Selection calls to make for Mick McCarthy – who would you start in Ipswich Town’s opener?
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town are at Charlton this afternoon for their final friendly (3pm). Stuart Watson takes a look at the selection battles ahead of next Saturday’s big kick-off.
There was a time when there was little between Bartosz Bialkowski and Dean Gerken, but the former is the undisputed first-choice following 18 months of superb form. Town are relieved no-one has made them an offer they couldn’t refuse for the big Pole in the goal.
A close call here between the athletic and attack-minded duo of Jordan Spence and Dominic Iorfa.
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Spence, 27, more than earned a new two-year deal after producing some solid performances at the back end of last season, mainly at right wing-back.
Iorfa – who can also operate at centre-back – arrives on a season-long loan from Wolves having made more than 80 starts in the Championship and represented England at the European Under-21 Championships this summer.
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It looks to be a case of two into three.
Luke Chambers played every minute of every league game last season and admits he found a lease of new life when finally restored to his favoured central role. McCarthy has said in the past that his skipper is the first name on the team sheet, but the 31-year-old admitted recently he is not quite up to full speed after having his tonsils removed early in the summer.
Adam Webster, 22, took the step up from League Two in his stride last summer and increasingly looked a class act before an ankle injury effectively ended his season in mid-January. McCarthy is keen for his side to pass the ball out the back more this season and Webster, so comfortable on the ball, will be key to that.
Tommy Smith would provide a left-footed balance. The New Zealand international has been described by McCarthy as the best header of the ball he has worked with.
Leaving someone out is going to be tough.
Myles Kenlock really grasped his opportunity with both hands at the back end of last season, but will Jonas Knudsen be seen as a safer pair of hands by McCarthy? The former is better going forwards, but Knudsen is a solid defender.
McCarthy has traditionally been a 4-4-2 man throughout his managerial career. He had flying wingers Matt Jarvis and Michael Kightly on the flanks in his Championship winning Wolves side, but has been unable to replicate that formula at Town as the likes of Alex Henshall, Tommy Oar and Cameron Stewart have come and gone.
The Blues boss said recently that a wing-back system saved Town’s season back in February, but he seems set on a return to 4-4-2 if pre-season is anything to go by.
Tricky Kosovan international Bersant Celina, 20, has been brought in from Manchester City on loan to provide a sprinkling of star dust following the departure of Tom Lawrence. He prefers to play on the left and cut in on his stronger right foot. Recurring illness has badly affected his preparations though.
Grant Ward played in all but one of Town’s 46 league games last season following a summer switch from Tottenham. He looked good in a No.10 role towards the end of the campaign, but seems set for a right-wing slot.
Don’t forget about Danny Rowe. Town paid non-league club Macclesfield a not insignificant £100k for him back in January and the 25-year-old has caught the eye whenever called upon. Direct and able to whip in dangerous crosses, the left-footer can operate on either flank.
This looked to be the position Town were best stocked in, but injuries and illness mean they’re down to bare bones.
Emyr Huws won’t be risked until his sore Achilles is 100%, Tom Adeyemi will need longer to recover from a bad bout of flu, Teddy Bishop is back in the treatment room (groin), while Luke Hyam is still rehabbing from a long-term ankle problem.
Cole Skuse is a certain starter and it’s increasingly looking likely that box-to-box teenager Flynn Downes, the undoubted star of pre-season, will partner him.
Kevin Bru remains on the transfer list, while Andre Dozzell may be seen as too lightweight for a midfield two. He’s also still recovering fully from a hip injury sustained as part of England’s European Under-19 Championship winning side.
Joe Garner has scored six goals in five friendlies and looked ultra-sharp. The £750k signing from Rangers will provide Town with a physical presence and bit of devilment in the final third.
David McGoldrick could drop deep and pull the strings in more of a 4-2-3-1 system, or alternatively Freddie Sears could run off the last shoulder and feed off the second ball in a more traditional partnership.