McCarthy’s priority is to strengthen the defensive positions at ITFC

Blackpool's Kirk Broadfoot and Matt Phillips

Blackpool's Kirk Broadfoot and Matt Phillips - Credit: PA

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy has put strengthening his back four at the very top of his priority list, the EADT understands.

Richard Stearman in action for Town.

Richard Stearman in action for Town. - Credit: Archant

The Blues may have kept 13 clean sheets during their impressive resurgence in the second half of last season, but their defensive numbers are very thin heading into the first match of pre-season tomorrow, at Irish side Shelbourne.

Aaron Cresswell and Tyrone Mings have the left-back slot covered, but teenager Elliott Hewitt is the only option at right-back at present, while there is no back-up for Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith at centre-back.

Central duo Kirk Broadfoot and Matthew Kilgallon – released by Blackpool and Sunderland respectively – are understood to have been offered terms, but are also in talks with several Championship clubs.

The Blues are also understood to be among a number of Championship clubs interested in Coventry’s Cyrus Christie.

Richard Stearman, who performed superbly on loan at the back end of last season, remains the top target for right-back. However, the game of cat and mouse with recently-relegated League One side Wolves regarding a transfer fee could run for some time. Back-up options are in place.

Paul Connolly – released by Leeds – is understood to be on the list, while Sean Clohessy – the 26-year-old who is a free agent after turning down a new deal at Southend – has also been linked.

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Town are well stocked in the striker department, with Paul Taylor returning to fitness and both David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy having signed permanent deals following loan spells. The return of Jay Tabb on permanent deal, as well as the Bosman addition of Cole Skuse from Bristol City, has also boosted the midfield.

At least one winger is still required, with Town currently locked in negotiations with Bristol City regarding a swap deal that would see Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replaced by Paul Anderson. Another keeper is needed too, be that as first-choice or back-up to Scott Loach, with released Bristol City man Dean Gerken on trial.

It’s the defence which is the priority though. With previous Blues boss Paul Jewell having been forced to draft in a number of defenders on loan during disastrous starts to the last two seasons, McCarthy is conscious that he needs increased numbers at the back.