Noel Hunt opens up on Ipswich departure, MLS interest

Portman Road - Ipswich Town

The Southend and former Leeds United striker had the chance to join the Chicago Fire this summer after leaving Portman Road.

Southend United striker Noel Hunt has revealed how he could have made a move to MLS this summer before ending up at the League One side instead.

The Irishman, 32, was in talks with a number of clubs after his contract at Ipswich Town expired, including the Chicago Fire, but, with his wife pregnant, felt it was not the right time to make the switch across the Atlantic.

“I was talking to a few clubs. Chicago Fire, as reported, was one of them,” he wrote on BeanBagSports. “With the pregnancy news and my wife being from Surrey, I felt it wasn’t the time to be making such a big move and we wanted to stay closer to home.

“I spoke to [Southend manager] Phil Brown, I liked what he was saying and the direction the club is going in. I went and watched the boys play against Charlton and thought this is the place for me. It’s a great bunch of lads and once we don’t lose anyone in the window we should be ok and more than capable of holding our own.”

Hunt began last season at Leeds United but, having fallen out of favour following a disappointing debut campaign in which he failed to score in 19 appearances, was later loaned out to Championship rivals Ipswich in November.

It didn’t take him long to make an impression at Portman Road alongside brother Stephen either, as the ex-Reading man came on to bag a 94th-minute winner against Charlton Athletic on his debut less than 48 hours after joining the club.

His move was eventually made permanent in January after being released by Leeds, before the former Republic of Ireland international proceeded to bag a brace in his first start for the Blues to help them record a 3-1 win at Milwall.

Those were the last goals he would score for the club, however, as the well-travelled forward sustained knee ligament damage in a clash against Fulham the following month which ended up restricting him to just one seven-minute substitute appearance over the rest of the campaign.

Despite having only signed a short-term deal with Mick McCarthy’s men, he was hopeful of earning an extension but, despite holding initial talks, a new contract never materialised.

Nevertheless, the experienced front man holds no grudges towards his old club, adding: “I was in discussions with Ipswich over a potential deal and we were haggling over a couple of minor issues. That was a Wednesday and on the Thursday I was out in Portugal for a friend’s wedding when the Tyrone Mings deal to Bournemouth went through.

“As part of the deal Ipswich signed Brett Pitman and Ryan Fraser and I kind of knew then I was in a bit of trouble because it meant Ipswich now had four strikers.

“People ask me if I feel hard done by and the honest answer is no, I don’t. What Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor did for me last November is something I can never repay them for. They took me in on a limb and I hope I did well for them. Even this summer they invited me to train with the guys to keep fit until I found myself a club.”

Hunt has so far failed to score in three appearances for Southend but, all the same, he might well have been able to help Chicago given their recent struggles.

The club are sitting bottom of the Eastern Conference after the weekend’s 1-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Colorado Rapids, having taken just 23 points from their 24 games, and also saw the Montreal Impact beat them in the race for Didier Drogba’s signature last month.

In addition, Designated Player Shaun Maloney is set to return to England to join Hull City after a dismal eight-month spell in MLS, while head coach Frank Yallop is not expected to last much longer in charge either.

That all in mind, perhaps Hunt made the right decision to head to Roots Hall, although Fire fans will now be left to wonder whether he could have made a difference amid their team's ongoing plight.

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