There will never be another Super Jim at Ipswich Town... but the hope must be for Judge to make a similar impact
PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 June 2019
Jim Magilton’s arrival proved to be a spark the last time Ipswich Town won promotion. ANDY WARREN looks at whether Alan Judge can do the same next season.
Rewind to January 1999 and George Burley's Ipswich Town were in need of inspiration.
It was very much a different scenario of course, with the Blues once again in the thick of the promotion race rather than facing up to the reality of the third tier, but Burley's midfield was missing something.
Kieron Dyer and Matt Holland were already well established, but they needed someone to help make them tick. Loanees Paolo Vernazza and Lee Hodges had been brought in with little success earlier in the campaign, while any combination of Danny Sonner, Adam Tanner and forgotten Dutchman Marco Holster didn't do the job.
Enter Magilton who, like Judge at Brentford prior to his Ipswich arrival, had found game time difficult to come by at Sheffield Wednesday.
But his creative eye was clear to see. It was a perfect match.
He arrived initially on loan but, such was his impact during his initial 11 games at Portman Road, there was a clamour for him to be recruited full-time to become the creative force of Burley's side. Sound familiar?
The Scot duly obliged, securing Magilton for £680,000 before the end of the 1998/99 season.
His impact since then needs little regaling, with promotion coming the very next season. Those at Portman Road on May 17, 2000 will never forget the hat-trick which secured his place in Ipswich Town folklore - the jewel in the crown of his 320 appearances as he helped take the Blues to the Premier League, finish fifth and then challenge at the top end of the second tier following relegation.
There are obvious comparisons between Magilton and Alan Judge's approach to the game, as well as the fact they both arrived at Portman Road at the same stage of their careers. Magilton turned 30 just a few months after moving to Suffolk - the same age Judge is now.
Both demand the ball, both offer their services to team-mates wherever they are on the pitch and both want to be at the heart of anything their side does.
"I am playing for a manager now who understands me and has given me the freedom to express myself. I needed that and needed to move on to a new challenge."
Those were the words of Magilton 20 years ago but they could easily have come out of the mouth of Judge, who has spoken glowingly about the freedom offered to him by Paul Lambert.
Back in 1999 there was a sense that Ipswich had a acquired a player who was too good for Division One and so it ultimately proved, with Magilton leading the Blues up to the top flight and then topping the passing and successful passes statistics in the Premier League as Town finished fifth.
Sadly we're now talking about the third tier, of course, but the same is true of Judge.
This is a player who was heading to the Premier League just a few years ago, before his horrific Portman Road leg break. The new deal he signed in April is a major coup for a club now playing in League One and it's easy to imagine him being a star at that level.
Team-mates young and old have spoken glowingly of Magilton's influence both on the pitch and off it and, though very different characters, you get the sense that Judge is held in the same regard with the current crop of Town players.
Watching Joe Royle's midfield of Magilton, flanked by the box-to-box energy of Tommy Miller and Ian Westlake, was a joy to watch. You can imagine the likes of Teddy Bishop and Jon Nolan fulfilling those roles in a team including Judge next season.
Magilton's presence was vital as a crop of young players came through under Royle, with Westlake, Matt Richards, Darren Bent and Darren Ambrose all surely benefiting from the Northern Irishman's presence both on the pitch and in the dressing room.
Bishop, Flynn Downes, Tristan Nydam, Jack Lankester, Luke Woolfenden and Andre Dozzell will all feel the same.
There are question marks, though.
Judge certainly hit the ground running following his January signing and his impact was instant, lifting a team lacking a creative spark, but for all the positivity he undoubtedly brought on the pitch his end product was perhaps lacking. An early goal next season will do him and the team the world of good.
Having spent the first half of last season dipping in and out of the Brentford side, he only missed 27 minutes of football following his move to Portman Road, completing 90 minutes on 17 occasions and being substituted late in his two other games.
His impact lessened as time went on, which is perhaps understandable given how long he spent on the sidelines, but his impressive display off the bench for Ireland on Friday night was a timely reminder of what he's capable of.
The broken wrist suffered on international duty certainly doesn't help, of course, but Judge will benefit from a few weeks of rest before returning to begin pre-season.
Then there's the question of his position.
It's clear the Irishman prefers to play centrally and we've been given a glimpse of what he can during Lambert's experiment with the diamond midfield in February and March.
Magilton's position in the middle of the park allowed him to make Ipswich tick and, though a little more advanced, Judge showed similar traits when playing behind two Ipswich strikers.
But his time at Portman Road has been largely spent on the left wing, where he has drifted around the field looking for possession to get his side moving.
It will be interesting to see where the midfielder is deployed next season, especially if Lambert continues to use a 4-3-3 formation.
For Judge to hit anything like the heights managed by Magilton will certainly take some doing but, as the Blues enter a new, daunting, chapter in their history, the similarities between the two may just stand them in good stead.