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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Please Stand Up

After Ipswich Town appoint Paul Jewell to succeed Roy Keane in the manager's chair, Nobes looks at the new man in charge and whether he can take them back into the Premier League.

Jewell has twice taken clubs into the Premier League during his career

For some, he was the architect behind bringing Premier League status to two unfashionable northern towns better known for rugby league than football.

To others, he was the failed messiah. The man who was supposed to resurrect the fortunes of two of England's most traditional clubs, yet floundered during short and unsuccessful spells.

You can forgive Ipswich Town supporters for being unsure of what to expect from their new manager therefore. Will the real Paul Jewell please stand up?

Few bosses have such a hit and miss record as the 46-year-old Liverpudlian who, a decade ago, appeared to be one of the most promising young managers in the division.

When Jewell took Bradford City to promotion to the Premier League in 1999, he brought to an end the West Yorkshire's side's 77-year exile from the top flight of English football.

It was an achievement backed by the big-spending of City chairman Geoffrey Richmond, with Jewell shattering the club's record transfer fee twice in a matter of weeks.

Big money moves for the likes of Isaiah Rankin, Lee Mills, Dean Windass, and Gareth Whalley, alongside a series of experienced veterans, propelled the Bantams into the big time in Jewell's first full season at the helm.

What's more, against all the odds, 12 months later he kept them up and ensured back-to-back seasons in the top flight. Then, he resigned. Talk about quitting on top.

Five years later, and he repeated the trick at Wigan Athletic. The Lancashire town, better known for its Warriors than Latics, had only joined the Football League in 1978.

However, in four years Jewell took them from the third tier to the top flight for the first time in their history.

Once again, the elevation had been driven by the deep pockets of benevolent owner, Dave Whelan. Strikers Nathan Ellington, Geoff Horsfield, and Jason Roberts all cost Wigan a million pounds or more.

What Jewell was given, he spent wisely though. Wigan finished 10th on their top flight debut and reached the League Cup final.

They struggled in their second year but, again, Jewell saw them to safety on the final day in 2007 before resigning, citing he needed a break from football management.

It's that half of his CV which will give Town supporters, and shadowy owner Marcus Evans, cause for great optimism.

The Suffolk club were relegated from the top flight in 2002 after just two years back. Since then, two play off semi finals under Joe Royle is the closest they've come to returning - despite significant spending, particularly under Evans.

It's what cost Jim Magilton his job in 2009, although his record now looks like manager of the year material compared to the failings of the past 18-months under the combustible Roy Keane.

However, Evans and chief executive Simon Clegg are intent on establishing Ipswich back into the top flight - hence their latest appointment.

If Bradford and Wigan are the good of Town's new man though, then his spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County are both the bad and ugly.

Jewell endured a miserable time at Derby, winning just seven league matches

In hindsight, his move in 2000 across Yorkshire from Bradford to the Steel City appears to have been a case of biting off more than he could chew.

While the Hillsborough job may well have been a step up in terms of prestige, he was joining the Owls at a turbulent time in their rich history.

Wednesday had just been relegated from the top flight with huge debts and an ageing squad poorly suited for the rigours and pressures of winning promotion back at the first attempt.

Jewell struggled to halt the slide and just eight months into his reign was fired from his position with Wednesday battling to avoid relegation to League One.

His time at Derby was similarly traumatic. Having replaced Billy Davies mid-season, he oversaw the Rams relegation from the top flight in 2008 accruing just 11 points - the lowest total in Premier League history.

Indeed, it took time 10 months and 29 league games to finally register a league win at Pride Park. However, just half a dozen more followed at he resigned from his position at the end of 2008 with Derby just five points above the Championship's drop zone.

Ironically, his last match in charge came against Ipswich, and he arrives at Portman Road with Town sitting even closer to the drop zone than his Derby side were.

Having left Derby despite guiding them through to the last four of the League Cup, he also takes over in Suffolk with his new charges facing Arsenal over two legs at the same stage of the competition.

He will, however, walk into a dressing room with morale at an all time low. Sunday's 7-0 loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup following a run of nine defeats in 13 league games.

Arguably, despite Ipswich's top flight pedigree in the '70s and '80s, his long-term challenge in East Anglia is more reminiscent to the ambitious projects he embarked upon at Bradford and Wigan.

He will hope the similarities continue with Evans sanctioning a further spending spree to bring in the additions necessary for the Tractor Boys to be challenging at the top end rather than the bottom.

While Ipswich do possess some quality, Roy Keane seemed unable to find a settled side and recipe for success.

A questionable record in the transfer market as well as misgivings over his ability to improve and motivate his players also proved his undoing.

Jewell, on the other hand, has proven he can find the right balance between youth and experience and produce a winning team - as well as spending his money well.

While ensuring they don't slip any further down the Championship standings must be Town's initial priority, Evans and Clegg must match their ambition by backing their new man.

While nothing can be certain in football, the law of averages, if nothing else, suggests Jewell's latest mission in his chalk and cheese career should be a hit.

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