Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra will be battling for one spot, says McCarthy

Tommy Smith in action at Shelbourne

Tommy Smith in action at Shelbourne - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy has tipped summer signing Adam Webster to be a ‘top, top player’ and says that, as a result, Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra will end up battling for one place in the team.

The latter two have been virtual ever-presents in the centre-back slots over the last three years, so it came as some surprise when McCarthy splashed out £700,000 – plus highly-rated academy product Matt Clarke – to bring in Webster from League Two side Portsmouth.

Hailed as a ball-playing defender, the 21-year-old – who was capped by England at Under-19 level – should add a different dimension to the team. McCarthy wants his players to be able to play the possession game, as well as going direct, this season.

Webster’s right-footed too, so could add some natural balance alongside Smith or Berra, both of whom are left-footed.

Having previously suggested that Webster wouldn’t be fit enough to start a competitive match just yet, having recently only just recovered from an ankle injury, McCarthy is now not ruling out him being selected for this Saturday’s Championship opener against newly-promoted Barnsley, at Portman Road.

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“We’ll see how he recovers,” said the Blues boss, speaking after Webster played the full 90 minutes of last Saturday’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Belgian side Royal Union Saint-Gilloise.

“He has been out 13 weeks, but he played well today and he is a good player.

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“If Adam gets in the team, which I’m sure he will at some stage, I’ve got two left-sided centre-backs and I’m only going to play one.

“It will be the best one that plays and one’s not going to be happy about it, but they know the score. They’re not daft, they can see I’ve brought one in and they’ve all got to be better. I guess the intensity on them has heightened.”

When asked what he saw in Webster to convince him to spend the biggest fee of his three-and-a-half years in charge at the club, especially when strengthening other positions appeared to be a bigger priority, McCarthy replied: “I see Manchester City looking to sign John Stones (from Everton) for 50 million quid… I’m not suggesting he’s anything like that at the moment, but he’ll be a good centre-half, because he’s a big fella, he’s got pace, he can handle the ball and has two good feet. I think he’s got real potential to be a top, top player.”

Webster said: “The ankle’s good and I’m raring to go. The gaffer has shown a lot of faith in me in bringing me here, so hopefully I can repay him this season.”

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