'Give the manager a headache' - Gill's message to players ahead of EFL Trophy clash with Tottenham U21s
PUBLISHED: 15:00 02 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:30 02 September 2019
Ipswich Town coach Matt Gill says tomorrow's home game against Tottenham U21s in the EFL Trophy has come at an ideal moment.
The competition - now sponsored by Leasing.com - is much-maligned in many quarters. There has been a #bteamboycott movement since Premier League clubs were allowed to enter academy sides, crowds are often very low in the group stages, while several managers have voiced their anger at the restrictions placed on them regarding selections.
Progress through a four-team group then win four knockout games and you play in a final at Wembley though.
"I'm actually looking forward to it," said Gill. "It's an opportunity for some of the lads coming back from injury, who will add loads of value to the squad, to get some minutes.
"It's also an opportunity to play some academy boys and give them the experience of being in a senior environment.
"This sort of game is far better for players than a regular Under-23s game on a Monday afternoon."
Senior midfielders Jon Nolan and Emyr Huws look set to start as they continue their recoveries from injuries, there is an outside chance that Toto Nsiala could be involved, though this game looks to have slightly too soon for Will Keane.
The match also provides an opportunity for academy graduates such as Bailey Clements, Idris El Mizouni and Aramndo Dobra to get another taste of senior action following their recent outings in the Carabao Cup defeat at Luton.
"If I was playing I'd want to give the manager a headache," said Gill. "I'd want to go and perform at Portman Road, get my fitness levels and up and show him I'm ready to play when called upon.
"Andre (Dozzell) is away with England (U19s), which is great for him, but Nolo and Huwsy have got an opportunity to build that fitness up.
"We have massive strength in depth, which is brilliant for the club. There could be a lot of games this season, so having everyone at full throttle is going to be important."
Tottenham's U21s progressed out a of group containing Portsmouth, Gillingham and Crawley last season before losing 3-0 at Oxford in the first knockout round. They are currently riding high in the PL2 Professional Development League.
"We've prepared exactly as we would for a league game," said Gill. "We've gone through the same routine in terms of selection, set-plays, opposition analysis. I went down to watch their game when they beat Man City 3-1 at the new stadium a couple of weeks ago.
"They are a very good side who play very similar to the first team. Their lead coach Wayne Burnett is a very good friend of mine who helped me on my coaching development. He was part of the FA coaching team.
"It will be a tough game. They are going to enjoy playing in a stadium, they're going to enjoy pitting their wits against a senior team and they'll see it as a pathway to a potential loans.
"They'll be bang up for it and wanting to do as well as they can."
Anthony Georgiou is away on international duty with Cyprus and would have been unavailable to feature against his parent club anyway.
Gill continued: "For us it's an opportunity, coming away from the league programme, to try one or two things regarding the way we play and the personnel.
"I know people talk about a Wembley final, but that's a long way off. It's a bit of cliche, but it is one game at a time and we're not getting too far ahead of ourselves.
"The league is very much the priority, but I'm just enjoying the momentum of winning. Whatever is the next game you want to win it and that is very much the case tomorrow night.
"I think it's a good competition for us and it's good for the Premier League clubs too."
Town will be able to call upon Idris El Mizouni and Armando Dobra after their respective nations - Tunisia and Albania - agreed they could join up with the junior international squads late.
"They are available which is great for us," said Gill.
"Fair play to their countries, I think they recognise this is part of their development playing against a massive Premier League club, albeit a 21s team."
Dobra impressed in the 3-1 Carabao Cup defeat at Championship club Luton on August 13, with fellow teenager Bailey Clements playing at left-back in that game too.
"They are two really hard working boys desperate to develop and do well," said Gill. "I think they recognised that was just a part of their development playing that game rather than a 'I've arrived' moment.
"They continue to try and work hard and develop until they get to that point where they can become a regular."