Paul Jewell reflects on the Saints that got away

IPSWICH Town manager Paul Jewell will cast an envious eye at Southampton’s forward line tonight as his in-form side face a major test of just how far they’ve come.

The south coast club have won four of their last five games to remain a point ahead of West Ham at the top of the Championship table, however, the 14th-placed Blues can go there full of confidence having won five of their last six.

Saints striker Rickie Lambert has scored 24 goals in all competitions this season, while fellow forward Billy Sharp – on the bench for the last two matches – has also hit the net 11 times.

It’s been well-documented that Jewell tried to bring Sharp to Portman Road before his �1.8m switch from Doncaster to St Mary’s in January, but he has now revealed just how close that move was to

coming about.

And he’s also lifted the lid on the fact that he made a cheeky bid for Lambert last summer following the club’s promotion from League One.

“I spoke to Nigel (Adkins) last summer when he was in the Maldives,” said Jewell. “I asked about Lambert and one of their other players and got a phone call off Les Reed (head of football development) four or five days later saying ‘you caught us on the hop there’. They offered him a new contract and he’s gone on and done really, really well for them.

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“He’s been at Macclesfield, Rochdale, Blackpool, Stockport, Bristol Rovers. Everyone knew technically he was very good and that he could score goals in a lower division – the question was ‘could he score goals in the Championship?’ I thought he could, that’s why I made an offer for him, but obviously Southampton managed to tie him down.”

Asked about his interest in Sharp – who was given heart-warming applause at Portman Road earlier in the campaign after he scored for Doncaster just days after his newborn child had died – Jewell said: “I don’t think we could have tried any harder to get Billy.

“I met him on a few occasions, I met his agent, I met their owner, but it couldn’t be done between the two clubs.

“That wouldn’t have been a bad strike force would it? Rickie Lambert, Billy Sharp and Michael Chopra?”