Exit Interview: Spence was yet another Ipswich Town right-back stop gap... now he’s mixing with Hollywood’s finest
PUBLISHED: 06:00 20 May 2019
Jordan Spence is set to leave Ipswich Town when his contract expires. Andy Warren looks back at his career at Portman Road.
Not since the days of David Wright have Ipswich Town truly had a permanent answer at right-back.
Here's just a few of the players who have acted as stop-gaps in that position in the years since: Danny Simpson (loanee), Liam Rosenior (loanee), Jaime Peters (converted winger), Gianni Zuiverloon (loanee), Reece Wabara (loanee), Bradley Orr (loanee), Carlos Edwards (converted winger), Elliott Hewitt (youngster), Frazer Richardson (loanee), Luke Chambers (converted central defender), Kevin Foley (short-term deal) and Dominic Iorfa (loanee).
Jordan Spence falls into that bracket, too.
The former West Ham trainee had been without a club for more than six months after leaving MK Dons before ultimately making the move to Portman Road.
A trial in September 2016 initially came to nothing but, just a few months later in January 2017, the call did come from Mick McCarthy and he signed a deal until the end of that season.
He featured 17 times during the second half of that campaign but, once his deal had expired, he was required to wait once again before putting pen-to-paper on a two-year deal in June.
Spence's career has lacked stability, with seven clubs and a stack full of loan moves, but he found a semblance of it in 2017/18 when he was a permanent fixture in the side and was a solid, if unspectacular, starter.
Like so many of the Ipswich players, though, last season was a real struggle.
Spence started under Paul Hurst on opening day but was soon missing out on matchday squads altogether.
He was back in under Paul Lambert, starting his first dozen games, before his time at Ipswich came to an abrupt halt at Accrington.
After the FA Cup humbling, Lambert proclaimed he'd seen enough and suggested there may be players who would never take to the field for Ipswich again under his management.
That's exactly what has happened in the case of Spence, with yet another stop gap loanee (James Bree) coming in to fill the right-back slot.
Will Lambert find a real answer this summer or will the right-back carousel keep on spinning?
What went well
The 2017/18 season was a good one for Spence.
He made 37 Championship starts (the most league starts he has ever made in any one season), was a vital piece of McCarthy's jigsaw as both a right-back and in the middle of defence,
He scored four important goals, too.
The first was the dramatic late winner in the 4-3 victory over Millwall, the second came in the 5-2 demolition of Sunderland before a third secured a draw at Hull in the dying moments of a game Town didn't deserve to lose. No.4 came in the 4-0 victory at Reading following McCarthy's departure.
On his day Spence was a good defender, keeping the opposition quiet on many occasions, while his ability to get forward and join in the attack was perhaps under-rated when he was able to open his legs and stride forward.
Away from the pitch he also deserves great credit for the community work he did as an Ipswich player, most notably speaking out regarding mental health issues and tackling subjects not always discussed by professional sportsmen.
Areas to improve
Stopping crosses was a real weakness for Ipswich as they slid into the third tier at the end of last season, with Spence perhaps the key offender.
So many balls into the box from the right side ultimately resulted in goals during the course of the campaign, with Spence standing off and not doing enough to halt the delivery into the danger zone.
He gave away the free-kick which led to Accrington's winner in the FA Cup, which proved to be the final straw for Lambert.
Concentration and positioning is also a flaw in Spence's game, with the defender liable to be too casual both on and off the ball, giving his man space to work.
He certainly needs to be more consistent.
The defender can be excellent one week and leave you scratching your head the next - sometimes achieving that feat within the same game.
What the future holds
Football, and where he will be playing it next season, seems to be a long way from Spence's mind at the moment.
The defender is currently travelling the world alongside his actress wife Naomi Scott, who is starring in the Disney live action remake of Aladdin, alongside Will Smith.
She's previously starred as the Pink Power Ranger in the 2017 Hollywood reboot of that movie franchise but this role, as Princess Jasmine, has catapulted her into the mainstream and seen her feature on talk shows around the world.
Spence has been by her side on the red carpets across the globe, but it remains to be seen where his next football stop will be.
Would he need to return to League One, having performed well there for MK Dons in the past? Could a move to America be attractive, given much of his wife's work (including a role in the new Charlie's Angels film) is in the States?
He had to bide his time before joining Ipswich and, as a man with many interests outside the game, you get the impression he may be content to do so again.