Ipswich Town are keen to overhaul their defensive ranks with the free transfer acquisitions of Sonny Bradley and Callum Connolly in the coming days. Luton Town skipper, Bradley is out of contract at Kenilworth Road and appears to have rejected advances to extend his stay in Bedfordshire. Meanwhile versatile defender-cum-midfielder Callum Connolly is also in talks regarding a permanent switch to Portman Road having enjoyed a season-long loan spell with the Tractor Boys in 2017/18.
It would be something of a coup for Ipswich boss Paul Cook to convince Sonny Bradley to drop down from the Championship to play for League One Town. Bradley has been a towering presence at centre half for the Hatters, helping Nathan Jones’ men to solidify their position in the second tier. However, with Ipswich under new American ownership since April, there is renewed ambition and investment, with the long-term goal of restoring the Suffolk side to the top table of English football.
In addition, Cook is a Championship manager in every sense of the word, having excelled during his time at Wigan prior to the Latics’ off-field issues. He was hotly tipped for the Sheffield Wednesday vacancy earlier this year, which eventually went to Darren Moore.
There have been some eyebrows raised as to the extent of the Portman Road clear-out. On the surface, most of Ipswich’s first team players have long been viewed as too good for League One level, but too few of them have demonstrated this on a consistent enough basis.
In addition, Cook is said to have been exasperated at his squad’s lack of fitness when joining the club. He has long been revered for his front-foot, high intensity style of play and in the last couple of months he could not hide his frustrations at his squad’s inability to play in this manner. He even attempted double training sessions, but this was soon canned due to the players’ lack of conditioning and heightened injury risks.
Certainly, the concertinaed 2020/21 League One campaign will not have done the Blues’ squad any favours when it comes to playing Paul Cook’s way. Recent studies involving Huddersfield University and Edge Hill University, in collaboration with the University of Münster in Germany, found that fixture congestion affects high intensity running on the pitch. Sprints and high intensity movements, which are invariably required to create and score goals, are down during busy periods despite players still being capable of running the same distances over the full 90 minutes.
With long-serving captain Luke Chambers departing Ipswich Town after almost ten years of service, an experienced centre half such as Bradley is needed to fill that void. Bradley is also a left-sided centre back, which calls into question Luke Woolfenden’s long-term future at Ipswich. It was thought that Bradley’s likely destination for the 2021/22 season would be Preston North End or Hull City, with a move back up north on the cards following the passing of his father last year. However, the East Anglian Daily Times revealed that Town lead the chase for his signature.
Meanwhile 23-year-old Callum Connolly is due to depart Everton permanently this summer, having been with the Toffees since the age of nine. Connolly has spent time on loan with multiple Championship and League One clubs in recent seasons, with his most recent spell this year at Fleetwood seeing him dominate at centre half too. It’s possible Cook is looking at Bradley and Connolly as a central defensive pairing, with both very comfortable on the ball.
Alternatively, Connolly could be utilised as a holding midfielder, replacing Flynn Downes who is thought to have handed in a second transfer request to Paul Cook following the conclusion of the 2020/21 campaign. Town blocked a move to Crystal Palace for Downes last summer and he remains on the radar of several leading Championship and Premier League outfits.
In terms of other new arrivals at Portman Road this summer, reports coming out of Suffolk suggest that Ipswich and their incoming CEO, Mark Ashton, are looking to recruit players as a ‘Championship club in waiting’. Egyptian box-to-box midfielder Sam Morsy is another target for Paul Cook, who is keen to be reunited with the former Wigan captain. Meanwhile talented Portsmouth centre back Jack Whatmough is also said to have held informal talks with Cook regarding teaming up again at Ipswich, with Cook having worked closely with the 24-year-old during his time at Fratton Park.