Verdict: The holes which Ipswich Town boss Paul Hurst must fill this summer
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 June 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
There’s already been two in and one out at Portman Road this summer under new boss Paul Hurst. Stuart Watson looks at how Town’s squad is shaping up.
The big question is whether Bartosz Bialkowski signs a new contract upon his return from the World Cup with Poland. If he doesn’t, then Town will have to start thinking about cashing in given he is now heading into the last year of his deal.
Experienced back-up man Dean Gerken has proven he is more than a capable Championship player, but he is still rehabbing from the hip surgery he underwent in February.
Last season’s third choice custodian, Michael Crowe, has been allowed to join Championship rivals Preston on a free. Harry Wright, the 19-year-old son of former Blues favourite Richard, could fill that void though.
It may be prudent to plan for life after Bart. It’s worth noting that Manchester United’s Dean Henderson, who excelled for Paul Hurst on loan at Shrewsbury last season, has already joined Sheffield United.
STU SAYS: Plan A: Try and convince Bart to sign. Plan B: Promote Gerken (if he proves fitness), sign a new back-up who can provide healthy competition and use funds on other areas of team.
Myles Kenlock can provide strong competition for Jonas Knudsen at left-back and has a head-start to impress Hurst given the Knudsen is currently away at the World Cup with Denmark.
Josh Emmanuel returns from a season on loan in League One at Rotherham, where he was named the Millers’ Young Player of the Year after playing a key role in their promotion via the play-offs. He can fill the Dominic Iorfa void.
Young Irishman Barry Cotter produced a fine debut towards the back end of last season, so there is healthy competition for the club’s most senior right-back, Jordan Spence.
STU SAYS: Not Town’s strongest area in the squad, but well stocked and there are bigger priorities.
Christophe Berra went last summer, Tommy Smith departed in January, Cameron Carter-Vickers’ loan has expired and now Adam Webster has been sold to Bristol City for £3.5m.
That leaves Town with the sum total of one senior centre-back in the form of captain Luke Chambers.
Highly-rated England Under-19 international Trevoh Chalobah has arrived on a season-long from Chelsea of course, but you’d be surprised if he played anywhere near 46 games in his debut season of men’s football.
Academy graduates Luke Woolfenden and Chris Smith are on the fringes, but may benefit more from further loan spells away. I’d be amazed if Hurst doesn’t try and sign Toto Nsiala for a third time after bringing him to both Grimbsy and Shrewsbury.
Blackpool’s Curtis Tilt has been linked and certainly fits the bill. He excelled in his debut season at League One after stepping up from non-league.
STU SAYS: Town can’t risk going into a season short on centre-backs again. Spence and Knudsen can both play inside, but I still think the Blues need two more in this position.
If – and this is a big ‘if’ – everyone stays fit, then there are plenty of options.
Callum Connolly (loan expired), Luke Hyam (released), Kevin Bru (Apollon Limassol, free) and Stephen Gleeson (Aberdeen, free) have all moved on, but Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Andre Dozzell and Teddy Bishop could all be like new signing after long-term injuries.
Hurst admits he may have to wrap the aforementioned quartet in cotton wool though, with Huws and Bishop still not fit enough to take part in full training.
There’s hope that Dozzell’s fellow England U19 internationals Tristan Nydam and Flynn Downes can kick-on after breakthrough campaigns. Downes will have benefitted from his spell helping Luton Town achieve promotion in League Two.
New boy Chalobah is just as comfortable in midfield as he is at the back too.
The ever-reliable Cole Skuse may have to work that little bit harder to keep his place in the team week-in, week-out this season.
STU SAYS: A decent blend here in terms of style and age. Let’s hope the new focus on sports science can keep them all available.
One of the first things Hurst identified when looking at this squad was a shortage of wingers.
Grant Ward will be hoping to take his game to the next level this season under a manager who should loosen the shackles.
Danny Rowe returns from a loan spell at League Two side Lincoln City but remains sidelined following ankle surgery.
Jordan Roberts yesterday arrived on a Bosman free transfer from League Two side Crawley Town.
Bersant Celina (loan expired) has gone, while Hurst says he has no plans to bring the exciting but injury-prone Mustapha Carayol back to Portman Road and instead has his own targets in mind. Alex Rodman, one of Hurts’s key men at Shrewsbury last season, could be turned to after he rejected a new deal at the Shropshire club. The 31-year-old was let go by Aston Villa as a youth and subsequently climbed his way up the football ladder.
STU SAYS: Roberts is a punt that may or may not come off, while Rowe is not ready to hit the ground running. Town, for my money, still need two more wide men. Star quality in this department is likely to come from the Premier League loan market, as was the case with Ryan Fraser, Tom Lawrence and Celina.
Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner will be challenged to build on impressive debut campaigns for the Blues, while Freddie Sears may just get a lease of new life under Hurst after spending so long toiling on the wing.
Young trio Ben Folami, Aaron Drinan and Ben Morris are all capable of breakthrough seasons, but you would think Hurst has made it clear he is looking for a bone fide David McGoldrick replacement after the latter walked away at the end of his contract.
STU SAYS: As good as McGoldrick was on his day, all those injuries meant his high wages couldn’t be justified. Get the feeling Hurst will be looking for a physical front man to complement what he’s got.