Carroll is the latest player to be 'one and done' at Town... he was a puzzle piece that didn't fit
- Credit: Steve Waller
Tom Carroll is the latest player to be ‘one and done’ at Ipswich Town.
He arrived as part of a huge puzzle as Paul Cook and Mark Ashton rebuilt the Blues’ squad.
He leaves having never found his place on the board.
Carroll was signing 16 of a hectic summer and, at the time, joined a midfield unit including Lee Evans, Rekeem Harper and Idris El Mizouni.
He arrived with great pedigree, having turned out for Tottenham, Swansea, Aston Villa and, most recently, QPR.
And in flashes we saw that quality. We saw a player who, when on the ball, was capable of picking any pass on the field and could help move his team around the pitch.
But it just didn’t happen anywhere near enough for the 29-year-old.
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Sam Morsy arrived two weeks after Carroll and, once suspension was served, immediately became a name written on the team-sheet in cement.
In Cook's team, the central midfielders were asked to sit deeper and switch play to bring wide men into the game. In Morsy and Evans, Cook had two players he could trust following their time together at Wigan, meaning Carroll had to make do with a place on the fringes.
Then, under Kieran McKenna, the chosen man alongside Morsy would be needed to sit a little deeper again and provide a decent amount of defensive muscle and allow the skipper to attack a little more.
That, simply, was not Carroll’s game.
The fact Tyreeq Bakinson was brought in during the January window and jumped ahead of Carroll shows that.
In all, Carroll made only 17 appearances in an Ipswich shirt, of which eight were league starts. He would have hoped for more when dropping down into League One, but it just didn’t happen.
He had his good days, most notably in the aftermath of Morsy’s suspension after the skipper was adjudged to have struck Accrington’s Ethan Hamilton in January.
With Evans out, that meant makeshift midfields were needed, with Carroll coming into the side at AFC Wimbledon and helping Ipswich win that game with a good display alongside Bakinson. He was also a starter in the Morsy-less victory over Gillingham. Town escaped from Morsy’s four-game ban with three wins and just one loss, with Carroll deserving his share of the credit.
But, while it is perhaps understandable, given he was in-and-out of the side, there were reasons he didn’t catch on in Suffolk.
He lacked the intensity both Cook and McKenna want from their central midfielders and struggled to get up to the tempo of some games or stamp his authority on the opposition. He often didn’t look like he was enjoying playing and was, at times, passive.
Tackling is not top of Carroll’s skillset and that brought its frustrations, too.
In short, he just didn’t suit the systems played by either of his Ipswich managers and it was no surprise at all he was released.
So, what next?
Well, Carroll will surely welcome the fresh start after a disappointing year in Suffolk.
He won’t have wanted to drop down to League One, having spent a decade playing in the top two divisions. But, just because he’s not impressed in the third tier, doesn’t necessarily mean the only way is down as he nears his 30th birthday.
The pedigree he has means it’s not impossible clubs in the Championship, playing a passing style, may take a look on a one-year deal for a free agent.
But, having played for three teams in the last three seasons, he’ll want something a little more permanent.
Any side bringing in Carroll will do so knowing there are red flags, with the midfielder starting 20 league matches in seasons only twice during his career. Injury has played a part in that, of course, with a hip problem his latest issue at QPR.
A similar issue kept him out during the early weeks of his Ipswich career, but the fact he didn’t reach 20 starts in Town blue was as much down to his performances on the pitch, than the amount of time he was kept off it.
It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.