Fans are back! But will the 'bomb squad' be involved at Dartford?

Kayden Jackson pictured during the warm up.

Kayden Jackson is among the senior players that Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook instructed to start pre-season training with the Under-23s. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town's pre-season campaign starts at Dartford this lunchtime (1pm ko). STUART WATSON previews the action.

Rekeem Harper has signed a three-year deal at Ipswich Town. Photo: ITFC

Rekeem Harper has signed a three-year deal at Ipswich Town. Photo: ITFC - Credit: ITFC


It was only 61 days ago that another season of League One failure came to an end for Ipswich Town.

A lot has happened in that relatively short space of time though.

In total, 20 players who contributed more than half of Town's league starts last season have departed. Manager Paul Cook has been true to his 'demolition man' vow.

Chief executive Mark Ashton, who officially moved over from Bristol City on June 1st, has so far delivered six new signings and insisted there are 'at least five more' to come.

Today, fitness permitting, we'll get to see new boys Vaclav Hladky, Matt Penney, Lee Evans, Rekeem Harper, Wes Burns and Macaualey Bonne in action for the first time.

We'll also get to see the players wearing the popular new home kit displaying the the logo of global superstar sponsor Ed Sheeran.


Dartford were one of the big losers when non-league football seasons below Step One were declared null and void for Covid reasons in the middle of February.

The Kent club, having lost on penalties in the Play-Off Final of 2019/20, were sitting second in the National League South, just five points off league leaders Dorking.

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Manager Steve King has since penned a new three-year deal and the club has made nine summer signings with the goal of pushing for promotion to the National League.

Their pre-season schedule also includes matches against Gillingham, Charlton, AFC Wimbledon, Sutton United and Southend.

Ipswich Town fans at Gillingham

Ipswich Town fans in the sun at Gillingham back in 2019. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix


Today will be the first time since a December win over Burton Albion that Town supporters have been able to watch their team in action in person.

Princes Park's official capacity is 4,100 (642 seated), but tickets have been limited to 2,000 for this match.

Ipswich fans could end up making up at least half of the crowd.

Please note, tickets aren't available on the gate. Kick-off is at 1pm.

Armando Dobra, Lee Evans, Janoi Donacien, James Norwood, Luke Woolfenden and Matt Penney, pictured in training

Could James Norwood (centre) wear the captain's armband at some stage today? Photo: ITFC - Credit: ITFC


Long-serving duo Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse, who have been captain and vice-captain of Ipswich Town for the last eight years, were both among those released within days of that curtain-closing 3-1 home win against Fleetwood.

Who will wear the armband now?

There's every chance that person has not yet arrived at Portman Road, with an experienced centre-half still very much on the shopping list.

In the meantime, others will have an opportunity to step up and show the character that Paul Cook felt was so lacking when the Blues limped over the line.

Of the new recruits, midfielder Lee Evans, who Cook worked with at Wigan, is the prime candidate to be skipper.

Of those still in the picture from last season, striker James Norwood looks the most likely.

Flynn Downes pictures in the pre-match warm up.

Championship clubs Bournemouth, Peterborough and Barnsley have all shown interest in Ipswich Town midfielder Flynn Downes.


It's going to be very interesting to see what role, if any, the quartet of Flynn Downes, Kayden Jackson, Teddy Bishop and Myles Kenlock have in this match.

The senior quartet were all instructed to start pre-season training with the Under-23s, though Cook has stressed 'the door will always be ajar'.

Expect to see a different team in each half for this glorified fitness exercise.

But will it be mix-and-match elevens made up of first-teamers, youngsters and those in the so-called 'bomb squad'.

Or will there be a clear definition between a 'first team' 11, followed by a 'reserves/youth' 11?

Cook, who often spoke about his players needing to 'feel the pain' during the latter stages of last season, will be keeping a close eye on what sort of reaction he gets from those that he's marginalised.

Armando Dobra in action against AFC Wimbledon.

Armando Dobra will be among the Ipswich Town fringe players looking to impress manager Paul Cook in pre-season. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Steve Waller-www.stephenwaller.c


Some of Ipswich Town's biggest signings of the transfer window are undoubtedly still to come.

But until they arrive, there's an opportunity for others to stake their claim.

Can Luke Woolfenden regain his 2019/20 form and prove he should be a regular starter again?

Will Kane Vincent-Young prove his injury woes are behind him? And can Janoi Donacien convince Cook that he's a useful versatile defensive option to keep around?

Can Jon Nolan catch the eye having spent the back end of last season injured?

Can Armando Dobra, having already been promoted back up to the first team squad, show he's got a vital role to play this season?

Will Norwood and Bonne convince Cook that a marquee striker signing isn't a burning priority?

Can the likes of Corrie Ndaba, Elkan Baggott, Brett McGavin or Idris El Mizouni push their way into the frame? 

One or two members of last season's Under-18 squad, who reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup, could even provide food for thought while numbers are limited.