No-one better for Ipswich Town midfield role, insists Mick McCarthy

Ipswich Town midfielder Jonathan Douglas

Ipswich Town midfielder Jonathan Douglas - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy has defended his selection of Jonathan Douglas in central midfield.

The combative 35-year-old has started 46 out of 66 possible league games since arriving at Portman Road on a free transfer from Brentford in 2015, but he has not always been a popular figure among supporters.

The likes of Teddy Bishop, Jonny Williams and Kevin Bru – all far more creative players – have all been behind him in the pecking order of late and McCarthy has virtually confirmed that Douglas will retain his place alongside Cole Skuse for tonight’s Championship match at Birmingham City (7.45pm) by saying now this is ‘not the game to be fiddling around with the team’.

“When he (Douglas) is subbed on Saturday (in the 1-1 home draw with Cardiff) I think the applause was as much for him coming off as Bish going on,” said McCarthy. “If the ones who were sat on the bench could do any better than Dougie I’d be playing them.

“Dougie is a remarkable athlete – every single week he is in the top five of distances covered and high intensity running.”

With 34-year-old Luke Varney also set to retain his place up front tonight, McCarthy – whose side are 17th in the table after winning just three of their last 13 games – said: “Reg (Varney) is in remarkable shape too. I’m sure they can cope (playing two games in four days). Sometimes the temptation is to manage them and think ‘can they do it?’ Well they can.

“Having their experience is vital, especially the way it is at the moment. It would be difficult for us to get back into games if we didn’t have those players.

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“The more leaders we have in the team the better at the moment.”

Striker Brett Pitman, who made his ankle injury comeback as a substitute at the weekend following a 10-week lay-off, is one of those leaders that McCarthy refers to.

“He’s getting closer to starting, but he’s had 10 weeks off,” said McCarthy. “It’s a big ask to start.

“We have missed him. I thought he was doing exceptionally well when he got injured.

“Brett is a winner. He’s a proper whinger on the pitch, he’s a proper grumpy man! I like him for that because it means he wants to win. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, that’s for sure.

“I was like that myself. The person receiving that criticism doesn’t always appreciate it, but it’s meant with the best intentions.

“He’s a good character to have around the place. He certainly doesn’t like losing and if somebody makes a mistake or doesn’t do their job properly he’s quite happy to say it and it does need to be pointed out.

“It’s important that players question each other and challenge each other and that it doesn’t always come from the coach. It’s important they can dig each other out and forget about it afterwards. To be fair, I think that’s the case with us.

“Luke Chambers is the best captain I’ve worked with, a real leader, and the more like him I can get in the team the better. It certainly helps that.”

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