Jimmy Bullard suspension opens the door for trio of players

IT has been a season where too many Ipswich Town topics have been dominated by off-the-pitch shenanigans.

So the last thing Paul Jewell would have needed going into today’s home match against Bristol City was another problem.

But in this rollercoaster season, nothing is ever simple.

According to reports, playmaker Jimmy Bullard and top striker Michael Chopra turned up late for training on Thursday morning following numerous sightings of the pair enjoying a number of nightspots in Newcastle on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

While Bullard has thus far received the stiffer punishment – a reported two-week suspension – Jewell will be equally disappointed by Chopra, a man he has given unstinting backing and support to during the striker’s battle with his gambling demons.

Town’s number 10 needs a massive game today to win back supporters, his manager and team mates, while Bullard’s own future is uncertain. His position as a top earner won’t help if Jewell looks to ship him out.

While one or two changes were always possible, there will certainly be one spot on the bench up for grabs against the Robins following the midfielder’s ban.

Most Read

It will be interesting to see whether Jewell opts for the experience of fit-again Lee Bowyer or the raw talent of young Josh Carson.

With more than an eye on next season, the vast majority arriving at Portman Road this afternoon will hope for the latter.

Another option is Ryan Stevenson, the attacking midfielder who is chomping at the bit for his first chance folowing his move from Hearts in January.

But Stevenson’s availability might depend on his personal situation with his wife due to give birth to their first child.

Back to on-the-pitch matters, today heralds a mad March marathon of eight matches in 28 days.

The next few weeks will determine whether Town fans are facing a top-ten finish, mid-table mediocrity or a frantic look at the teams below them going into the last month of the season.

But Daryl Murphy is confident the Blues have the squad strength to cope with such a demanding four weeks.

Speaking before Bullard’s suspension became public, Murphy said: “We know what quality players we have on the bench – the likes of Grant (Leadbitter).

“They have been unlucky as we have been doing well and got results with the lads who have played. But the manager has always said that over the course of the season, everyone is going to be used and you have to be ready.

“It was the same when I first came here and I wasn’t even on the bench. You keep yourself ticking over and keep showing the manager you are hungry to get into the team.

“You will get a chance – I am proof that if you get your head down, you will get a chnace and you have to take it.”

No matter how the gruelling run starts against Bristol City this afternoon, fans’ thoughts will quickly turn to what Paul Jewell has to say about two of his biggest names in the post-match press conference.

- Follow at @davegoods and @Stuart_Watson on Twitter and visit this website for all the news from Portman Road before, during and after today’s match