IS Paul Jewell the Portman Road alchemist?
The thought occurred to me on Saturday as I watched Lee Martin, one of Roy Keane’s cast-offs, flying into a perfectly executed sliding challenge by his own byline, after 85 minutes of endeavour up and down the wing.
After just one month at the helm our scouse manager appears to have already orchestrated the beginning of a renaissance, all having only parted with a paltry £150,000 in the transfer window.
Three successive Championship wins, a feat much-maligned Keane never managed in 20 months, have already been achieved with comebacks against Doncaster Rovers and Derby County, demonstrating a new-found steel to a team previously bereft of confidence.
And Saturday’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United had me left wondering when the last time was I watched Ipswich without worrying the outcome was in doubt for more than the opening 10 minutes (when the Blades were on top, before being cut-down to size).
Starlet Connor Wickham seems to have suddenly found his scoring boots, and form, under the former Wigan Athletic manager - and what a goal it was at the weekend, picking the ball up halfway inside his own half with perfect control before embarking on a 60-plus-yard run before having the ability to hold his nerve to outwit Steve Simonsen. The best ever goal at Portman Road? I wouldn’t go that far, as the defending would have left Alan Hansen penning a novel, but definitely very, very special.
Jewell has also managed to revitalise David Norris, who now has nine goals - a career best in a season - and turned Carlos Edwards from a midfielder into the attacking right-back Keane could never find, though this last one, from a defnesive point of view, is far from the complete transformation yet in my eyes.
And then there is Jimmy Bullard. The cheeky midfielder seems to have taken little time to settle since his loan switch from Hull City, if me witnessing him beeping his horn to startle Lee Martin in the car park before bursting into rapturous laughter pre-match on Saturday is anything to go by. And he was right on song, albeit from a strange holding midfield role, on Saturday, putitng in a delightful ball for Delaney to run onto and give the platform from which to win the game as well as pulling the strings throughout.
With games coming up against Barnsley, at Oakwell on Saturday, and Doncaster Rovers, at the Keepmoat on Tuesday, Town fans could soon be left wondering if Jewell could pull off the impossible and turn a relegation dogfight into a late play-off chase. Now that would be football alchemy!