Earlier this week, Paul Jewell announced that Michael Chopra will be spending three weeks at a health farm in California as part of the striker’s pre-season preparations.
Jewell believes that this should help Chopra’s fitness and give him the best chance of starting next season in fine form. Views on Chopra vary amongst Ipswich fans and this was clear to see when hearing/reading how they reacted to this story.
Generally, the reaction was sensible and positive with most fans mentioning how they hope the health farm will help Chopra hit the ground running next season. However, a few fans aren’t as fond of the former Cardiff City striker and used the story as an opportunity to slate him for the problems he has had during his time at Ipswich. It is strange to hear that a clubs top goal scorer could be such an unpopular figure, especially as consistent goal scorers are so hard to come by in The Championship.
At the start of the season everyone at Ipswich considered the signing of Chopra fantastic news. It has been a long time since Ipswich have had a striker with a proven record at this level so it was great to see that the club had snatched a player who could potentially score 20 goals in a season.
Chopra’s popularity rose even higher when he scored twice in the opening game away at Bristol City but somewhere along the line this popularity plummeted. In October news came out that 28 year old striker had been suffering from a gambling addiction; admitting to losing up to £20,000 a day and probably having lost more than £2 million over a few years. Since then Chopra has been facing an uphill battle to win over the Ipswich fans and he took a while to get going again after this set back.
As the season progressed he had a few stints without scoring and a few bursts of form where he bagged plenty of goals, so it has been a mixed season for Chopra. Although, considering the problems he has had the Ipswich striker has had a good season as he has scored 14 goals with an inconsistent team behind him, also making him the clubs top goal scorer.
It is hard to label Chopra as either a hero or a villain for Ipswich. You could argue that the striker has been a massive burden on the club by bringing his problems into the dressing room and even needing the club to loan him money to pay his gambling debts.
The team’s performance this season was always going to depend a lot on Chopra’s form as he was being used as a lone striker; so the problems he had obviously had some affect on the team. However, the club and the management were all well aware of Chopra’s gambling problems before he was brought to the club so they knew what they were getting themselves in for.
You could even go as far to argue the exact opposite; that Chopra has been a hero for Ipswich this season as without his goals the club may have finished a lot closer to the relegation zone. Still, the most common assessment of Chopra that I have heard amongst Ipswich fans is that they feel he should have scored more this season and they hope he will next season once his gambling problems are further behind him. This is a fair assessment and one I think the Newcastle-born striker would be content with hearing.
Nobody can deny that he has the potential to be the 20 goal a season man that Ipswich want him to be. Any negativity aimed towards Chopra from the fans has usually stemmed from the frustration that he hasn’t been that man so far.
The truth is that if he had scored 20-30 goals this season even the most negative Ipswich fan would have forgotten about Chopra’s gambling problems. The one certainty is that Chopra should be judged from now on by his performances on the pitch alone and if he can put his problems behind him then he will be a key player next season.