Whiff of change is in the air

THERE is more than a whiff of change hanging around Portman Road.

THERE is more than a whiff of change hanging around Portman Road, writes Carl Marston.

Ipswich Town boss Paul Jewell will debrief his players, today and tomorrow, before beginning the task of revamping his squad for next season.

Once the dust had settled at the Walkers Stadium, at the end of another hard campaign, Jewell hinted at the changes to come.

He revealed that keeper Brian Murphy had left the club, but that midfielder Colin Healy and keeper Arran Lee-Barrett had signed new deals.

He also admitted that skipper David Norris and defender Gareth McAuley were both likely to leave, on free transfers, and confessed that the club faced stiff competition in the quest to sign Town supporters’ player-of-the-year, Jimmy Bullard, from Hull City this summer.

Bullard missed Saturday’s 4-2 defeat at Leicester, due to injury, and will now consider his options over the next few weeks – he still has two years left on his current contract at Hull.

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“Jimmy was injured, his knee flared up again after training on Thursday,” explained Jewell.

“He has knee history problems. If Jimmy can play, he plays, but he just wasn’t fit.

“I spoke with Adam Pearson (Hull chairman) last week, about trying to do something, but I think there are a few clubs in for Jimmy, maybe Premier League teams.

“We certainly want to be in there fighting, trying to do a deal.”

Jewell held talks with Murphy on Thursday, to discuss the Irishman’s future. The ex-Bohemians keeper had not played under Jewell, after breaking his ankle in training just before Christmas.

Although he had returned to fitness in recent weeks, Murphy was only once included in the 18-man squad, for Town’s last home game of the season against Preston.

“Brian (Murphy) has refused his contract and has left the club,” confirmed Jewell.

Jewell is therefore in the market for a new keeper, and probably a potential No. 1.

He has been linked with a move for Coventry City’s highly-rated custodian, Keiren Westwood, who is available on a free transfer this summer, although Saturday’s opponents Leicester are leading that chase.

Norris played his final game for Town on Saturday, ending as the club’s top scorer with 11 goals. The midfielder is believed to have rejected the offer of a new contract, and has been interesting the likes of Portsmouth and Wigan in recent weeks.

McAuley’s future is less clear-cut, although the Northern Ireland international could well be playing his football in Scotland at Glasgow giants Rangers next season.

“It’s looking less and less likely that Gareth will sign,” said Jewell.

“The games have run out but I have to say that Gareth and Chuck (Norris) have handled themselves tremendously well.

“Whether they will stay I really don’t know, but we have left ourselves open to that.”

Jewell is under no illusions as to the task he faces this summer – his current squad is simply not good enough to push for promotion.

“I knew that before today,” insisted Jewell following the defeat at Leicester.

“I have a big task this summer, but it’s one that I’m relishing.

“Today didn’t show me anything that I didn’t know. I’ve been saying that almost since we’ve been here.

“The players deserve a lot of credit for making us safe, but it ain’t enough to take us forward next season. The players know that. The reasons we are where we are is because we don’t score goals when we should, and when we come under pressure, we concede. It’s dead simple.”

Meanwhile, Jewell refused to comment on reports that goalkeeping coach James Hollman had left the club.