Eight young Town players who could become stars in 2021
- Credit: Archant
With 2021 upon us, Mark Heath takes a look at eight young players who could make a big breakthrough at Ipswich Town in the next 12 months...
1) Armando Dobra
If this were an American high school year-book, Dobra's smiling face would surely be pictured next to the words 'most likely to succeed'.
We've known about the 19-year-old's potential for a while, but he's had to be content with the odd cameo appearance here and there thus far.
Turned down the chance to go out on loan at the start of the season, which seemed to anger Paul Lambert and saw his opportunities limited, but has come back into the reckoning and shown what he can do - most notably with that right-footed rocket of a goal against Gillingham in the EFL Trophy.
Dobra's exciting, confident and takes risks - he's far from the finished product, but you get the feeling he could really shine in 2021, given a consistent opportunity.
2) Brett McGavin
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The Bury boy has been asked to step up into the first team on several occasions this season, and has never let his side down.
The 21-year-old midfielder has started in six of his seven appearances thus far, no small feat in itself, and was among the best players on the pitch in the FA Cup defeat to Portsmouth.
Was the subject of odd Lambert comments suggesting he needed to be '100 times better' in November, but the Blues' boss has also praised him as the natural replacement for Andre Dozzell in the deep midfield role.
McGavin is neat and tidy with the ball, plays two-touch football well and gets forward when required. With another few months of seasoning in the senior ranks, he'll be an important player for the Blues.
3) Aaron Drinan
You have to feel sorry for Aaron Drinan. Having battled his way back from obscurity and a series of loans into the Town first team on opening day, the Irish striker has struggled with injuries for much of the season so far.
Spent three months on the shelf with a thigh injury suffered in that opening game, and has faced hamstring niggles since returning.
But there's no doubt the 22-year-old deserves to be in the first team picture - indeed, he's looked very capable as the lone striker in the favoured 4-3-3 formation so far.
Links up play really well, is a physical presence and gets into good positions. His first Town goal can't be far away in 2021.
4) Corrie Ndaba
The powerful young centre-back has played four times for the first team this season, but, with the likes of Mark McGuinness, Toto Nsiala, James Wilson and Luke Woolfenden ahead of him in the pecking order, he's still waiting for his league debut.
The 21-year-old has certainly matured, admitting that he 'lost focus' when first tipped for the first team in 2018, an opportunity that subsequently never came due to his loss of form in the U23s.
He still has all the tools to make an impact though - strong, good in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Ndaba may need to go out on loan to get regular game-time, but remains a player who could emerge in 2021.
5) Liam Gibbs
Gibbs, another Bury boy, wasn't included in any first team discussions at the start of the season, but has forced his way into the reckoning with his fine displays for Town's youth sides.
Played three times for the senior team thus far, including making his full league debut in the 2-0 home defeat to Charlton in November.
The 18-year-old attacking midfielder, a star of the young Blues side who have impressed in the FA Youth Cup this season, has certainly caught Lambert's eye.
The Town boss said: "He’s really clever with the ball, he’s a really intelligent player. You only really need to tell him something once and he takes it in."
6) Idris El-Mizouni
The 20-year-old Tunisian international was on a season-long loan down the A14 at Cambridge United, but has just been recalled to Portman Road, and goes straight into the mix for next Saturday's clash with Swindon.
He's played 15 times for a U's side who are right in the mix for the League Two play-off spots, and will no doubt have benefitted from the experience.
League Two loan spells pushed Flynn Downes and Luke Woolfenden up a notch remember, so look for El-Mizouni to return a better player.
Like Dobra, the attacking midfielder is a livewire creative spark who will take risks and fears no-one - and that's always good to have!
7) Elkan Baggott
They say in football that no player is bigger than the club - but that's not actually true in Baggott's case, at least in a social media sense.
The 18-year-old has significantly more Instagram followers (132,000) than Town (just 82,000) due to his huge support back home in Indonesia.
Centre-back Baggott's big in a physical sense too - he stands 6ft 4inches tall and threw the discus and javelin for Colchester & Tendring Athletics Club.
Made his first team debut in the Trophy win over Gillingham, and like Gibbs, has starred in Town's run to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.
His manager there, Adem Atay, said: "He has a physical presence. Calm and composed in possession but not afraid to defend when necessary. Powerful and dynamic. He’s developing all the time as a defender.”
8) Ross Crane
Powerful winger Crane is probably the longest shot on this list to explode onto the Town first team scene in 2021, but don't rule it out.
The 18-year-old, who was among many youngsters to make their debuts in the EFL Trophy against Gillingham in October, then started in the same competition at Crawley.
He was only signed from Bury Town in the summer, where he earned comparisons to current Town star Jack Lankester, who spent time on loan at Ram Meadow.
Bury boss Ben Chenery said of Crane: "He’s got the body of a man – his dad must be about 6ft 5ins, so he’s going to be a big lad. He’s very powerful when he goes through the gears.
“We had Jack Lankester on loan here (in 2018). In terms of personality they’re quite different - Ross is quite quiet while Jack is a big character – but they’re similar as players, both left footed and very talented, so it’s like watching history repeat itself.
“He’s very humble and has his feet on the ground.”