Edmundson was schooled by the 'golden generation' and has put his faith in the Ipswich rebuild
- Credit: ITFC/PA
Ipswich Town have completed the signing of George Edmundson from Rangers. Andy Warren takes a look at the Blues' newest recruit.
How Town got their man
Ipswich Town’s capture of George Edmundson is likely to be seen as something of a coup.
That’s because there has been significant interest from the Championship in the 23-year-old, both in terms of permanent and loan deals, but he’s ultimately heading to the third tier of English football from one of the biggest clubs in Britain.
Derby, where Edmundson spent the second half of last season on loan, would have welcomed him back to Pride Park with open arms but are currently under a transfer embargo. Peterborough’s interest ended once Rangers asked for £1.5million early in the summer - significantly more than the initial £750,000 Town are understood to have paid - while Millwall were also thought to be in the running.
Town made their move late, even though he is a player both Mark Ashton and Paul Cook have admired for some time, making first contact just a few days before ultimately getting the deal done. There was a feeling, given that interest from higher up, that he was perhaps beyond Town’s reach, but the Blues made their move at the right time and managed to complete the transfer to the envy of others.
It’s understood at least one Championship club tried to hijack the move once news of Ipswich’s interest broke in Scotland on Sunday night, making calls on Monday morning. But the player was already on his way to Suffolk with the deal agreed. Town had got their man.
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Understandably, it’s thought the 23-year-old would ideally like to continue his career in the Championship, given his time at Rangers and then Derby, but being part of a new era at Ipswich which, right now, appears only to be going in one direction was an offer which turned his head.
Manager Cook’s passion is a selling point, just as Ashton’s past record in the transfer market could be too. Adam Webster is a good example here, with the Town CEO taking the central defender from Ipswich to Bristol City in the summer of 2018, sorting out long-standing fitness issues and then selling him to Brighton for more than £20m in just 12 months.
There’s a feeling Ipswich’s summer transfer business is snowballing, convincing players who otherwise wouldn’t have considered a move to League One to sit up and take notice.
What to expect
Ipswich are signing a player high on potential but a little light on football over the last couple of years.
But when he has been on the field he’s said to have shown good growth and all the attributes you’d hope to see in a young, emerging central defender.
Early in his career he was described as something of an ‘old school’ centre half who enjoys the physical side of the game, while improving when it comes to his ability on the ball as he has moved forward in his career. He’s a threat from set-pieces, too.
He’s right-footed but prefers to play on the left-side of the central defensive pairing, while also being comfortable on the right.
He joins a squad which currently only boasts Toto Nsiala and Luke Woolfenden as senior centre-halves and, while his place in the side isn’t a given, the expectation must be that he arrives as a projected starter.
Whether or not an experienced head arrives in the coming weeks remains to be seen.
A tough start
Edmundson himself is the best person to tell the story of how his football career was nearly over before it got started. It's a great story.
“My journey hasn’t been a smooth one,” he said, back in 2019. “I went on trial to a number of clubs like Manchester United, Man City and Everton and I was always told I wasn’t good enough, or as good as what they had.
“I went to a development squad at City but I never got a contract. But the club helped you get moves to the likes of Accrington or Oldham. Scouts would come and watch our games and I went to Accrington. I signed but they never gave me a scholarship so I was back to square one.
“My coach at City, Simon Cooper, went to Oldham. He asked me to come in and play a game for him. I love playing football so I couldn’t turn it down — but there were no guarantees.
“We won 2-1, they thanked me, and I went on my way as there were no scholarships left at the club. But two weeks into pre-season they let a boy go because of his attitude.
“Then they asked me to come in and take his place on the scholarship programme.
“I worked hard but when it came to the decision about a professional contract they told me they were having to let me go. They didn’t think I was ready for the first team.
“We still had a few games until the end of the season, so I kept training hard and the last game of the season was a national final. We won 4-0 against MK Dons and I played OK.
“The chairman and the coaches were watching and they said that I shouldn’t be let go. So I got another chance to be a professional — I took it and signed for Oldham.”
Once Oldham had corrected their mistake, he played under a revolving door of managers at Boundary Park, with nine different men in charge of the club during his four years in the first team. That spell included his first, and certainly not last, brush with a member of England’s ‘golden generation’ in the form of Paul Scholes. He has said he learnt a lot from the former midfielder.
Three loan spells in non-league football formed part of his development, at Ramsbottom, Fylde (where he impressed against Cook’s Wigan in the FA Cup) and Alfreton, on his way to 79 appearances for Oldham.
The vast majority of those games (54) came in his one full season in the Oldham first-team, with his efforts in League Two earning plenty of admirers, a player-of-the-year award and a place in the division's team-of-the-year. From that point a departure for bigger things became inevitable.
A dream move
When Rangers come calling, it’s hard to say no. Edmundson described the £750,000 switch as a ‘dream move’ as he linked up with golden generation member number two – Steven Gerrard.
“The gaffer was a major factor in me coming here,” Edmundson said. “He has done everything there is to do in football. He played at the highest level so for him to want you to play for him is massive.
“I had his name on the back of my England shirt during the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
“When he rings you up and asks you to sign for him you don’t say no. We spoke when it was all agreed and it was a surreal.”
He moved to Ibrox and found himself fourth in line for a defensive spot and knew he’d have to be patient.
He featured 16 times in his first season, with a cameo in the dying minutes of an Old Firm victory at Celtic, and came on strong as the season went on. Fans liked what they saw.
He scored the opening goal in a home win over Hibs before, in the final game before the coronavirus shut down, netted in the Europa League against Bayer Leverkusen at a packed Ibrox.
His career in Scotland looked to be heading in the right direction.
A big mistake
As Scottish football emerged from the pandemic in the Autumn of 2020, Edmundson found himself on the fringes of first-team action once again and was stuck to the bench, starting only a Europa League win in Gibraltar before coming off the bench in a big win at Motherwell at the end of September for his only league appearance.
Those proved to be his final 14 minutes as a Rangers player.
With football in Scotland only given permission to return under strict protocol, at a time of heavy restrictions, Edmundson and team-mate Jordan Jones were given fixed penalty notices by police after they attended a house party in Glasgow, earning widespread condemnation inside and outside of football as Rangers suspended the duo.
A seven-game ban was handed out following an SFA charge and his future at the club was in doubt, despite a heartfelt apology: “I apologise unreservedly to the Rangers fans for my actions. I have assured the manager, club and my team mates that these actions won’t be repeated, and I have learned from my mistake.”
Edmundson remained out of the first-team picture, even when his ban was up, before a deadline day move at the end of January of this year saw him head to the Championship with Derby. It was here he linked up with golden boy number three – Wayne Rooney.
He impressed as the Rams fought for survival, even putting his body on the line by returning to action just 10 days after undergoing a hernia operation in the middle of April. Rooney was impressed.
"When a player wants to play, and given where we are in the table, wants to show that courage to play, I had no issue in putting him on the bench,” Rooney said.
In total, the defender made 10 Derby appearances, scoring once in a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield.
So impressed was he that the former striker was keen to bring the loanee back for another spell at the club, only to be beaten to the punch by Ipswich.
It’s clear a fresh start could bring the best out of Edmundson and it’s in Suffolk where he will look to get his career firmly back on track.