Sun shines on Ipswich Town training as Mick McCarthy eyes red-hot start
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Ipswich Town’s players returned to pre-season training yesterday and boss Mick McCarthy met with the media. CHRIS BRAMMER surveys the mood at Playford Road and looks ahead to the new season.
The sun was shining, the training pitches looked immaculate and the players were resplendent in their new training gear, with their fresh summer haircuts.
Yes, pre-season had started again and, as always at this time of season, optimism was high.
That’s despite Town having only brought in Jordan Spence and Joe Garner so far, but having cleared out some of last season’s dead-wood and allowed Christophe Berra to return to Hearts.
There is a lot of strengthening to be done, that’s for sure, just to get numbers in if nothing else, but it will be quality, not quantity, demanded by Blues fans.
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Mick McCarthy was back, refreshed from his summer holidays and with a determination in his voice that things are going to be better this season.
It’s that type of optimism Ipswich fans want to hear, although whether or not they believe it will come to fruition under their current leader, is another story.
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After all, it was McCarthy who led Town to a disappointing 16th-place finish last season and faced increasing calls from the stands for his head.
Deep down, he knows he is under some pressure to succeed and was almost apologetic at yesterday’s press conference when he reflected on some of the football served up last season.
On the surface though, and with his chest puffed out, arms folded and answering every question with a glint in his eye, he was as self-assured as ever.
He certainly is trying to back that up by adding creativity to a side badly lacking such qualities last season and has seen a bid for Cardiff’s Emyr Huws – a revelation in midfield during his loan spell at Portman Road – accepted by Neil Warnock.
The ‘I’s’ aren’t dotted and the ‘T’s’ aren’t crossed on that deal yet but given his willingness to talk up the player, it seems as though it will be a matter of if, rather than when, the Welshman signs.
McCarthy usually stays quiet on players that are not his, so his desire to talk about Huws tells you a lot, especially as he would not talk about a free agent, Tom Adeyemi, Huws’ Cardiff team-mate, with whom he’s been linked.
Then there’s Bersant Celina, the exciting Manchester City winger who is set to sign imminently.
On-loan at FC Twente, in Holland, last season, McCarthy wants the right-footed left-winger to play wide left, in a four preferably, suggesting he will revert to a 4-4-2 formation.
The signings of Huws and Celina will add craft to the team and go some way for making up for the absence of Tom Lawrence – the Leicester loanee’s often-mesmeric performances last season meaning Town face an almost impossible task to be able to afford or persuade him to return to Suffolk.
The quality of football has to be better than last season and given his hints with regards to Celina’s position, he is likely to start the season with a 4-4-2 formation and one, if not two out-and-out wingers.
That will be music to the ears of Ipswich fans who saw Town labour in the final third last season, creating a dearth of chances throughout the campaign that left the Blues too close to comfort at the bottom.
They proved they could play some good football at times, Huws and Town shocking the eventual champions Newcastle, in a stellar performance back in April, but that was rare, and the shackles will only come off permanently if Ipswich discover a winning formula.
Start indifferently, and they may revert to a more direct, negative-looking, needs-must style, adopted last season, that will not go down well.
McCarthy knows more surgery is required to complete the Blues’ transformation and wants to get players out to bring new ones in.
If he manages to do that – Josh Emmanuel and Kieffer Moore have been linked with loan moves to Rotherham while he has told other contracted players they can finds new clubs – then Town fans will hope McCarthy finds more hits than misses – his transfer record mixed to say the least.
Not that he will let the opinions of fans occupy his mind too much.
“I’m not really bothered about proving people wrong because I probably didn’t think they were right in first place! McCarthy said bullishly.
“I’d like to be in charge of team that plays better football, football we had played over the past four years prior to last season and which produced better results.
“I would like to please more people than we annoyed. I am not so sure, it was probably 50-50 (for and against him) last year.
“I don’t enjoy that but I don’t think I need to prove people wrong.”