Returning fans, new faces and a visit from Premier League royalty - Town face Crystal Palace as pre-season moves up a gear
- Credit: ITFC/PA
Ipswich Town are in pre-season action against Crystal Palace this afternoon. Andy Warren takes a look ahead to the game (3pm kick-off).
Back for good (hopefully)
Hopefully today’s game will mark an ‘irreversible’ return to Portman Road for Ipswich Town fans.
It’s been the best part of 18 long months since most Ipswich Town fans were able to watch their team, with the 2,000 strong attendances for back-to-back games last December an all-too-brief respite from a miserable season of behind-closed-doors football.
It’s thought a crowd of at least 6,000 will be in attendance for this afternoon’s match, which acts as the first of two dress rehearsals before the fun truly begins on August 7.
All tickets need to have been bought in advance with none available after midday.
Fans will be bunched together again on the terraces, but with plenty of safety measures remaining in place as supporters go to and from their seats, which will hopefully ensure a good environment as the game finally emerges from an extremely tough time.
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Those fans who are at Portman Road this afternoon will see plenty of new faces, of course.
Eight signings have been made so far, with plenty more to come, meaning the majority of those in attendance will be seeing the likes of Macauley Bonne, Rekeem Harper, Vaclav Hladky and Wes Burns in action for the first time.
Those four, along with Lee Evans and Matt Penney, played 45 minutes at Dartford and were again involved behind-closed-doors at Fulham last weekend, but the two latest recruits could be making their first appearances in Ipswich blue.
Striker Joe Pigott and creative midfielder Scott Fraser are the most recent new arrivals and are likely to be central to manager Paul Cook’s plan, with the pair likely to take their first steps this afternoon.
Plenty more signings are planned but, with a fortnight to go until the big kick-off, the Town side is taking shape.
Town’s new head of performance, Andy Rolls, has hinted pre-season preparations will begin to be ramped up from this point on, so expect some or all of Town’s first-teamers to play more than the 45 minutes they have been given so far in pre-season matches.
Flynn Downes, Myles Kenlock, Kayden Jackson and Brett McGavin all remain in training with Town’s Under 23s and won’t be involved, while the fifth member of Ipswich’s exiled group, Teddy Bishop, is close to completing a move to Lincoln City.
None of those players will be involved today, with the rest of the Ipswich squad likely to be a mix of Under 23 and Under 18 players.
Back once again
Kane Vincent-Young wasn’t involved in Town’s pre-season opener at Dartford as the club continue to tread carefully following the shoulder injury he suffered at Shrewsbury, towards the end of last season.
But he’s been training with the squad this week and was part of a session held on the Portman Road pitch yesterday, so there’s a chance he could be involved this afternoon.
If he does play, it will be his first Ipswich Town game at Portman Road in front of fans since October 2019.
It’s likely Jon Nolan’s return will have to wait, though, given he’s been nursing a calf problem.
"I'm not a manager who wants to play injured players,” Cook said recently. “I like strength in the team and to do that we need to train very hard and turn up knowing our jobs.
"Injured lads only get injured again. It's been a trait of the club with players coming back and then going out injured again."
A big day for Paul
The season-opening clash with Morecambe is the real focus, of course, but today is also a big day for manager Paul Cook.
He takes charge of an Ipswich side in front of supporters on home turf for the first time this afternoon, a day which has been a long time coming. It’s certainly one he’s been looking forward to.
The Town boss has been able to generate a good relationship with fans, despite not leading a team in front of any of them, so today’s match should really help to strengthen those bonds.
As it happens, Cook is still unbeaten at Portman Road, winning and drawing three of his six matches in charge in Suffolk.
Town welcome Premier League opposition to Portman Road today, in the form of another club beginning their own new era.
Patrick Vieira leads Crystal Palace now, with the former Arsenal man getting his first crack in the dugout in a competition he won three times as a player while at the Gunners.
Just like at Ipswich, an army of players have moved on this summer, with the likes of Scott Dann, James McCarthy, Patrick van Aanholt and former Ipswich striker Connor Wickham all leaving at the end of their contracts.
Signings are beginning to arrive, with Michael Olise (£8m from Reading) and Marc Guehi (£18m from Chelsea) joining so far this summer, with Vieira possessing some excellent young players, around whom he’s likely to build.
Plenty of recognisable names remain, most notably Wilfried Zaha, who scored the Palace winner in their first pre-season outing at Walsall earlier in the week.
It should be a thorough test for Cook’s Blues.