Paul Hurst’s Ipswich Town in-tray: Assessing the squad, securing Bart and beating Norwich
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As Paul Hurst prepares to begin his career at Ipswich Town, ANDY WARREN looks at what might be on the new boss’s to-do list as he arrives at Portman Road.
Assess the squad
Paul Hurst is enjoying a delayed but extremely well-earned family holiday following his Shrewsbury side’s exploits last season, but you get the impression much of his break in Dubai will have been spent planning for his move to Ipswich.
Upon his return he will head straight for the second part of an LMA managerial course in London.
He will already have a clear idea of the players he has at his disposal and his squad’s strengths and weaknesses. But he will meet the group when pre-season training begins on Monday, June 25, at which point he will get to see first hand the strengths and weaknesses of his squad and get to know the character of his players.
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Hurst has already said first impressions are important, both in terms of what he thinks of players and what the squad make of him.
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While Hurst will have his own opinion on which players are likely to play key roles in his Ipswich side, there are some obvious gaps in the group he inherits following the departure of Mick McCarthy.
Hurst is known to like playing with wide players and, if he wants to do the same at Portman Road he will need to make moves in the transfer market.
Bersant Celina’s return to Manchester City and the departure of Mustapha Carayol leaves the wide areas of the Ipswich squad paper thin, with only the versatile Grant Ward and returning loanee Danny Rowe on the books. That will need to change if Hurst wants to play with wingers in his early days at Portman Road.
Luke Chambers and Adam Webster are now the only senior central defenders in the Ipswich squad, with Cameron Carter-Vickers returning to Tottenham and Tommy Smith never permanently replaced following his January switch to Colorado. Carter-Vickers, who arrived at Portman Road in a deal instigated by academy chief Bryan Klug, could potentially return, although Hurst may have other ideas.
There is also the added complication of the transfer window closing for permanent deals on August 9, with the loan window remaining open until the end of the month.
Complete his coaching team
We already know Hurst will be assisted at Portman Road by Chris Doig, who acted as the new Town boss’s No 2 at both Grimsby and Shrewsbury.
But there are a number of other holes on the coaching staff to fill, following the retirement of goalkeeping coach Malcolm Webster and the departure of fitness coach Andy Liddell.
Webster’s departure leaves a significant void, with the veteran coach holding an outstanding reputation within the game and playing a vital role in the rise of Bartosz Bialkowski.
Former Tranmere and Grimsby goalkeeper Danny Coyne, a Welsh international linked with a move to Ipswich in the early 2000s, worked with Hurst’s goalkeepers at Shrewsbury but at present is not set to make the switch to Suffolk. Andy Warrington, who played with Hurst for many years at Rotherham, was his goalkeeping coach at Grimsby.
Liaising with the club to replace Liddell and Webster is likely to be high on Hurst’s agenda prior to the start of pre-season training on June 25.
Get to know the medical team
Hurst inherits a squad including a number of players recovering from long-term injury, meaning the new boss will need to be brought up to speed on their recuperation.
While the likes of Andre Dozzell, Emyr Huws, Teddy Bishop and Tom Adeyemi will all be hoping to be back with the squad for pre-season training, having missed the majority of last season through injury, the quartet must not be rushed. They managed just a combined 15 appearances last term.
Head physio Matt Byard and medical team member Alex Chapman have been key in their recuperation, with their returns adding a new dimension to the squad.
Dean Gerken (hip), Chambers (ribs, shoulder, sternum) and Joe Garner (fractured skull, shoulder, knee) also ended last season on the injured list.
Given he has been called up to the Polish national team for this summer’s World Cup in Russia, it seems likely Hurst will need to wait a few weeks before his first meeting with his star goalkeeper.
The pair will come together at a time when the 30-year-old has just a year left to run on his deal in Suffolk, with talks over a new contract seemingly stalled.
Bialkowski has no burning desire to leave and insists he and his family are happy in Ipswich, but has regularly stated he will have to listen if the Premier League comes calling. You get the sense that, if he were to leave, the vast majority of those connected to Ipswich Town would not begrudge him the chance to play at the highest level.
If no new contract is agreed, the Blues will find themselves with a difficult decision to make in August, given the Pole’s value in the transfer market will rapidly decrease as his contract ticks down.
Locking down the three-time supporters’ player-of-the-year would be a real coup.
Find a way to beat Norwich
Is there any better way of introducing yourself at your new club than finally managing a victory over their greatest rivals?
Mick McCarthy never managed it in his five-and-a-half years at Portman Road, although he did come very close in February, meaning the Blues run of winless games against the Canaries now goes back a decade.
Victory in the first East Anglian Derby of the season will go a long way towards continuing the wave of positivity which has greeted his appointment.