POLL: Who would you like to see Ipswich Town pluck from football’s bargain bin?
IPSWICH Town manager Paul Jewell will be hoping to pluck a gem from football’s bargain bin over the coming days.
In a repeat of last season, the Blues boss has left himself worryingly short of centre-backs heading into the opening international break of the Championship season. Ibrahima Sonko was brought in on a free transfer and Danny Collins on loan around this time last year, with a constantly disrupted Blues’ back five conceding a massive 82 goals over the course of the campaign.
And with the transfer window now shut again until January, there is a sense of deja-vu as Football League clubs await the opening of the ‘emergency’ loan window – which sees deals restricted to a maximum of 93-days – at the start of next week.
Premier League clubs registered their 25-man squads on Tuesday night and can now only loan players out, while free agents will have to find clubs outside of the top-flight if they want to play before the end of this calendar year.
Ipswich have already leaked 12 goals in six games at the start of the new season, with just Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith the only options in the heart of defence at present. And with the latter due to travel halfway around the world over the coming days to represent New Zealand in two games before arriving back in Suffolk just days before Town’s trip to Middlesbrough, the search for defensive reinforcements is more pressing than ever before.
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Here we take a look at some potential loan and free transfer targets and ask who would you most like to see arrive at Portman Road? Cast your vote in the poll and post your thoughts at the bottom of this web story.
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THE Suffolk-born centre-back – who played for Ipswich Town’s Centre of Excellence as a boy – was a target of Paul Jewell’s last summer when released by West Ham. Managerial mate Tony Pulis beat him to both Upson and Jonathan Woodgate’s signatures though, with the Premier League too much of a lure for the experienced duo.
Upson made 10 league starts in his debut campaign at the Britannia Stadium and, with Woodgate having departed for Middlesbrough, was still seen as a valuable back-up player to Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross until very recently.
The situation has changed a little in recent weeks though, with the Potters bringing in American duo Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu – the versatile duo both capable of playing in midfield or defence.
And with Upson having performed poorly in a 4-3 League Cup defeat to League One side Swindon, Pulis may now be willing to loan out or even cancel the contract of a 33-year-old who was playing for England at a World Cup just two years’ ago.
SEAN ST LEDGER
THE Republic of Ireland international centre-back was on the verge of joining Ipswich Town back in January before employers Leicester City pulled the plug following a series of defensive injuries.
The 27-year-old was unsure of the move after a number of managerial changes had affected his career, but was understood to be happy to come to Portman Road after owner Marcus Evans personally assured his agent that manager Paul Jewell’s job was safe.
Having looked to have revived his Foxes career in the second half of last season with some impressive displays, St Ledger appears to have slipped back down the pecking order following his return from the European Championships. Nigel Pearson may consider a loan move with view to a permanent switch come January.
HE’S a Barcelona youth team product, has represented Spain at Under-19 level and made nine senior appearances for Arsenal last season before the age of 20.
Paul Jewell witnessed first-hand the teenage centre-back’s maturity beyond his years when he impressively captained the Gunners’ reserve side in a game at Playford Road last season.
Not only does he tick the ‘young and hungry’ ethos that the Blues boss is keen to build his side around, but at 6ft 4in tall he would also add the extra height to Town’s back four that Jewell craves.
Behind Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou in the pecking order at The Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger is likely to loan his rising star out this season. Brighton boss Gus Poyet has reportedly shown interest, though Ipswich may be able to provide more of a guarantee of first-team football.
BRINGING in a player on loan from fierce East Anglian rivals Norwich City would be controversial, but Ipswich Town could arguably do worse than Elliott Ward.
The arrival of summer signings Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong, allied to the impressive form of Leon Barnett, means there was no place for the 27-year-old centre-back in Chris Hughton’s 25-man squad.
The former Coventry and West Ham defender missed the first seven months of last season when he suffered knee ligament damage on the club’s German pre-season tour, but starred in a 3-2 win at Swansea on his February return and went on to make a further 12 Premier League appearances over the remaining months of the campaign.
Having played a key role in the Canaries’ promotion to the top-flight, Ward is sure to be a player in demand among Championship clubs.
THE fiery Frenchman – a player who was wanted by West Ham in the summer – is currently on trial at Playford Road from League Two side Southend United, with Jewell set to decide whether or not to bring in the centre-back/striker in on loan with view to a permanent move.
The 6ft 3in player is equally capable of playing at centre-back or up front and looks more than capable of stepping up the divisions. There are, however, major question marks about his on-field discipline and off-field attitude.
THE 33-year-old Welsh international made 15 starts for QPR in the Premier League last season, but was released in the summer as Mark Hughes – flush with an injection of cash – looked to strengthen a squad which narrowly avoided relegation.
Converted from right-back to centre-back midway through his career, the defender was a vital part of Cardiff City’s side during the early 00s and quickly became a fans’ favourite at West Ham where he was named ‘Player of the Year’ following their run to the FA Cup Final.
Injuries kept him out of the game for the best part of 18 months and saw him released by the Hammers, but he did enough to impress Neil Warnock on trial last summer before finding his chances increasingly limited following a change in manager.
THE Irish youngster is highly thought of at Everton, having made his first team debut at the age 17 in a 2009 Europa League match and come through Premier league fixtures against Tottenham and Aston Villa earlier this year with flying colours.
With Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Johnny Heitinga ahead of him in the pecking order though, it looks like the 20-year-old – who has had brief temporary spells at Burnley and Scunthorpe – will be loaned out again.
At 6ft 4in tall, the Republic of Ireland U21 international would be another who would add some height to the Blues’ back four.
Blues boss Paul Jewell insists that he is looking to strengthen all areas of his thin squad, with these a few players that may be on his radar.
– George Boyd: Creative midfielder turned down a move from Peterborough last week after a fee was agreed. Posh are keen to get the high-earning contract rebel of their wage bill, with director of football Barry Fry ‘open’ to negotiating a loan move with view to a permanent switch.
– Papa Bouba Diop: The 6ft 5in Senegalese midfielder would certainly add the power and height that Paul Jewell craves. Former Fulham and Portsmouth player is a free agent after being released by West Ham. Could be persuaded to link up with fellow international team mate Guirane N’Daw.
– Emile Heskey: Jewell enquired about the opinion-splitting player earlier this summer but was put off by wage demands. Still without a club after being released by Aston Villa, may be persuaded to link up with his former Wigan boss again.
– Connor Wickham: Sunderland have made the teenager available for loan after his underwhelming debut campaign at the club. Ipswich have first refusal on a deal as part of his �8.1m sale, but having to pay 75% of his wages remains a major barrier.
– Rob Hulse: The 32-year-old striker has been left out of QPR’s 25-man squad. Jewell paid �1.75m to bring him Derby and may see him a player who has won promotion to the top-flight on three occasions as a useful asset.
– Simon Church: The 23-year-old all-round striker scored seevn goals in 26 appearances as Reading won the Championship title last season. His prospects of first team football in the Premier League look slim though and a loan move could be on the cards.