Lambert says signing free agent strikers is a ‘dangerous’ game... looking at the list of those currently available proves his point
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town are in the midst of a striker shortage, with James Norwood out for more than a month and Kayden Jackson suspended for three games following his red card against Oxford last weekend.
That leaves just Will Keane and Freddie Sears (who is yet to reach full fitness following a knee injury) as fit, senior strikers as Paul Lambert's men bid to force their way back into the League One promotion places.
Using the likes of Teddy Bishop and Alan Judge as makeshift strikers, a switch in formation or promoting a young player from the youth system are logical options in the short-term, but the mind always wanders towards the free agent market.
Speaking almost exactly a year ago, following a hamstring injury picked up by Keane, manager Lambert was clear that bringing in a free agent was a dangerous game. A game he wasn't willing to play.
It's a stance he's repeated several times since and is surely his thinking this time around, especially when you see what's out there in the free agent market right now.
"We're definitely short in that area but if you don't have a contract by March then there's something wrong with you," he said a year ago.
"It's a dangerous thing to go into that market and we can't keep paying money out. That's my frustration with loans and free transfers because they're not fit."
The list of current free agents, some of which are profiled below, highlights exactly what Lambert is saying.
The Blues will have to go with what they've got.
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The former Everton striker is probably the most plausible name on this list.
He's not been on the books of a club since returning from an ill-fated time in China in the summer, but the 31-year-old spent much of the pre-season training with Doncaster and says he turned down multiple contract offers from Darren Moore's side.
Doncaster were keen but also had concerns regarding his long-term fitness, but with Town only needing a stop-gap, could the physical frontman do a job?
The former Newcastle striker is a good footballer, there's no disputing that. He's had good spells in League One in the past with Swindon and Southend, where he at times looked too good for the third tier.
The trouble is, issues away from the pitch have often ensured he's unplayable (in a bad way) and at times unemployable.
He was last at Southend but departed in January 2018 after numerous time-keeping issues, having also spent 10 weeks in prison during his time with the Shrimpers after committing online bank fraud.
Speaking recently, 28-year-old Ranger insisted his off-field trouble is now firmly in the past but any club considering offering him a deal would be taking a significant risk.
An Ipswich return?
Now we begin a run of former Ipswich Town strikers who are all available as free agents.
Leon Best hasn't kicked a ball since leaving Charlton more than a year ago, with his Ipswich career far from glorious as he failed to score in 11 lacklustre games in the 2016/17. 'With open arms' certainly wouldn't describe the welcome he would receive back at Portman Road.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was an enigma at Portman Road. Sometimes he was sublime, while some displays were at the complete opposite end of the scale. He's been at Bristol City and QPR in England since but he's a free agent again after leaving PTT Rayong in Thailand last year.
Then there's Balint Bajner, the charismatic Hungarian who made just one start in 2014. He's a free agent once again after leaving Borussia Dortmund's second team in the German regional leagues and, judging by social media, he's currently travelling the world and enjoying himself. No Bajner, no party.
The prodigal son
The last time Ipswich were looking for a free agent striker, former academy youngster Darren Bent's name was at the forefront. He was up for it, too, indicating a desire to return to a club where he began his career and scored 55 goals before moving on to the likes of Charlton, Tottenham, Sunderland and Aston Villa.
But he's now happily retired and forging a good second career for himself in the media.
Ipswich already have one Lord in their squad, with James Norwood buying his peerage during a meal at Pizza Express in Eastbourne, his injury means the Blues are short in attack.
Another Lord, Lord Nicklas Bendtner, known as such for his party lifestyle and relationship with a Danish Baroness, is a free agent right now but, as well as being far and away outside of Ipswich's budget and surely having no interest in playing in the English third tier, is a little busy right now.
After leaving FC Copenhagen at the end of 2019, he's preparing to film a new reality TV series and appears to have little interest in returning to football.
Tried and tested at League One level, where he's hit double figures for Gillingham multiple times in recent years, the 33-year-old former Norwich youngster is now a free agent after leaving Ebbsfleet.
He's played under Lambert before, at Carrow Road, but he's surely had his time.
The Hungarian has travelled the world since leaving Liverpool in the summer of 2010, taking in stops in Greece (AEK Athens, Olympiacos), the Netherlands (RKC Waalwijk, Roda JC) and Qatar (Al Gharafa) before time in MLS with New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City.
He left the latter at the end of last season (November) and is looking for a new club).