Ipswich Town v Birmingham City match preview

Academy graduate Flynn Downes, 18, could make his Ipswich Town debut in tomorrow's Championship open

Academy graduate Flynn Downes, 18, could make his Ipswich Town debut in tomorrow's Championship opener against Birmingham City at Portman Road. Photo: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town kick-start their 2017/18 Championship campaign with the visit of Birmingham City to Portman Road tomorrow afternoon (3pm ko). Stuart Watson previews the match.

Summer signing Joe Garner should make his Ipswich Town debut after recovering from a minor shoulder

Summer signing Joe Garner should make his Ipswich Town debut after recovering from a minor shoulder injury sustained at Charlton last weekend. Photo: ITFC - Credit: Archant

Not so sweet 16

Following finishes of ninth, sixth and seventh under manager Mick McCarthy, last season’s end placing of 16th represented Town’s worst campaign in 58 years.

This is Ipswich Town’s 16th successive season in the Championship. Only Oldham (21st consecutive season in League One) have occupied the same division for longer in the English Football League.

Potential debuts

Striker Joe Garner, left-winger Bersant Celina and right-back Dominic Iorfa could all make their competitive Town debuts following summer switches, while 18-year-old academy graduate Flynn Downes could get the nod in central midfield after an impressive pre-season.

Injuries

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Garner (shoulder) and Celina (illness) should pass late fitness tests, but Tom Adeyemi (illness), Emyr Huws (Achilles), Teddy Bishop (groin) and Luke Hyam (ankle) are definitely unavailable.

Talking tactics

Mick McCarthy says a wing-back system ‘saved our season’ when the going got tough earlier this year, but, conscious that the entertainment value needs to improve, he has urged his players to pass out from the back in a 4-4-2 formation during pre-season.

Time will tell if last weekend’s 6-1 thrashing at Charlton sees his mindset change.

Opposition

Birmingham were seventh in the table after beating the Blues 2-1 at St Andrew’s on a Tuesday night last December, but pragmatic boss Gary Rowett was sacked the next day as the club’s Chinese owners, talking about an ‘exciting vision’, appointed ex-Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola.

Brum quickly spiralled down the table and the genial Zola, who oversaw just two win in 22 league games, resigned in April. The experienced Harry Redknapp was parachuted in for the last two games and victories against Huddersfield (play-off place secured) and Bristol City (already safe) saw them narrowly avoid the drop.

Redknapp has signed ex-Town keeper David Stockdale (Brighton), defender Marc Roberts (Birmingham) and Senegalese international midfielder Cheikh N’Doye (Angers), but missed out on John Terry to Aston Villa and has spoken of his frustrations at his squad being ‘a little bit short’.