Will Town fans grow to love Nugent?

DAVID Nugent clearly loves scoring goals at Portman Road - but will fickle Ipswich fans welcome him with open arms after years of castigating the striker?Nugent, should he join, could go from villain to hero in the eyes of the Ipswich faithful within the space of three months.

Derek Davis

DAVID Nugent clearly loves scoring goals at Portman Road - but will fickle Ipswich fans welcome him with open arms after years of castigating the striker?

Nugent, should he join, could go from villain to hero in the eyes of the Ipswich faithful within the space of three months.

Blues fans, especially those in the North Stand, will recall how Nugent taunted them by cupping a hand to an ear after bagging a brace in the 4-0 win at Portman Road in the August of 2005.

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The arrogant Scouser was jeered relentlessly, as he has been on three other visits. He was even given a hard time by a handful of Town fans when playing for his country in Suffolk.

Nugent has scored five goals in four games at Portman Road, three for Preston, one for Portsmouth to knock the Blues out of the FA Cup earlier this season and one for England Under-21s in a draw against Moldova.

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Added to that are three more goals in as many games for Preston at Deepdale against Town and while he is respected as a goal-scorer the way he has gone about his business has not made him popular with Ipswich supporters.

He has been booked in virtually every encounter with the Blues but has always had the last laugh as he has never been on the losing side.

If the 22-year-old one-time full England international did join Ipswich, Town fans will surely be delighted, perhaps some begrudgingly, but arrogant or not, there is no doubt Nugent is a quality, proven goalscorer, especially at Championship level.

The general feeling among the pubs and work places is that Nugent is the sort of player who can tip the balance on whether Ipswich get promotion - and if he does that all will be forgiven and forgotten.

After all it is his talent for finishing, and unrestrained celebrations, that have wound up Town fans in the first place.

If he gets the goals and assists that ensure a play-off place and then victory at Wembley, he would be lauded as a hero in much the same way that Marcus Stewart was revered.

You will remember that Stewart scored on his debut against Barnsley and then banged in a couple in the play-off semi-finals against Bolton before rounding the season off with a goal, also against Barnsley, in the victorious Play-off final at Wembley.

Stewart was probably considered even more of a gamble when he came from Huddersfield as he was unproven at the top level, whereas Nugent has scored for a leading Championship club and played in the Premiership, albeit with less success.

He has not lived up to his £6m price tag and has not realised his potential after playing for England and scoring in the last minute of a 3-0 win over Andorra, having gone on as a sub for the final 11 minutes, even if that goal was just a tap-in from Jermain Defoe's shot before it crossed the line.

Amazingly for a player who has carved out a career in front of goal Nugent started life in his native Liverpool as a goalkeeper.

But Liverpool released him from the Academy in 2001 and he emerged at Bury as a striker where he scored 60 goals in 102 appearances.

A £150,000 move to Preston North End followed and he narrowly missed out on becoming a Premiership player when they lost to Leeds in a play-off semi-final in 2006.

The Lilywhites narrowly missed out again last season when they finish seventh but Nugent's fine form had Premiership clubs knocking at the door and despite interest from Everton's David Moyes, who had signed him from Bury, and newly-promoted Sunderland, it was Portsmouth who stumped up the cash and stayed patient.

Roy Keane, the Black Cats' manger, got fed up with waiting for Nugent's decision so prevarication is nothing new for Nugent when it comes to making up his mind.

Harry Redknapp's collection of strikers means it is difficult for Nugent, hampered by injury, to break in and keep his place and his failure to score a Premiership goal in 11 attempts has meant he is not exactly seen as a hero at Fratton Park.

A move to Portman Road, where he scores goals for fun, could reinvigorate him and if it all comes good he will no longer be a villain but instead a Town legend with a chance of getting back into the England reckoning.

It may be hard but he chose England above the Republic of Ireland, who he was eligible for through family connections, but it could be a good move for all concerned.

Maybe it is because he feels he needs to be an instant hit that Nugent is making sure he is fully fit after an abductor strain following a hernia operation, so he does himself justice in front of the fickle fans.

After all - it is time he turned those Portman Road jeers into cheers.

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