Reuser move may help in the long run

The news that Martijn Reuser has been given a free transfer by Ipswich Town will have provoked debate and anger among Town fans. Derek Davis looks at the reasons behind the move and at the flamboyant Dutchman's career at Portman Road.

The news that Martijn Reuser has been given a free transfer by Ipswich Town will have provoked debate and anger among Town fans. Derek Davis looks at the reasons behind the move and at the flamboyant Dutchman's career at Portman Road.

NOT since Mauricio Taricco was sold to Spurs has a player being put on the transfer list upset supporters so deeply as Martijn Reuser being told he can go for free. It is not a popular decision, but it is a brave one, as Joe Royle and David Sheepshanks use their heads not their hearts to try to get Town on an even financial keel.

Of course people will rant and rave about losing their hero but we all have to see the big picture.

Royle knows that Reuser is more than just another midfielder at Ipswich, he is a crowd favourite, a pin-up, the darling of not just the North Stand. Mothers want to take him home and let him eat cake, while purists admire his set-piece skills and eye for the spectacular goal.

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Ever since his debut when he came on at home against Fulham and scored a blockbuster winner, ripped his top off and showed such wild shirt-swirling delight, the fans have taken him to their heart.

He became something of a super-sub. He scored twice against Port Vale and set up the third, all in the last 20 minutes. By the time Town went to Wembley he was a firm favourite, and a clinching goal in the play-off semi-final against Bolton helped.

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It was fitting then that the former World Club Championship winner should show-off on the big stage. Wembley was made for players like him.

Richard Naylor played the ball in for him and the Dutchman showed strength and skill to beat a defender before blasting the ball home and the party really did begin.

It was classic Reuser and although he always showed glimpses of his outstanding talent he could be a frustrating player for the manager.

But the fact is he has missed most of this season through injury and played twice – one of them as a substitute and coming off early in the other – and has been overtaken by Darren Ambrose.

Statistics will show he wasn't the most prolific goal-scorer. He didn't actually turn that many games and his impact in reality wasn't quite what legend suggested.

But no matter what he didn't do, the fans forgave him, he is their hero, he can do no wrong and Joe Royle and David Sheepshanks know they will come in for a hard time.

But good management is not always about being popular. The financial situation has been spelt out so often and in such depth I need not go into it again.

Suffice to say trimming the wage bill from the £24m it was in the last financial year isn't really enough, it needs to be hacked severely.

With only Jamie Clapham being sold in this transfer window, Royle has 26 players in his first-team squad, far too many these days.

Just as he only takes the barest minimum on away trips, Royle is paring down to save as much as he can on the wage bill and around £750,000 a year is a decent cut.

While not a top-earner, Reuser is on relatively big money and it is clear he is not going to be a regular starter under Royle.

Darren Ambrose continues to make huge strides and will figure more and more as time goes by, while Jim Magilton, Jermaine Wright and Tommy Miller, are a balanced and cohesive midfield.

The problem may come when one or more is injured, but neither Rueser, Ambrose, nor Finidi George are effective in a defensive midfield role.

I spoke briefly with Martijn after the reserves match on Wednesday where he put in a really good shift but failed to get what he most wanted, and deserved. "I need to score a goal," he told me. "I'm really desperate to score and to get back in the team."

From a purely footballing point of view he can be something of a luxury player, someone Joe, or any manager would like to have if they could afford him, literally and figuratively.

Under George Burley, he was constantly being berated for shirking his defensive duties, not tackling back or closing down quickly enough – but he could also come up with the occasional bit of magic and all was forgiven.

Good housekeeping means that when cash is tight going out to eat steak gives way to egg and chips at home. Not particularly appetising but better to trim down than burst.

Of course many supporters will vent their anger, threaten to not buy season tickets next season and if Town fail to go up because they miss a midfield presence come May, then it will cost the club hugely.

Even more of a problem would be if Reuser chose to go to another leading Division One club, like Portsmouth, and came back to haunt Town.

But if promotion is achieved then they will go into the Premiership leaner and meaner and able to wheel and deal once again.

It is easy to see why Reuser is so popular, he is a terrific guy, warm funny and genuine, but football is a cruel business, with the emphasis these days on business.

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