Exit Interview: Knudsen was Town’s ‘Mad Dog’ whose final-season saga clouds four years at Portman Road
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Jonas Knudsen will leave Ipswich Town when his contract expires. ANDY WARREN takes a look back at the Danish international’s time at Portman Road.
The Danish left-back had big shoes to fill when he arrived at Portman Road from Esbjerg in the summer of 2015.
Ipswich had been spoilt at left-back, with three years of Aaron Cresswell moving seamlessly into a single campaign of Tyrone Mings prior to his sale to Bournemouth - a year in which the Blues made the play-offs.
The initial signs were good as Knudsen's physical approach and supreme fitness saw him quickly settle into the team, helped of course by a fast start which saw Ipswich win three and draw one of their first four games.
Nicknamed 'Mad Dog', the Dane became a popular figure with supporters, who appreciated his grit, determination, passion and heart. A couple of goals against Norwich in 2016/17 certainly helped, as did deputising in the 'fist pump' department when Luke Chambers wasn't on the field to celebrate victories.
He was a highly dependable fixture under Mick McCarthy, making 122 appearances for the former Town boss and earning the right to represent Denmark at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
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It was perhaps fitting that a player so loyal to McCarthy scored the winner in his final game in charge, as the Blues beat Barnsley 1-0 last April.
But it was that loyalty to McCarthy that began to erode a previously good relationship with sections of the Ipswich support.
In an interview with The Sun he said: "I don't like the way they treated him - if you look at what he had done for the club, they have to be pleased with that.
"But they don't want to hear that and it wasn't right the way they did it."
"If we didn't have him last year, we could have been in trouble. Maybe they (the fans) have to be careful what they wish for."
That, followed by later comments to the Danish media regarding his future and potentially 'trying something new', seemed to change the way Knudsen was viewed.
He returned from Russia a few weeks into Paul Hurst's 'new era' and was quickly told by the new Town boss that he must prove himself all over again.
He was also entering the final year of his contract and was linked with moves elsewhere on the back of his exposure in Russia, with Hurst insisting he had no plans to discuss a new deal. It quickly became clear this would likely be his final campaign in Blue.
He sealed his place in Hurst's side, starting his first 12 games in charge before being dropped to the bench at Swansea in October, but his performance levels were below what we had come to expect.
He was back in the side prior to Paul Lambert's appointment and featured in the Town boss's first nine matches, before being dropped again as the Scot revealed his left-back's mind and future was elsewhere.
No January move materialised as Knudsen sat on the sidelines for seven weeks, despite continuing to be the best left-back at the club. It was certain at this point his Ipswich career had just a few months to run.
He did return to the side for the derby clash with Norwich but was sent off at Wigan three games later, before returning again for one final outing at West Brom where Stefan Johansen's free-kick deflected into the net off his chest.
Knudsen's Ipswich career ends after 155 games over four seasons, but it's likely his time in Suffolk will be remembered for the saga-like season that ended it, rather than the three good years that went before.
What went well
It would be easy to let a chaotic final season cloud the contribution Knudsen made at Portman Road.
The previously-mentioned physicality and heart came alongside solid defensive work for much of his stay, while he repeatedly put his body on the line and was quick to throw himself in front of shots in a bid to block the ball.
Knudsen scored four goals in an Ipswich shirt - two of them coming against Norwich in 1-1 draws as he drove the ball home at Portman Road to equalise and then headed his side ahead at Carrow Road.
He showed good versatility as well, moving inside to play on the left of a back three during the Blues' impressive start to the 2017/18 campaign and also performing well in a central defensive pairing when required.
His long throw provided initial excitement but yielded little by way of results, although he did create goals for Trevoh Chalobah against Aston Villa and Gwion Edwards at Reading during his final year.
Areas to improve
One of the Blues' biggest weaknesses during the course of this season has been allowing too many crosses into the box - Knudsen needs to take his share of the blame for that.
His starting position has often been too narrow, giving opposition wingers time and space to deliver the ball, while he has also allowed opposition forwards in behind.
He was guilty of concentration lapses, especially last season, with the most notable perhaps coming at Reading as he allowed Yakou Meite to find the net to cost Ipswich what could have been a vital win.
The horrible own goal against Stoke, coming from a mix-up with Bartosz Bialkowski and Matthew Pennington, was obviously a moment to forget during his final season, as was his red card at Wigan.
He possesses a good engine which allows him to get up and down the field, helping out in attack, but his final ball has been issue throughout his time at Portman Road.
What the future holds
It's clear that Knudsen's heart has been away from Ipswich for several months but where he ends up remains to be seen.
There has been Championship interest, notably from Middlesbrough, Stoke and Bristol City, but all of those sides have addressed the left-back position and the door may be closed. He's shown enough over a long period for clubs to be sure he can do a job in the English second tier, though.
Germany is a real option, with Fortuna Dusseldorf previously linked, while a return to Denmark certainly can't be discounted.