Tommy Smith’s Olympic call-up adds to transfer pressure on Paul Jewell
TOMMY Smith’s Olympic dream threatens to turn into a nightmare for Paul Jewell as he prepares to face pre-season with just one recognised centre-back.
The Ipswich Town defender was yesterday celebrating after being selected for New Zealand’s 23-man squad for next month’s London Games.
But while the 23-year-old will be licking his lips at the prospect of adding an Olympic Games to his growing and glittering football CV, not to mention a final group game against Brazil, Jewell might not be quite so enthused.
Especially after it was announced that Smith and his ‘Lily Whites’ team mates will face pre-Olympic friendlies in Tokyo and Seoul right in the middle of Town’s first full week of pre-season training in July.
Smith might be getting valuable match fitness throughout the summer but it currently leaves Jewell surveying his squad with just one established centre-back in it – Damien Delaney.
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The Town boss is currently scouring home and abroad in search of new talent with a new centre-back, or two, and a new goalkeeper heading the list of problem areas.
The start of official pre-season is a little under two weeks away with the first friendly against Helmond Sport on July 17.
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Jewell does have some time on his hands, but fans are growing restless at the prospect of Delaney lining up with one of centre-back rookies Luke Hyam or Jack Ainsley for the Netherlands tour.
The prospect of that, and the fact Arran Lee-Barrett remains the only keeper on the books, is far from ideal even though Smith insists he will be ready for the new season despite a gruelling summer which started with the Oceania Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands and ends with the Olympics.
The centre-back, who is expected to start as vice-captain for New Zealand, said: “Playing in the Games would add to my match fitness ahead of the season, as well as being a fantastic honour, so I think I will be fine for Ipswich come the start of the season.”
Jewell will still look to bring in at least one right-sided centre-back while a keeper remains a priority.
US stopper Brad Guzan, a free agent after leaving Aston Villa at the end of the season, is believed to be a target high on the list but reports from Hull City suggest Jewell will have another fight with a divisional rival on his hands to secure the keeper.