Loan rangers, unlikely hits and plenty of misses - Ipswich’s record in the winger market
- Credit: Archant
Paul Hurst is still in the market for wide players after the signing of Jordan Roberts. Here ANDY WARREN looks at the wingers of the Mick McCarthy-era.
The loan rangers
Much of Ipswich Town’s width over the last five years has had to be borrowed, with the Blues simply not able to compete financially in the market for top-end second tier wide players.
Ryan Fraser, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Tom Lawrence and Bersant Celina have all been loaned from the Premier League in recent seasons with each making a big contribution.
Fraser was the first, arriving from Bournemouth for the 2015/16 campaign and terrorising defences on a weekly basis. His tally of six goals does not do his displays justice.
At the same time, a young Arsenal loanee with a double-barreled surname was taking his first steps in men’s football. Maitland-Niles showed flashes of his talent but was also given an early showing of just how tough it can be playing against seasoned pros.
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the move did him good, as is evidenced by the fact he played 28 senior games for the Gunners last season.
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Tom Lawrence and Celina both found the net in spectacular fashion on enough occasions to hold their own goal of the season competitions during their loans at Portman Road, but neither was ever realistically going to be in Suffolk for the long-haul.
That’s just the reality facing Ipswich at the moment.
The play-off favourites
Two bargains, two players who arguably punched above their weight and did their jobs manfully in the Ipswich side which reached the play-offs in the 2014-15 season.
Jay Tabb and Paul Anderson made a combined 79 appearances during that campaign and helped take the Blues to the post-season for the first time in a decade.
They did it not by tearing the opposition apart, more by being hard-working, full of grit and part of an effective system which got the best out of Irish hitman Daryl Murphy.
There is no doubting the most iconic moment of Anderson’s Ipswich career – the equalising goal against Norwich which sent Portman Road wild before play-off heartbreak followed up the A140.
He is now preparing for his second season at Mansfield, having had his career stalled by a broken leg while with Bradford, with Tabb no longer involved in football and instead playing rugby for Old Wimbledonians.
By nature, wingers can be hit-and-miss, both in individual games where they blow hot-and-cold and over the course of their careers. Ipswich have certainly had their fair share of misses in recent years.
Cameron Stewart is perhaps the most costly of those, with his three-year contract after signing in 2014 ultimately only producing a combined 36 minutes as a substitute in the Blues’ two FA Cup games with Southampton the following January.
He was released by the Blues in the summer of 2016 and has struggled to find regular football since. He’s now a free agent again after leaving Lincoln City.
There are others, too.
Jack Doherty and Dylan Connolly both arrived from Ireland with McCarthy enthused by their potential nut returned without kicking a ball for the Blues, while Alex Henshall made just one start following his free transfer move from Manchester City. Following time with Kilmarnock, Nuneaton and Braintree, he’s now plying his trade with National League North side Darlington.
Jordan Graham made just two league appearances as a substitute during his loan from Wolves while Liam Feeney showed moments of quality but little more during his own loan in 2016.
Then there’s Larsen Toure, the man who will be best remembered for throwing his shirt into the crowd after 90 minutes of the League Cup tie at Doncaster in 2015, only to realise he needed to retrieve it because the contest was heading to extra-time. He’s now playing in the fifth-tier of French football.
Tommy Oar seemed to be something of coup when the Australian international arrived as a free agent in 2015, but his one and only Championship start ended with a concussion suffered in the first half of a game against Huddersfield.
He departed just three months later, with his agent publicly stating the Blues’ style of play made it impossible for Oar to show his true ability.
The jury’s out
Stephen Hunt was a player McCarthy was extremely familiar with following their time together at Wolves and, without lighting up Portman Road during his 43-game spell with the club, he is not one who should be classed as a miss.
It’s also unfair to make a judgement on current Ipswich duo Grant Ward and Danny Rowe.
Rowe is still working his way back from ankle surgery at the end of last season, but has a way to go to prove he has what it takes it Championship level. He showed flashes during his seven Ipswich appearances, prior to his loan to Lincoln, but does he have more to give?
Ward made as stunning a start to life in Suffolk as it’s possible to do after he netted a debut hat-trick as a substitute in August 2016, but has struggled for consistency since. He’s been in-and-out of McCarthy’s teams, not always keeping his place even after impressive performances, but the talent is there and he’s one who could benefit from the change of manager at Portman Road.
The leading man in that category is Freddie Sears, a central striker pressed into wing duties for much of the last two seasons and left in an unfamiliar position, unable to make an impact.
Both his goals and confidence dried up, with the forward going a year without scoring before two in two games under caretaker Bryan Klug’s management sparked hope of a revival in his favoured position this season.
He simply must play through the middle.
Mustapha Carayol shone brightly during his good moments in an Ipswich shirt, particularly during a 45-minute match-winning display at Preston, but his injury record counted against him as he was allowed to walk away at the end of last season.
The Blues have already signed one winger this summer, with Jordan Roberts joining on a free transfer after leaving Crawley Town.
He’s a player who Hurst tried to sign for Shrewsbury last season who has a good first touch, knows where the goal is and is capable of pin-point crossing.
It remains to be seen which of these categories he ultimately falls into, though.