ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD TOWN CORRESPONDENT MATT PLUMMER DELIVERS HIS WEEKLY THOUGHTS ON THE NEWS FROM PORTMAN ROAD: Four games, two heartening wins and an impressive cup performance against
phenomenal top-flight opposition.
It hasn’t exactly been a bad start for new Ipswich boss Paul Jewell.
Results and performances have improved, he has the crowd onside and there is an unmistakable, refreshing air of confidence blowing around Portman Road.
Perhaps his biggest achievement so far, though, has been off the pitch rather than on it.
First and foremost, Jewell managed to ensure that no players left before the transfer window closed on Monday.
It’s absurd that 21 of them are out of contract this summer, especially when that list includes pivotal figures like Gareth McAuley and David Norris.
But Jewell appears to have coolly resolved things for now.
He was pressed about the situation in his press conference at the start of the week and his response was typically calm.
He said he had put the ball back in the players’ court, telling them to raise their stock with a strong finish to the season.
Good performances between now and then will benefit both the club and players, as it raises their bargaining position in terms of negotiated new deals.
It sounds obvious but, to me, it’s wise, logical management from a man with plenty of experience.
Jewell’s early dealings in the transfer market were also encouraging.
Jimmy Bullard is a proven talent and comfortably worthy of the Premier League, let alone the Championship. Assuming he stays fit, the midfielder will undoubtedly be a classy addition and there were
early indications of that in Tuesday’s win at Derby.
I really like the prospect of Andy Drury, too.
Jewell was right to say that the signing won’t have people jumping out of their seats with excitement.
With all due respect, they’re more likely to say “Andy who?”
However, there’s a wealth of talented players in the lower leagues just waiting to be plucked from relative obscurity.
They just need a chance and someone to take a punt on them.
Just look at local examples like former Maldon Town pair Neil Harris (Millwall) and Chris Whelpdale (Peterborough), ex-Braintree Town favourite Alex Revell (Leyton Orient) and the old Witham Town
striker Cody McDonald (Norwich).
Town probably haven’t made enough signings in that mould, down the years.
Gary Roberts is one that springs to mind, although unfortunately it wasn’t the most successful move for the Accrington man.
I remember speaking to him in the Portman Road car park, after his first game against Preston in October 2006.
He was almost starry-eyed with excitement, so grateful for his big opportunity.
As Jewell said, if you trust your instincts and have a good feel for a player then it’s a punt worth taking.
In financial terms, it’s comparatively small fry – I suspect Drury will be on considerably less than the rumoured £20,000 a week Town are supposed to be stumping up for Bullard!
But what they will get is a player full of hunger, ambition and determination.
I like that and genuinely hope he succeeds, especially as he may have thought his opportunity had passed when things didn’t work out at Stevenage.
Sheffield United provide the opposition at Portman Road on Saturday and Town will be out to make it three league wins in a row, after their victories against Doncaster and Derby.
Yes, the performances haven’t exactly been polished.
There’s plenty to work on, heaps to improve and so much hard graft to come.
But it’s pleasing to note the small shoots of recovery – signs of hope and encouragement.
In fact, given the way things were this time last month, it’s hard to ask for much more.