Ipswich Town FC

Key player: Freddie Sears

He was billed as ‘the next Wayne Rooney’ in his youth. For a while, his career looked to be going a bit more Adam Rooney but Freddie Sears has been a small glimmer of light for Ipswich Town in a pretty turgid era. He was constantly among the more talented players in the tail end of the Mick McCarthy era, which saw the abrasive Yorkshireman’s relationship break down with the fans. 

A long term injury kept him out of the second half of their relegation season, and the first half of their first year down in League One. His return to the side did coincide with a brief upturn in Ipswich’s form but things went downhill very fast in the New Year. Sears doubtless has talent but there is a reason why he hasn’t fulfilled the potential he showed at West Ham. His application can sometimes be lacking and his defensive contribution isn’t what it should be. This season is his time to show that he can graft as well as he can dazzle.

See the whole League One Season Preview 2020/21

Manager: Paul Lambert

For many League One clubs, the manager is in fact their greatest asset. As harsh as it is to say, the reverse may be true for Ipswich Town.

Paul Lambert’s managerial career has followed the law of diminishing returns since his bright Colchester side demolished Norwich 7-1 on the opening day of the 2009/10 season. That prompted Norwich to appoint him, resulting in their back-to-back promotions into the Premier League and he earned a big move to Aston Villa. Since then, it’s been all downhill. His tenure at Villa was solid if unspectacular and it was followed by mediocre spells at Wolves and Blackburn.

A below par spell at Stoke wasn’t enough to keep them in the Premier League and he notched up another relegation with Ipswich in 2019. They started last season well but a dramatic drop in form came around the time Lambert signed a new long-term contract. They ended up 11th and could have been lower if the season wasn’t ended on a points per game metric. 

Captain: Luke Chambers

Quite simply, Luke Chambers IS Ipswich Town. He is their longest serving player, their captain and their leader. Primarily a centre-back, he is able to cover at right-back when needed. He joined the club in 2012 and he has gone onto make almost 350 appearances for the side as their lynchpin at the back. He’s far from a one club man, hitting three figure appearances for Northampton and Nottingham Forest, but it is at Ipswich that he really made his mark and became a fan favourite. 

He’s been at Town through the good times and the bad. The Mick McCarthy era started strongly and Chambers was an ever present when they narrowly lost out in the play-offs to East Anglian rivals Norwich. Their era declined but Chambers popularity did not, still one of the most beloved players in the eyes of their supporters.

He also provides leadership and clarity off the pitch as well as on it. He recently retired his famous fist pump celebration at the end of every win, as Ipswich simply weren’t doing well enough to justify it. Let’s hope Ryan Lowe doesn’t have cause to do the same…

Last season: 11th in League One

Ever made a rash decision that you go on to regret? For many it’s a drunken text, an impulse purchase, or leaving an article late to the deadline. For Ipswich Town, it is surely the decision to extend Paul Lambert’s contract until the Summer of 2025 when he’d done next to nothing to justify the decision. As mentioned, Lambert’s career is on a downward trajectory and his style is a little out of date in the modern game.

Still, he had at least started well with the Tractor Boys. Ipswich were top of the pile in October after a barnstorming start to the campaign. Things began to turn a little sour as Autumn drew in and got chillier still with winter. Ipswich were without a win in SEVEN games when, on New Year’s Day, they rewarded Paul Lambert with a new 5 and a half year contract. Their poor form continued into 2020 and when the virus stopped football, Ipswich were on track to come 11th in the league. Due to the decision to end the season on extrapolated points per game, 11th is just where they ended up. Ipswich fans were left disappointed again after another in a long line of mediocre seasons.

Key transfer: Oli Hawkins

Oli Hawkins is definitely one you’d class as an ‘interesting’ signing rather than an excellent one but he could well prove to be one that really defies expectations and proves a quietly astute bit of business. The lanky utility man was plucked out of non league by Pompey at the relatively old age of 25. 

Hawkins adapted to Pompey like a duck to water in the first half of the season, earning himself a regular starting berth. The combination of positions in which he played though, was most unusual of all. Striker-come-centre-backs are a throwback from an archaic era. Strapping chaps like John Charles did it but that’s far from the norm in today’s generation of technically skilled and precisely honed footballers.

Sometimes though, a big lad who can win headers up front and in defence can be just what the doctor ordered. He was Pompey’s ace in the hole, able to turn a game by changing their style of play, making him a very useful asset on the bench and he scored the penalty that won them the EFL Trophy in 2019. However, appearances dried up and he left this summer. He could add something different, that’s for sure. Time will tell whether or not it pays off.

Target: Play-offs

In theory, Ipswich should be looking at the top end of the table. Theory and reality are often far from the same thing, however. Theory would have had them at the top end of the table last season too, but reality came to bite.

One of their best players last season was Everton loanee Luke Garbutt. Garbutt was released from Everton at the end of last season, but at the time of writing Ipswich have not yet been able to entice him on a permanent deal. They’ve added Hawkins alongside a handful of other signings but, by and large, their squad hasn’t changed much. 

A bad start will surely see the board lose patience with Lambert, in spite of his new deal. He got a second chance but he surely won’t get a third. Ipswich need to be aiming for, at the minimum, a top six finish this season.

Opposition view:

(provided by Ipswich Town fan Craig)

Preseason has seen differing results but a consistent 4-3-3 formation. This suits the majority of a bloated squad which should, on paper, be good enough for the top six. If Lambert can hold his nerve, not try to prove how clever he is by tinkering too much and get off to a good start, he’ll be allowed to show that he can complete the job.

If we have a sluggish opening, he could be out the door come November. An embarrassment of riches in midfield is in need of a clear run from injuries and if that happens, the football could be more pleasing to the eye. If Norwood stays fit (and at the club), he could also benefit from chances being created by Dozzell, Bishop, Nolan & Judge, among others.

 

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League One Season Preview 2020/21