How Don's know-how can benefit Blues

ARSENAL and England legend Don Howe spent time passing on tips to the Ipswich Town squad ahead on Sunday's derby at Carrow Road.

Derek Davis

ARSENAL and England legend Don Howe spent time passing on tips to the Ipswich Town squad ahead on Sunday's derby at Carrow Road. He exclusively told chief football writer DEREK DAVIS what he, and they, learned.

FOOTBALL legend Don Howe has tipped Blues boss Jim Magilton for a bright managerial future, praised the quality of Town players and revealed some of the tips he has passed on to the Ipswich squad.

The 73-year-old, who has had extensive experience in the game, including playing and coaching Arsenal and England, spent Tuesday morning taking a training session at Town's Playford Road practise ground and is hoping to be asked back again next month.

A conversation with a mutual friend of his, and old pal Sir Bobby Robson, who played with at West Brom and England and worked with when he was national boss, led to him being invited down to Portman Road.

Howe said: “A few weeks ago I was chatting with Charlie Woods (Town scout) and he was saying about how players sometimes got bored with training. I suggested they liked to hear a different voice now and again and bring various people in, coaches, psychologists, whoever to make it fun and interesting and break things up.

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“It is something (the former Arsenal manager) Bertie Mee used to do a lot at Arsenal just for a morning now and then for a change and it always went down well.

“I spoke with Jim about what he wanted me to do. He knew exactly what he was after and told me the main thing was for the players to enjoy it.”

Although it was just one morning Howe relished being out on the training pitch and rates the Town players as keen, if sodden, students.

He said: “It was a horrible wet Tuesday morning but the whole first team squad were out there and were very good and enthusiastic.

“They seemed to enjoy it although I bet quite a few were dying for it to end and to get in the warm.

“I certainly enjoyed working with them and it was so engrossing I didn't even notice the rain.

Typically of the man who started his career at West Bromwich Albion when they were a top side and also had managerial spells at Galatasaray, QPR and Coventry City, Howe did his homework on the Blues when the idea was first mooted that he took a session.

Howe said: “I watched them against Charlton last month and I came to the Sheffield United game on Saturday. I made a few notes and came away with a few ideas then.

“One of the things I noticed was how good Ipswich were around the box. They play some lovely one/twos and their passing and approach player is very good.

“Sheffield United bombarded Ipswich in the first 15 minutes and I thought Ipswich coped with it very well. But it was noticeable how Gareth McAuley does most of the heading and attacking the ball. The others all do well, but they could attack the ball more. That is not a criticism at all just an observation.

“I worked on various things with the squad but I d not do anything tactical. That is very much Jim's job.”

Howe insists his sessions are not deep-rooted in the old fashioned ways, but a blend of the modern too.

He said: “I like to stay up-to-date with all the modern methods. When I coach I don't really talk about the old players, although there were a lot of very good players I can remember well, but prefer to talk about what players of today do.”

Although he stepped back from full-time coaching five years ago Howe insists he is as busy as ever, coaching for various organisations and working as a BBC online football expert.

He said: “I'm not retired, more semi-retired. I decided five years ago I didn't want to be tied down to any one thing, but I enjoy being asked to do a lot of different things. I'm able to jump on a plane and go where I want.

“I have worked with the FAs in Northern Ireland, Wales and England, even Holland, yet funnily enough not Scotland.”

A REGULAR around the Football League scouting for the Gunners, Howe has an for a good player, but would not be lured into talking about individuals or who he tips for a Premiership future

He said: “Ipswich have some very good players. I was impressed with the way they stood up to Sheffield United and then got on top themselves.”

After working with manager Jim Magilton during his UEFA Pro-Licence and spending time with him at Portman Road Howe has been impressed, so far but warns he is on a difficult path.

Howe said: “Jim has terrific potential but he is still learning. He is gaining experience all the time but it takes a while.

“All managers need someone they can turn to and talk with and confide in. They also need someone who will disagree with them too and offer a different point of view.

“I have seen in Jim a lot of ambition and enthusiasm and he has a bright future. But this managerial game is very hard and there are many dips. It is easy when the grass is all green and lovely, but it is when things go downhill that you are really tested.”

Howe has deep affection for Ipswich, even though he was on the Arsenal's coaching staff when Town beat them in the 1978 FA Cup Final, and has maintained his 50-year association with Sir Bobby.

Howe said: “I have known Ipswich Town very well for a lot of years and know many people here. “I keep in regular touch with Bob (Sir Bobby Robson) and we call each other at least once a week.

“He is a very busy man, and gets about all over the place but we are still close.”

Even if he has a sneaking bias towards Ipswich the man who helped Wimbledon to their famous FA Cup win over Liverpool as Bobby Gould's assistant, was reluctant to pick a winner for this Sunday's derby match.

Howe said: “The form and position in the table go out the window and both will want to win so it depends on many things, including a little bit of luck on the day.”