder of his deal, with a frustrated McCarthy then demoting the front-man from squad number 10 to 28.
A departure was beginning to look increasingly unlikely until Dave Jones – the manager who got the very best out of Chopra during his three spells at Cardiff City – came calling at the back end of last week.
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McCarthy did not risk playing Chopra in Saturday’s 1-0 pre-season win at Barnet and, while there are still some negotiations to be concluded, it’s understood that talks are at an advanced stage regarding a switch to Hillsborough.
Chopra’s departure will free up some funds for the Blues boss, though he does not plan on making too many more additions before the Championship opener at Reading on August 3.
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Scottish international centre-back Christophe Berra will today sign a two-year deal at Portman Road, reuniting with his former Wolves boss and becoming the club’s eighth summer signing following the arrivals of Cole Skuse, Paul Anderson, Dean Gerken, Frederic Veseli, Jay Tabb, Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick.
A deal is also set to be concluded for 18-year-old Irish winger Jack Doherty, the teenager arriving for Waterford United, while Conor Henderson – a 21-year-old Irish Under-21 international midfielder recently released by Arsenal – is due to be on trial with the Blues this week.
The addition of those two would take Town up to a squad of 20 outfield players, with McCarthy – who has confirmed he will not be pursuing his interest in recent trialists Titus Bramble and Bongani Khumalo – saying: “I doubt very much that we’ll get another centre-back. The plan is to have 20 outfield players and two goalkeepers. We may supplement that with one or two loanees if required, but probably only if there are injuries.”
When Michael Chopra departs Ipswich Town for Sheffield Wednesday this week, Ipswich Town’s final link to the ill-fated, big-name buying policy of Paul Jewell will have gone.
The latter has left the Blues with some excellent players for the future – Aaron Cresswell, Scott Loach, Elliott Hewitt and Luke Chambers to name four – but it was his approach to the transfer market upon arrival in 2011 which always be his unfortunate legacy at Portman Road.
Few fans complained when the likes of Chopra, Jimmy Bullard and Lee Bowyer – all former Premier League stars coming towards the end of their careers – were enticed to Suffolk on big money deals. It didn’t work though, with the Blues looking like a collection of individuals in numerous sorry performances.
Chopra vowed to score 30 goals in a season for Town, but he never hit the goalscoring heights from earlier in his career.
There may have been 14 goals in his debut campaign and some important last-minute winners at Watford and Bolton last season, but all that was overshadowed by a lengthy list of off-field issues.
There was time in rehab for a serious gambling addiction, a 10-year ban from horse racing for his part in a corruption scandal, plus numerous ill-advised posts on social networking website Twitter – one of which saw him post a picture of a huge bag of cash in response to his taunters.
All-in-all, the striker has proved nowhere near value for his sizeable wages – understood to be around £18,000-per-week.
Some good has come from the early part of Jewell’s era though – owner Marcus Evans’ realisation that it doesn’t necessarily take big names to create a good team.
That’s why he went for Mick McCarthy as Jewell’s replacement, a manager who believes in the complete antithesis of ‘star names’.
McCarthy has made a career out of forging successful teams with players who may not necessarily be the most naturally talented, but who are leaders, good characters and who work their socks off.
The team spirit around the training ground is palpable at present. There are no cliques and players enjoy going into work.
Football’s a small world and word of McCarthy’s quiet revolution is spreading. Now players are suddenly falling over themselves to come to a place tagged as ‘sleepy Suffolk’.
While supporters at other clubs may long for household names, Town fans won’t be sad to see the last of theirs depart.