Big sales, Bosmans and 'mutual consent' - Why contracts are a balancing act
- Credit: ITFC
Wes Burns, Luke Woolfenden and Kayden Jackson have all signed new deals this week. STUART WATSON takes a look at the contract situation at Ipswich Town.
The positives to securing important players to long contracts are clear.
A settled, happy player who feels wanted is going to give you their very best. If things are going well, you're in a strong position to turn down good bids (see David McGoldrick/Leicester in 2014 and Daryl Murphy/MIddlesbrough in 2015). And if that player plays so well that they've outgrown you, and clubs higher up the food chain turn their heads, then at least you're going to get maximum value for them (see Tyrone Mings, Aaron Cresswell and Martyn Waghorn).
On the flip side, there is risk involved in handing out lengthy deals. Things can change very quickly in football. Might a player become too comfortable? Will their form badly dip? Perhaps they'll suffer a long-term injuries. Maybe you'll just have signed one or two better players for that position a couple of years down the line. That's when you end up with an unwanted player taking up a valuable portion of the wage bill.
Emyr Huws, sadly, is the poster boy for that after he made just 20 league starts over a four-year deal.
And let's not forget that wages is where the real money goes. A £7k a week salary over three years, for example, works out at just over £1m. That's not a commitment to undertake lightly.
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Ipswich have regularly settled contracts early by 'mutual consent' in recent years. Jimmy Bullard, Jon Nolan, Jason Scotland, Alex Henshall, Josh Carson, David Cornell and Barry Cotter are just a few examples.
Hedge your bets and leave negotiations a little later in the day though and you can end up with anxious players (Luke Chambers once admitted that no contact over his future 'messed with his head') or ones prepared to run down their contracts and walk away for nothing (see Gareth McAuley, David Norris, Grant Leadbitter and Damien Delaney in the early 2010s).
Back in 2019, former Blues boss Paul Lambert revealed that Jonas Knudsen was set to run down his contract as Town slipped towards relegation.
"He's entitled to do what he wants, but this should have been taken care of with 12 months to go - it shouldn't have gone into six months to go," said the Scot.
"The club has to look at that. You can't keep letting contracts run down otherwise you keep having the same cycle where eight guys go and eight guys come in and you're building team after team. It's the wrong structure.
"The club has to have a stable base from which to build. You can't bring in eight or nine players one summer. That's sheer madness."
It's a tricky balancing act.
In general, Ipswich have opted for two-year deals with a 12-month extension option in the club's favour. We're now starting to see, however, a few three-year deals being handed out under new ownership.
Three players have signed new contracts at Portman Road this week - Wes Burns, Luke Woolfenden and Kayden Jackson.
Jackson's previous deal had expired. Properly. The 12-month extension clause in his deal had already been triggered last summer.
The speedy front man did enough, during seven starts in 2022, to persuade Kieran McKenna that he would be a useful player to keep for the attacking armoury. He's signed a new two-year deal (with no mention of an option).
'A good back-up option' seems to be the general consensus from fans. At 28 years old, you'd imagine Jackson wouldn't have put pen to paper without being made to feel he has an important role to play at such a key stage in his career.
Burns was only one year into the three-year deal he signed when arriving from Fleetwood last summer.
His new, improved deal, which runs to 2025 (with an option), adds to the feelgood factor among fans and sends a message to the rest of the squad - play well and you will be rewarded.
It was also prudent. With no mention of a 12-month extension option in his previous deal, there was a very real danger of him very soon being in the last 18 months of a contract and clubs higher up the pyramid sensing an opportunity to swoop.
Ipswich have pro-actively headed off that situation.
Woolfenden is slightly different. His previous contract was until 2024 with a 12-month extension option. He's now contracted until 2025 with no mention of an option.
In reality then, this isn't really an extension. This is purely a reward. A richly-deserved one too. A homegrown player who admitted his 'head was in the bin' when marginalised by previous manager Paul Cook has been shown some love again.
Giving a player with clear potential to play at a higher level a new deal is not just good business sense, but a smart man-management move too.
STATE OF PLAY
McKenna now has the core of a squad contracted for the next two to three years.
George Edmundson, Woolfenden and Burns have all signed until 2025, while Christian Walton*, Sam Morsy, Conor Chaplin, Lee Evans, Jackson, Kyle Edwards*, Rekeem Harper*, Cameron Burgess*, Idris El Mizouni* and Joe Pigott have contracts until 2024.
Heading into the final year of their deals are Kane Vincent-Young*, Sone Aluko, Janoi Donacien*, Corrie Ndaba*, Matt Penney*, Armando Dobra*, Elkan Baggott*, Cameron Humphreys*, Tyreece Simpson and Tawanda Chirewa.
Sorting out a new deal for 18-year-old attacking midfielder Chirewa, who is now in his option year, is a top priority. He has plenty of clubs looking at him following a prolific season with the U23s.
Simpson, also in his option year, has told the club he wants to leave. Town can afford to sit back and see what offers come in for the 20-year-old striker. He may yet be used as a makeweight for an incoming player.
Talented 18-year-old midfielder Humphreys, who made two league appearances last season, is a protected asset until 2024. Will Town look to extend that deal to avoid another Liam Gibbs to Norwich type exit further down the line?
Speaking back in March, chief executive Mark Ashton said: “This football club will not in any shape or form be agent or representative led. That doesn’t work for me and it won’t work for this ownership group.
“Ipswich Town will decide where its young players go, what’s best, what contracts are put in front of them and how that pathway works to the first team.
“And it’s the same for the senior boys.
"It’s a tough world with agents at times, but our job is to protect this football club. And if we don’t show strength at certain times, trust me, our football club will get walked all over. I’ve seen it time and time again.
“Nothing’s ever personal, sometimes it’s business.
“We try and do it in the right way. We have good relationships with most if not all agents and they’re happy to bring players here because we do contract and pay people in the right way. We incentivise them."
* Known 12-month extension option.