Andy Warren: Why keeping Sam Morsy is vital for Ipswich Town
- Credit: Archant
We’re probably going to have to get used to things like this.
Captain Sam Morsy is the first member of Ipswich Town’s core to be linked with a move away from Portman Road this summer, with national reports suggesting former club Wigan Athletic are considering a move.
Would it be surprising if Wigan were looking at a move for their former captain? Absolutely not. His performance against them in April was outstanding and there was clear respect between him and Latics boss Leam Richardson at the final whistle. They have achieved great things together in the past and it’s only natural there would be thoughts of a reunion.
Would it be surprising if five or six Championship clubs were seriously thinking about a move for him this summer? No, of course it wouldn’t. He’s a proven Championship performer who has had a stand-out five months in League One on an individual level, even if his team didn’t achieve their goal.
Simply put, if you sign players who are established in the Championship and you then finish 11th in League One, with said player performing excellently in the process, you have to accept teams in the league above may think they could swoop.
You would worry if the interest wasn’t there.
But the big questions are, would Ipswich be willing to part with him and would Morsy want to go? The answer to the first part of that is, surely, no.
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He’s at the heart of everything they’re trying to achieve. He’s the captain, the man who sets the standards both on the pitch and off it. Had he been in place for the start of pre-season training last June then things may have turned out differently. The fact he will be at Playford Road on day one this summer is a real plus.
Those around Town have discussed developing a winning culture at the club, of ‘running towards adversity’ and of building something to last the test of time. Morsy is central to that. He’s become part of the identity. He’s a driver of it.
Morsy’s level of performance in the second half of the season was clear to all who watched Town regularly, but the stats back that up too. Ipswich took more points, scored more goals and conceded fewer when he was in the team. There are also statistics which show Morsy gets on the ball more when his team is behind and highlighting a resilience following poor results.
Morsy scored and was a stand-out player in the majority of games immediately following poor results in the final third of the season, with the skipper leading from the front in a bid to put things right. The draws with Morecambe and Oxford and the loss at Rotherham were all followed by goals and top displays against Fleetwood, Plymouth and Wigan.
He’s part of a strong core which has developed at Portman Road, with Christian Walton in goal, a solid back three and award-winning wide-man Wes Burns. There are some missing pieces to the puzzle – they will be sought this summer. A new partner for Morsy might potentially be one of them.
A new goal-scorer certainly will be and the hope must be, whoever it is, they will be getting close to netting 25 times by the end of the season. Even if they do, though, I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be talking about Morsy being Ipswich’s player-of-the-year in 12 months’ time.
If he was to be sold, how would Ipswich replace him? It would be very difficult to attract a midfielder of a similar level, let alone one with the leadership skills the Egypt international possesses and with the bond he’s built up with a tight Town squad. There is no League One midfielder ranking higher than Morsy when you combine statistics for running, ball-winning and play-making.
He’s surely the best midfielder in the division.
He’s not completely irreplaceable, but it’s certainly heading towards that status. It would cost a small fortune, in any case.
There’s no hint that it’s something Ipswich would consider, so you have to think that a departure even being contemplated would need to be instigated and forced by Morsy himself.
But would he want to move on?
From the outside looking in, the skipper took some time to come to terms with the drop back into the third tier from Middlesbrough, which came as late as late can be in the summer transfer window. He’d worked hard to play his way into the Championship and, perhaps understandably, it took time for his mindset to be right.
But once it was – and certainly once he was released to play a more adventurous role by Kieran McKenna – we saw some excellent results.
He’s a man who takes his game extremely seriously, spending time working with private fitness, performance and psychological coaches while also studying leadership in great detail.
Morsy’s thought to be all-in on McKenna’s methods and the new Town boss’s vision for the club and gives off the impression he is a ‘finish what I started’ character.
That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have to seriously consider any attractive Championship offer which came his way. He’s in his peak years at 30 and, while Town pay very well for League One, he could earn significantly more elsewhere. Any human being would need to consider that, even if, as is thought to be the case with Morsy, they’re not hugely motivated by money.
With Wes Burns’ and Luke Woolfenden’s new deals the recent examples, Town have shown they are willing to reward their central figures for their performances. It’s an approach we’ve not been used to at Ipswich and one which could prove extremely valuable in both building and retaining a squad.
The skipper has two years remaining on his deal. Could an extension be an option there? It’s not all about money, though.
Away from the financial side of things, Ipswich Town and the journey the club hopes to go on can offer so much more than many second-tier clubs can. Ipswich had higher attendances than 19 of the 24 Championship clubs last season and you could certainly argue they ultimately hold more ambition, too.
That’s why Morsy and so many of his team-mates, such as Walton, Conor Chaplin and George Edmundson, were convinced to drop down the levels and sign for the Blues.
They will all have done so hoping their time in League One would be extremely short-lived, but all give the impression they are happy at the club and are enthused by what is being built at Portman Road. Even if they are perhaps behind schedule having missed out on promotion.
And that ambition, as much as anything, is why you have to feel Ipswich’s best players won’t be prised away this summer.
As Woolfenden said yesterday after signing his new deal, ‘you’d be stupid if you tried to leave now’.
That’s the hope, anyway.