Mick McCarthy hailed the "diligence and professionalism" of David McGoldrick after the striker spearheaded a 2-1 opening-day victory over a new-look Fulham side.
McGoldrick put a five-month injury lay-off behind him to double the advantage given to Ipswich by Daryl Murphy's fine 32nd-minute opener.
And while Tim Hoogland's deflected goal set up a tense final few minutes at Portman Road, the home side held on to claim a deserved three points and celebrate McGoldrick's return to action.
The striker's knee injury last season came just as Ipswich were challenging for a top-six finish in the Sky Bet Championship, but they ultimately fell short.
McCarthy said: "I don't know if we would have made it had he been fit, but we are a better team with David McGoldrick in it.
"The fact he is now back is all down to his diligence and professionalism to get himself fit.
"He has worked really hard and was desperate to get back playing - and it was lovely to have him back.
"It was a nervy end but I thought we deserved the win overall. Gerks (keeper Dean Gerken) has not had much to do and while we didn't have a lot of the ball in the first half, we scored a good opener on the break."
Felix Magath's revolution at Craven Cottage saw him field eight debutants - including a backline all making their first competitive starts - and nine nationalities.
But it was their £11-million new man, Ross McCormack, who Magath has called on to up his game.
The Fulham manager said: "Ross came to us with a lack of fitness and not at the beginning of pre-season. He is not at the same level as the rest of the players.
"I wanted him to be fit when we signed him but at the moment he is not in the right shape.
"He has to improve his fitness and I don't know how long that will take. When he does, he will be the perfect striker for us."
Magath also called on his young team to quickly learn about the nature of the Championship after questioning the tackling of Ipswich and the performance of referee Stephen Martin.
He explained: "A lot of our young players are just out of the academy and they are not used to being tackled in that way.
"We knew before it was going to be a very tough match and the referee didn't have his best day."
Ipswich were well worth the three points in front of the televised cameras with Murphy latching on to Luke Hyam's through ball to hit home an accomplished opener.
It was two when Murphy's cross was only half-cleared and McGoldrick drilled the ball low past the advancing Jesse Joronen.
Hoogland pulled one back when his shot was deflected past Gerken by helpless team mate Tommy Smith but the Championship new boys were unable to claim an unlikely point.