Have Ipswich Town’s new owners proven to be Gamechangers in the summer transfer window?
It’s been a summer like no other for Ipswich Town supporters. After two years of crushing disappointment in the third tier of English football, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the Suffolk side. After US consortium Gamechanger 20 Ltd bought out Marcus Evans to become the new majority shareholders, pumping an initial £40m in capital into the club and appointing the highly regarded Mark Ashton as Town’s new CEO, new boss Paul Cook has a clean slate to rebuild the Ipswich squad in his mould.
The Tractor Boys have come into money at just the right time given that so many clubs in the EFL and League One, in particular, are having to cut their cloth accordingly. ESPN reporter Mark Ogden recently described the English game as “teetering on the brink of an abyss” with even Premier League clubs sustaining losses of £700m last year. The decision of former Town owner Marcus Evans to sell the club and write off all debts owed to him looks like being the best business decision he made during his 14-year tenure.
So many of the senior Ipswich Town players departed Portman Road at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, with long-serving captain Luke Chambers and midfielder Cole Skuse the two headline exits having been with the club for the best part of the last decade. In addition, many homegrown names such as Andre Dozzell have been moved on to pastures new, with the likes of Teddy Bishop and Flynn Downes still likely to be playing elsewhere before the 2021/22 season kicks off in earnest.
Paul Cook aptly named himself “Demolition Man” with the local media ahead of the close season, alluding to the significant surgery required to bring in players to suit his high-energy 4-2-3-1 system. With just a couple of weeks until the start of the new League One campaign, let’s take a look at the latest additions to the Tractor Boys’ squad ahead of their third successive promotion bid to return to the Championship.
All change in the goalkeeping department
Paul Cook reportedly informed both senior keepers Dai Cornell and Tomas Holy that they could find new clubs for the 2021/22 season. Cornell promptly departed for Championship new boys Peterborough United, but Holy remains as potential second choice to Czech compatriot Vaclav Hladky, who arrived from League Two big-spenders Salford City. Hladky was considered the leading keeper in the fourth-tier last term and is something of a coup for Ipswich. Many believe the 30-year-old could comfortably play in the Championship and beyond.
Proven goalscorers arrive to support James Norwood
Goals certainly proved hard to come by for Town in the 2020/21 campaign. Having been wedded to Paul Lambert’s slow, possession-based style, the squad found it difficult to play at the other end of the spectrum when Cook first arrived. The likes of Oli Hawkins, Aaron Drinan and Freddie Sears have all departed since. Ipswich-born Macauley Bonne has returned to his spiritual home on a season-long loan from QPR, while Joe Pigott has signed a three-year contract on a free transfer after leaving League One strugglers AFC Wimbledon in June. Both Bonne and Pigott are proven goal-getters in the third tier and will take the heat off James Norwood, who has struggled to hit the heights achieved at former club Tranmere.
Pace and technical ability in abundance in midfield
Paul Cook adores high-energy technical midfielders that can play through the lines and wreak havoc. The capture of highly-rated West Brom midfielder Rekeem Harper was a major eyebrow-raiser, given that Harper had been linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs just a couple of years ago.
Cook’s former lieutenant at Wigan, Lee Evans, has also come into central midfield, but the star signing looks to be Scottish playmaker Scott Fraser. The MK Dons schemer has been snapped up after a hugely successful two-year stint in Buckinghamshire. There’s speed from wide areas too with Fleetwood’s Wes Burns also arriving for an undisclosed fee.
Town still hoping to add battle-hardened experience to the backline
Cook and Mark Ashton are yet to get their hands on new central defenders, having seen an ambitious move for Luton Town captain Sonny Bradley fall through. It won’t be for the want of trying however, with three or four new faces almost certain to arrive in the Blues’ backline for the start of the new season.
In the last couple of seasons, Ipswich have been favourites for promotion based on their reputation as a giant in League One. Now, it seems they have the signings and the manager to back up the bookies’ favouritism.