Big preview: Hurst keen to give Town fans something to shout about at start of new era
Paul Hurst’s final message to his Ipswich Town players as they take to the field today will be short and sweet... ‘win’.
The new Blues boss, head-hunted from League One side Shrewsbury Town this summer, says that’s all that really matters when it comes to this afternoon’s Championship opener against newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers at Portman Road.
“I had a goalkeeper who got on my nerves because every time we went out for a game he used to say ‘come on lads, enjoy it’,” he said. “I was like ‘yeah, we’ll enjoy it if we win’.
“It’s not a kickabout in the park and then walk home and go for a few pints. We’re in the business of winning games of football. Be competitive, take on board everything that we’ve asked, understand why we’ve done the pre-season that we’ve done and go and show people that you can be a good team.
“I’m excited and I will be very proud when I walk out. I want the team to give a good account of themselves, play with energy, play with a bit of freedom and get the fans onside.
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“It’s a new start. Everyone is talking about optimism and a new era. That’s great, but we’ve got to try and keep that going. We’ve got to produce and give the fans something to shout about.
“The opening day is always exciting for everyone. I’m sure there will be chats about ‘can we get promoted, can we do this and can we do that?’ Rightly so. That’s why we love football, because you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen.
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“You might have the biggest budget that gives you a great chance of getting promoted, but that doesn’t always go hand-in-hand.
“We’d love to get off to a winning start and get those first three points on the board, but we know we are going up against a team that is used to winning and will want to put their mark on being back in the Championship.”
Rovers were promoted back to the Championship at the first time of asking under the management of Tony Mowbray last season, finishing second behind Wigan Athletic.
The former Blues favourite insists he was never approached for the Town job this summer and has this week said ‘in my opinion Blackburn Rovers is a much better bet than Ipswich Town for the potential of where it could go at the moment’.
Last five finishes: 2nd (League One), 22nd, 15th, 9th, 8th (all Championship)
Manager: Tony Mowbray (Feb ‘17: W37 D21 L12)
Summer signings: Davenport (Man City, £500k), Rothwell (Oxford, undisc), Palmer (Chelsea, loan)
2017/18 top-scorers: Dack (18), Graham, Mulgrew (14)
2017/18 most league starts: Smallwood (46), Williams, Martin (45)
2017/18 most league assists: Payne (10), Dack, Graham (8)
17th – Successive season in Championship for Town
16 – Permanent bosses in Town’s 82-year professional history
6 – League defeats for Blackburn on their way to finishing second in League One last season
Ipswich Town 3 Blackburn Rovers 2
Date: Saturday, January 14, 2017
Tom Lawrence scored twice, either side of a Christophe Berra goal, in a
topsy-turvey home win. Hope Akpan and Danny Graham (pen) netted for the visitors. Town drew the earlier reverse fixture 0-0. They haven’t lost at home to Rovers since 1994 (W5 D3).
Ipswich Town team news
• Ellis Harrison and Gwion Edwards are both expected to make debuts from the start, while Janoi Donacien is in contention to start at right-back. New signings Trevoh Chalobah, Jordan Roberts and Tayo Edun are likely to be on the bench.
• Cole Skuse is fit to return to the side after being kept out of the team for the final warm-up game against West Ham because of a thigh injury.
• Joe Garner is likely to miss out as he continues to battle a knee injury, while Teddy Bishop (hamstring), Emyr Huws (knee) and Tom Adeyemi (Achilles) are not yet fit to return.
• Winger Grant Ward will not be involved for the Blues as he serves the final game of a three-match ban, following his red card against Aston Villa in April.
Blackburn Rovers team news
• Rovers have few injury problems to contend with. Tony Mowbray’s starting line-up is expected to include just one change from the side which began the opening-day clash with Southend a year ago.
• Former Ipswich loanee Dominic Samuel is likely to start behind striker Danny Graham.
Key opposition player
Bradley Dack was once a target for former Blues manager Mick McCarthy and has proven to be a creative force for this Blackburn Rovers side.
The 24-year-old midfielder joined from Gillingham last summer and scored 18 goals in Rovers’ promotion campaign as they exited League One at the first attempt.
Ipswich – 17/10
Draw – 21/10
Blackburn – 17/10
Ipswich Town 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
Town have won by that scoreline three times in pre-season. Shrewsbury won by that scoreline on 12 occasions last season under Paul Hurst.