Best Ipswich Town Welsh XI

As a football-mad teenager obsessed with fanzines Iwan Rowlands recalls writing an article on Welsh Ipswich Town players for TWTD.co.uk. Using the book The Men Who Made The Town as his reference point, Iwan identified only four Welshmen that had had the honour of playing for the ‘Town’ (this was pre-‘Tractor Boys’ days). In recent years the number of Welsh internationals to grace the hallowed Portman Road turf has greatly increased; indeed, to the extent that Ipswich is a great place to go if you are a Welshman that needs to kick start his career. So here is Iwan’s Welsh Ipswich Town X1.

Goalkeeper

Lewis Price – is one of those goalkeepers that I see mentioned every now and again; mainly in team news for cup games and think ‘Oh I see that he is still playing’. He is one of those modern keepers that has probably made a good living sitting on the bench. Having started his career and played 68 times for the Town he eventually lost his place to Shane Supple. 11 further clubs followed where the most times he has played is 18 games for Rotherham. I was surprised to see that he had amassed 11 caps for Wales. My main memory of Price is that he seemed to be pretty good at saving penalties – or at least I can remember him saving one at Cardiff. He was brilliant on his Wales debut in a 1-0 friendly defeat in Cyprus with his performance saving us from further embarrassment in a game where the extra-curricular activities of players was more important than the game.

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Defence

Elliott Hewitt – One of many players dubbed ‘the new Gareth Bale’, Ipswich signed Hewitt from Macclesfield in 2012. Hewitt was unfortunate enough to play for us during the chaotic Paul Jewell era and as his attacking play was better than his defensive ability he did not really fit in with Mick McCarthy’s style of play and had little chance to make an impact. Still only 25, Rhyl-born Hewitt has played over 100 times for Notts County since leaving Ipswich in 2015. He could yet add a full cap to his ten u21 caps, but somehow I doubt it.

Andy LeggAndy Legg – The first of two loanees in this XI, Legg played six games for the Town under George Burley, scoring once – which if I remember was a far post goal versus Sheffield United on Sky. Famous for his long throws Legg is another well travelled player who played most of his football in Wales and I was surprised to learn that he had only six Welsh caps with the final cap coming out of the blue at the age of 34, three years after his previous cap, away to Armenia in 2001 having been converted from his usual wide position to sweeper at the start of the Sam Hammam Cardiff era. Since then, Legg managed Llanelli, where he also played well into his 40s, and successfully beat cancer.

Josh Yorwerth – Upon his release by Cardiff City Yorwerth ended up at Ipswich. Viewed as a back up centre back I had hopes Yorwerth’s career would kick after he scored on Town debut in the Capital One cup and subsequently played at Old Trafford in the third round. However under Mick McCarthy one position where we were not short of players was central defence and Yorwerth found his route to the team blocked. After only those three early Capital One Cup appearances in a year, Yorwerth joined Crawley Town and has recently joined Peterborough. Still only 23 should he establish himself in the Posh side I would not be surprised to see him feature in a senior squad in the future- although a full cap may be a step too far.

Ben Thatcher – Not one I am proud to see in my team, however the defence does need a bit of ‘Steel’ – and certainly when I googled Ben Thatcher the first image I came across from his Wimbledon days certainly suggests that he would add a bit of steel to the defence despite playing him out of position at centre-back. Thatcher made a good career out of football with his robust approach playing over 300 games mainly in the top flight. Signed by Jim Magilton in the summer of 2008 in the early days of Marcus Evans’s ownership of the club, he played 20 games before Roy Keane got rid of him due to Thatcher’s unwillingness to move closer to Ipswich. The entry on Wikipedia under his Welsh career sort of sums up Welsh football at the time. Having won seven caps under Mark Hughes:

In October 2004, John Toshack was appointed new Welsh national team coach, but Thatcher did not play any games under Toshack, due to suspensions and injuries. Thatcher did not play in Wales’ 2006 World Cup qualifying matches against England and Poland in early September 2005 on grounds of injury, while playing days later. This angered Toshack, and Thatcher was categorically left out of the Welsh national team.

Having won England u21 caps, Thatcher had previously taken the opportunity to switch allegiance during a FIFA’s 2004 year long amnesty that allowed players over 21 years of age to represent a second country despite having represented another at u21 level (Fredi Kanoute made use of the same opportunity when switching allegiance form France to his father’s homeland of Mali).

Midfield

John Elsworthy – Elsworthy was part of the Town side that won the First Division Championship in 1962. A left half during his long and illustrious career at Ipswich for whom he played over 400 games. Perhaps surprisingly he is uncapped despite winning the league championship. Elsworthy was part of the Wales squad for the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden, but was one of the players who infamously didn’t travel to Sweden with the squad. He is the only member of this squad to be inducted into the ITFC Hall of Fame. Lets hope one of the three current players can join him there!!

Geraint ‘George’ Williams – Signed from Derby for £650,000 George as he was known because of some people’s difficulties in pronouncing ‘Geraint’ (some things never change?!) was our big signing before the inaugural Premier League season. Known for his consistency but not his goal scoring prowess, Williams did score one memorable goal at Reading with a Bale-esque run from the halfway line (OK maybe I am over exaggerating here). Williams played over 650 senior games but only 13 times for Wales. He was kept out of the starting 11 in the main by Barry Horne and Peter Nicholas. I doubt whether a midfield pairing of Horne and Williams would have been the most creative seen! Williams has of course continued to contribute to Welsh football by being u21 manager for four years from 2012-2016.

Emyr Huws – The second of the two sitting centre midfielders although in a slightly more advanced role is a player who both Ipswich and Wales fans hope to see stay fit to show his worth. A classy box-to box player who can score goals. Currently making his way back after the best part of a year out with injuries he is a player that Town fans are desperate to see recapture the form of 2017. Should he do this surely he will add to the 12 Welsh caps. Emyr was also probably the most surprising omission from the Wales squad for the Euros.

Right from now on selection is not as easy with many candidates for the three advanced role and lone striker in my favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

Forwards

Tom Lawrence – If only we’d have signed him permanently two summers ago. After a poor time on loan at Cardiff City his career really started to bear fruit at Ipswich under Mick McCarthy. A series of spectacular goals at the beginning of 2017 meant that he would always be out of our price range – but he left with most Town fans thankful that mainly due to his contribution we were not dragged into a relegation scrap during the 2016-17 season. He announced himself on the international stage with that spectacular goal vs Georgia. With further promising performances Lawrence is in most fans’ starting XI although I personally have doubts about how often he gives the ball away. It is also interesting to note that Derby fans are split in their opinions of him. Whilst more caps and goals will surely follow how long will it be before he finds himself behind the likes of Brooks, Woodburn and Wilson in the queue for caps?

Joniesta – Remember him? Amazingly another creative, skillful footballer whose career was revived by arch football pragmatist Mick McCarthy. It’s amazing to think that he has yet to turn 25. Surely one of the most fouled footballers, with the one game that springs to mind being the 2014 home qualifier versus Bosnia. He has also been the victim of the odd assault on the football pitch: Watford’s Ekstrand was particularly bad; and how did we not get a penalty versus Slovakia in Bordeaux?! Sadly I doubt whether he will fulfil his potential. He won’t get his chance in the Premiership without proving himself in the Championship – but I fear that the Championship is too brutal for him. Similarly to Huws should he keep himself fit he will surely win more caps and score his first international goal?

Ellis Harrison –  My research has failed to come up with much in the way of strikers so I will have to rely on another new signing. Newport-born Ellis has played most of his pro football for Bristol Rovers. Despite not making such an immediate impact as Gwion Edwards he has created a favorable impression. Town fans will I’m sure be hoping for more performances like the one in January 2017 he scored 4 goals in a 5–0 victory over Northampton Town for Bristol Rovers. Harrison is another who could force his way into the senior squad over the coming year or so to complement his 14 u21 caps

Substitutes
Michael Crowe – There was some bemusement when Crowe was released this summer despite being included in the squad to go to China. Firmly a third choice keeper realistically his route to playing was blocked by the ‘Big Pole in goal’ Bartoz Biliakowski and the more experienced Dean Gerken. Hopefully this Norwegian born keeper can develop his career at Preston although his route to the Welsh team is currently blocked. Crowe still does not have a Wikipedia page….

Troy Brown – Given his debut under Roy Keane, Brown perhaps suffered due to the poor form showed by Ipswich at this time and a general lack of stability at the club. A similar example to Josh Yorwerth he has now forged a career in the lower leagues currently at Exeter.

Les Tibbott – This Oswestrian utility player played over 50 games for the Town in the 50s and won two Wales u21 caps. Tibbott contributed to Ipswich’s victorious 1977-78 FA Cup campaign, making one appearance during the run against Cardiff City in the third round. He would have played with some of the Ipswich greats. Indeed they would have blocked his progress – and he moved onto Sheffield United in order to gain more regular football.

Jack Collison – Sadly the bench seems the best place for Jack, given how his career was blighted by injury. To be honest if it wasn’t for injuries he would never have signed for Ipswich in 2013 on a short term deal – he would have been too good for us! As it was he didn’t manage an appearance for the Town injuring his knee in an under 21 game.

Aled Owen – As was pointed out to me by a listener to ‘Ar y Marc’ on Radio Cymru Aled not Emyr Huws was the first Welsh speaking scorer for the Town. Originally from Anglesey this winger played 30 games in the late 50s early 60s scoring 3 goals.

Gwion Edwards – Gwion has quickly established himself as a fans favourite. Should he continue in the manner that he has started surely a first full cap beckons. His chairman has tweeted that if he stays fit he will be worth 8m in a year. Town fans will be desperate for him not to join Emyr Huws on the treatment table . . . . .

Gavin Williams – Having played most of his career in the West Country, Merthyr born Williams, now manager of his hometown club , joined Town on loan from West Ham before signing permanently. He played twice for Wales – with one of those games the previously mentioned ill fated game vs Cyprus.

And finally David Johnson
Autumn 1999 and having decided not to play for Jamaica due to the fear that it could negatively impact his club career it emerged that as a holder of a UK passport but not born in any of the home countries, Johnson might be eligible for any of them and soon the national coaches came calling. David Johnson the then prolific scorer in Ipswich’s promotion campaign. Johnson had an international career that he described to @twtduk as a “mess”. Having been courted by Northen Ireland, he was named in a Welsh squad but subsequently declared himslef Scottish – only to find out that he was only eligible for England and Jamaica.

So there we have it – perhaps a shaky defence but there is some good attacking threat in that team that would play in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

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2 Responses

  1. Matt Thomas says:

    Mick Hill, Welsh striker, 3 seasons in the top division with Ipswich at the start of the 70’s, could have been an addition?
    Also, Cyril Lea & Billy Reed got Welsh caps whilst with us.

    • Russell Todd says:

      Cheers Matt. Couple of replies on Twitter cited Hill too. Was unlucky that his Wales career coincided with other target men forwards in the late 60s, and early 70s such as Toshack, Wyn Davies and Ron Davies otherwise he’d have won more caps.

      Apparently, Billy Reed’s grandson has just signed a scholarship with Ipswich too

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