Who is Mick McCarthy’s signing of the summer at Ipswich Town?
This could be the most pivotal summer in Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town managerial career.
Starting his fifth full season in charge of Town, McCarthy heads into the new campaign with a year left on his contract, determined to address the problems that beset the Blues’ last season.
A lack of goals and a dearth of creativity were the main issues, leaving the boss in the stickiest situation of his near five-year tenure – the 58-year-old having initially pulled off a miracle to save Town from the drop in 2013, before crafting a top-six side that just fell short in 2014-15.
However, the 6-1 drubbing at Charlton, in the Blues’ last pre-season friendly on Saturday, raised issues of a different kind – the Blues seemingly having problems in defence, despite fielding an experienced line-up at The Valley.
Owner Marcus Evans has loosened the purse strings, while the exits of a number of players have freed up funds, but Town face starting the season against Birmingham, on Saturday, without new boys Joe Garner (Unspecified injury) and Bersant Celina (illness), and almost definitely missing Emyr Huws (Achilles) and Tom Adeyemi (illness).
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That could see Town line-up against Birmingham with a first XI made up entirely of players that contributed to last season’s struggles.
McCarthy needs his new boys back, before any talk of relegation rears its ugly head.
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Arguably the most exciting yet, ironically, the biggest unknown quantity, 20-year-old Kosovo international Celina has joined the Blues on a season-long loan deal from Manchester City.
The youngster spent a successful loan period at FC Twente, in Holland, last season, netting five times in 28 games.
Has played just once for City and has yet to experience the Championship, but has already showed glimpses of his undoubted potential in pre-season.
Quick, direct and skilful, Celina is effective cutting in from the left wing on his right foot, possessing a wicked first touch and shot, and possesses the same sort of swagger as Tom Lawrence, which bodes well.
The midfielder’s hugely successful impact during his loan spell last season, meant Town fans were desperate to see the Welshman return permanently.
Signed chiefly to orchestrate proceedings from the centre of the park, Huws is the figurehead of what will hopefully be an exciting new era under McCarthy.
Owner Evans deserves credit in backing McCarthy’s faith in the midfielder, who has signed a four-year contract at Portman Road. This will be a massive season for Huws who has endured stop-start periods at Wigan and Cardiff.
Arrived in January with little fanfare, but cemented a place in the team, edging out Josh Emmanuel at right wing-back as the Blues deployed a 3-5-2 formation in order to rescue their faltering season.
The rangy defender is good going forward and should enjoy a good battle with fellow new signing Dominic Iorfa for a place.
The defender has been a regular at Wolves and also an important part of the successful England Under-21s set-up.
However, the 6ft 4ins centre-back or right-back has been allowed to leave Wolves by new boss Santo and will be targeting a solid season in Suffolk.
A man-mountain in defence, Iorfa improved a shaky backline after being introduced at Charlton on Saturday.
Has been sidelined with illness ever since arriving but, when fit, is a box-to-box, ball-winning midfielder with an eye for goal.
Starred in a poor Rotherham side last season and scored the winner against Town as the Millers won 1-0 in South Yorkshire, in April.
Adeyemi (25) has plenty of Championship experience under his belt with Leeds, Birmingham and Rotherham and his all-action style should be the perfect foil for Huws.
Didn’t score the goals expected of him at Rangers and, having never been prolific at Championship level before, will have a point to prove.
Adds aggression and tenacity to the Town attack and is good in the air, despite being under six foot.
Not a direct replacement for Daryl Murphy, but will have pressure on him to provide a focal point in an area which has been shorn of the talents of last season’s loan saviour, Tom Lawrence.