Pre-season, injury updates and meeting key staff – the most pressing tasks for Paul Hurst on day one
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Paul Hurst officially begins work as Ipswich Town’s new manager today. Stuart Watson takes a look at the matters which he’ll find most pressing.
Meet and greet
The Town players do not report back for pre-season training until next Monday, but Hurst will have the opportunity to meet many of the behind-the-scenes staff – in all areas of the club – over the next few days.
His predecessor, Mick McCarthy, was well-loved at both Portman Road and Playford Road. Indeed, many were still referring to him as ‘the gaffer’ long after his departure. It was like some hadn’t quite accepted he’d gone after nearly six years at the helm.
So it’s important Hurst gets around the departments early on. Show the same humour, humility and honesty that came across at his first press conference last week and he’ll instantly win hearts and minds.
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Speak to key trio
There will be a proper sit-down chat with recent caretaker management trio Bryan Klug, Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg – three men who know the club inside out and who helped restore some feelgood factor at the back end of last season.
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Owner Marcus Evans recently outlined a new blueprint for the club which spoke of a ‘closer alignment between the academy and the first-team’.
Young Under-23 coaches Nash and Hogg will be heavily involved in the first team, while Hurst and assistant Chris Doig will be expected to take a hands on role with the U23s and U18s whenever possible.
Klug will educate Hurst about his passing ethos, while Hurst will outline his high press, high intensity principles. With some joined-up thinking, the two should hopefully marry together quite nicely.
Watch more games
Hurst has already revealed he spent much of his recent family holiday in Dubai watching back footage of Ipswich Town’s games from last season. That process will now continue as he looks to form his own opinions on the players at his disposal.
The 43-year-old insists he will give every player the chance to impress, but has clearly started forming a few opinions as to who does and doesn’t fit in with his vision.
Start transfer talks
Hurst will have had transfer targets in mind for Shrewsbury had they been promoted to the Championship.
They could now become Town targets. And he might fancy being reunited with one or two of his former players too.
Conversations with Dave Bowman, who remains head of Town’s scouting operations for now, may help broaden that search.
Sort out pre-season
McCarthy made no secret of the fact that friendlies simply didn’t get his competitive juices flowing. And his logic was that the Blues do enough travelling during nine months of the year to be going too far in June/July.
The problem was that the same-old routine – Ireland followed by a few local matches – was adding to a sense of Groundhog Day.
Hurst, someone who prides his teams on being ultra-fit, appears puts a far greater emphasis on the importance of pre-season. Last summer he took Shrewsbury to Portugal and then oversaw impressive home wins against Aston Villa, Wolves and Cardiff.
Town’s trips to Braintree, Crawley, Barnet and MK Dons are unlikely to change now, but Hurst is trying to convince Evans to cancel the booked week at Carton House just outside of Dublin (July 2-8) and finance a trip to Portugal or Spain instead.
Get an injury update
There’s a chance that some of the players who were long-term injury absentees last season will be at Playford Road continuing their rehab work this week.
Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi and Andre Dozzell all spent time at a world-renowned clinic in Qatar last month and Hurst will be keen to find out just where they are at in their recoveries. The same applies to Joe Garner, Teddy Bishop and Danny Rowe.
Hurst must decide if he wants to reverse any of the contract decisions made before his arrival.
It’s unlikely a deal will be struck with David McGoldrick, or that Luke Hyam or Stephen Gleeson will return given the number of midfield options, but Mustapha Carayol could be invited back to prove his fitness given the new Blues boss is keen to add wingers to what he’s already identified as an ‘imbalanced’ squad.
Ex-Barnsley and Leeds fitness coach Nathan Winder has already been appointed as Andy Liddell’s replacement and will work closely with head of academy Lee O’Neill as the club puts a greater emphasis on sports science.
Now Hurst must decide whether an extra goalkeeper coach is required to work with Darren Smith following Malcolm Webster’s retirement.