Wright ready for hot reception
THE enigma that is Jermaine Wright returns to Portman Road with a clear conscience.Wright, who was voted the Players' Player of the Year at Town last season, three years after winning the award for Most Improved Player, frustrated fans who seemed to love and hate him in equal measure.
By Derek Davis
THE enigma that is Jermaine Wright returns to Portman Road with a clear conscience.
Wright, who was voted the Players' Player of the Year at Town last season, three years after winning the award for Most Improved Player, frustrated fans who seemed to love and hate him in equal measure.
Nevertheless many hoped he would sign the new contract he was offered - but as soon as Town were dumped out of the play-offs other clubs showed an interest.
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Wright returned from a holiday in Thailand to sign for Leeds on much higher wages than he would have got at Portman Road.
Wright said: “My contract was up, Ipswich made me an offer and I had a month to think about it. I went on holiday and then I found out that other clubs were interested.
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“I spoke to the Gaffer about it, but I didn't break any promises or anything like that. I'll probably get a mixed reception.”
Wright signed for the Blues from Crewe in the summer of 1999 for £500,000 and enjoyed mixed fortunes during his five-year stay.
He said: “It's the first time I've been back.
“I have some great memories, winning promotion in my first season, playing at Wembley, getting to the play-off final and playing Inter Milan in the San Siro.
“We were close all the time, but we got to the final, did well and the whole thing just lifted. There was a buzz around the town and the expectations were really high.
“It was fairy-tale stuff that first season because we finished fifth, but after that it all went a bit pear-shaped.”
Along with his team-mates Wright was asked to defer his pay and watched as the top stars were sold and the young guns came through.
He said: “At first there was money for wages, but then we went into administration so it was a bit of a roller-coaster, but I had some good times there.
“We had a few young lads like (Darren) Bent, (Dean) Bowditch and (Ian) Westlake coming through when I was at Ipswich.
“They were forced to play, much like some of the young lads here, but there were times when they got burnt out and tired and were not as fresh as they should be.
“It's not right because you still expect it of them. Last season they brought in experienced players to help the young lads and now they are reaping the benefits.”
Wright has been asked to pass his experience on to the latest crop at Leeds and, up until the arrival of former West Brom player Sean Gregan, the 29-year-old was in charge of a midfield which possessed an average age of just 20.
“You try and help the lads in training every day and on the pitch,” Wright added.
“They should be picking things up themselves anyway and the more they realise this the better.
“I remember playing with Jim Magilton when I first went to Ipswich and I would think 'how would he get the ball away from certain situations?' but it's all about belief and confidence. You get confidence and it makes you a better player.”
Wright's departure paved the way for Kevin Horlock, who has been outstanding as a holding midfielder, to sign for Town, and Wright is aware that the Blues' home form has improved dramatically since he left, with Town unbeaten in their past 12 games at Portman Road, which will be a virtual sell-out today.
Wright said: “Ipswich are playing well. They like to get it down and pass it and they have a settled side.
“They've got good forwards with players like big Shefki Kuqi and they've got players who can pass the ball in midfield.
“They play to their strengths. But if we get at them early doors then the fans may turn a little bit and who knows what can happen.”
Town fans will remember the spectacular goals Wright can score, like the one in the first season back in the Premiership at Leeds, but may also recall games where he drifted out of for long periods.
It will be interesting to see which Wright turns up this afternoon.
There will be no cash turnstiles at Portman Road for today's match.
Tickets are still available at the sides and back of the stands. For ticket purchases contact the ticket office on 01473 400555 or personal callers to the ticket office until kick-off. Supporters are advised to book their seats early.