Ipswich should make Joel Ward their first signing says Town legend

IPSWICH Town legend Ray Crawford believes Paul Jewell should do everything in his power to make Joel Ward his first signing of the summer.

The Portsmouth utility man was close to a move to Suffolk following a month-long pursuit by Ipswich for 22-year-old Ward and his team mates Jason Pearce and Stephen Henderson during the January transfer window.

Pompey’s relegation to League One was sealed at the weekend and a firesale is expected to be headed by Ward and 24-year-old skipper Pearce.

Jewell will be giving serious thought to a renewed bid for the pair – Henderson joined West Ham in January – but will have to act quickly, with Leeds United heavily linked with centre-back Pearce.

But Crawford, Town’s all-time top scorer and radio pundit in his hometown of Portsmouth, believes Ward’s versatility makes him the top priority.

“Ward can play anywhere,” said Crawford, who expects virtually all of Pompey’s first-team squad to move on.

“He is equally adept at full-back, centre-back, midfield or even upfront.

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“He really is a good talent and has a great future. If he left Pompey – which I expect him to – I would love to see him join Ipswich.”

While Crawford would like to see both Ward and Pearce in the blue of Ipswich next season, he insisted the latter would need to be paired with a physical presence alongside him.

He explained: “Pearce has done a great job at Portsmouth but is a little bit small for a centre-back. That said, he puts everything into it and if you play him alongside a tall guy, he would be fine.”

The pair might have to win over Town fans after publicly distancing themselves from a move to Portman Road at the start of the year.

But Crawford believes that only underlined their loyalty to cash-strapped Pompey and their desire to try and get them out of trouble.

He added: “Pearce is someone who will throw his body on the line. He loves tackling, has no fear and he has been a good captain, encouraging players all the time.

“They both love Pompey but they would be equally committed at whatever club they join.”

Pearce only signed for Portsmouth last summer in a �500,000 move from neighbours Bournemouth and it has been suggested that the South Coast club could treble that fee in the coming weeks.