Nsiala on his injury return, a rollercoaster Town career and 'hugging it out' with boss Cook
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Toto Nsiala is hoping he’s at the start of another ‘up’ in what he admits has been an up-and-down career at Ipswich Town.
The centre-half is now in his fourth season in Suffolk but, while he’s certainly had some good moments since his 2018 arrival, he’s also faced plenty of challenges during that time as injury, poor form and a loan move to Bolton all ensured a rocky path for the 29-year-old.
Nsiala has twice suffered summer injuries which cut him down at a time when he looked set to take a big opportunity, with the latest issue coming back in August as he limped out of the opening-day draw with Morecambe. The timing of his hamstring problem was cruel.
He’s only just returned, coming into the side for a 4-0 win at Portsmouth which he hopes heralds the start of better times once again.
“You’re feeling like ‘here we go again’ because at the start of my second season here I got injured in pre-season, in Germany, and I was out for a long time,” Nsiala said. “That time I came back and I wasn’t match fit.
“I’ve had so much support around me at the club and it’s completely different now to what it was two years ago. The staff working so hard here is completely different but it’s more professional and there’s more to it now. They keep a close eye on you to make sure you’re doing well both physically and mentally.
“It’s been hard with the rehab and everything because I’ve just wanted to do what I can to help the lads, even if it’s just training and pushing others to improve.
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“I think I’ve maybe done that with a few of the lads around the training ground, but it was a good feeling to come back and win at a place like Portsmouth. It’s not easy to win there.
“I wasn’t nervous but I did have some things in the back of my mind about fitness and game time and things like that, but I managed to get through even if I had a little bit of cramp.
“We just have to kick on from that performance now and keep the standards high.”
Reflecting further on his time at Ipswich, which has been made up of relegation from the Championship and two failed League One promotion bids, Nsiala said: “For myself it’s been a bit up-and-down since I’ve been at Ipswich.
“There’s been Hursty (Paul Hurst), (Paul) Lambert and so many players going in and out. But that’s something you have to get used to as a player, keep your head down and work hard.
“People who work hard and show the passion for their club will do well and kick on. I’m hoping that happens for me and the players who have stayed at the club for so long.”
Nsiala now finds himself working under Paul Cook once again, a manager he first crossed paths with a decade ago at Accrington Stanley. It’s clear the two enjoy an excellent, if at times a little fractious, relationship.
“I’ve known the gaffer since I was 17 or 18,” Nsiala said.
“I’m a different player to what I was back then. I’m more of a man now. But the gaffer wants the best for players. He’s not just a manager, he’s also a carer outside of football and someone who truly cares for his players and has their backs.
“We’re hoping to do the same for him and work hard for him. Our relationship is great – we have our fallings out but we hug it out every time, we literally hug it out whenever we have an argument.”
Next up for Nsiala and Town is a home clash with Fleetwood this weekend, with the defender having only one result in mind.
“We need to get three points and a good run will take us right back to where we really want to be,” he said. “We have to kick on with the squad we have because, it’s been said so many times, it’s a bit of a joke on paper.
“If you look at the players we have on the bench, they could destroy teams if they come on so Saturday is a big three points for us to try and win.”