Ipswich Town 2021 Awards: Marking the highs and lows of a crazy year
- Credit: Steve Waller/Pagepix/ITFC/PA
We've reached the final day of 2021, so it's time for Andy Warren to hand out his Ipswich Town end-of-year awards.
Player of the year
We start with a tough one, given so few players have actually been involved throughout the entirety of 2021.
Luke Woolfenden (33) and Toto Nsiala (31) lead the way in terms of calendar year appearances, but both have spent significant spells out of the league side too. Incidentally, Nsiala was my pick for the 2020/21 player-of-the-year, edging out actual winner James Wilson for the real award.
So both Nsiala and Wilson are under consideration here, while George Edmundson and Wes Burns have been the two standouts during the opening half of this season.
Four men, only one winner.
I’m going to give the award to Edmundson. Just 21 appearances shouldn’t really win you an award like this, but high performance levels, superb consistency and the massive potential for growth he has shown all excite me.
- 1 'Versatile, hungry, athletic and technical' - McKenna on new signing Bakinson
- 2 New cafe toasts successful first week
- 3 Police warning after Suffolk driver speeds at 126mph
- 4 Patrols 'throughout the night' following dispersal order in Suffolk town
- 5 Young driver crashes car just a week after passing
- 6 New state-of-the-art army attack helicopters undergo testing in Suffolk
- 7 'Dream come true': Excitement as new salon opens in Woodbridge
- 8 'I'm not bothered... he can go' - Pearson on Town target Bakinson
- 9 Village hall treasurer jailed after stealing cash to help his business
- 10 Man with foot fetish jailed for sexually assaulting women
Young player of the year
I want to give this award to someone who is taking their first steps in the game.
It’s been hard for players from Town’s academy to break into the first-team of late, though both Bailey Clements and Cameron Humphreys have enjoyed some increased exposure and numerous others have made their senior debuts.
But, for this award, the two major contenders have made their big strides away from Ipswich.
Elkan Baggott has become a full international, representing Indonesia six times in the final few weeks of 2021, but the winner is Tyreece Simpson.
We’ve seen some of what the powerful forward can offer in Ipswich blue, but the nine goals he’s scored already at Swindon during his loan is a massive plus for him and Town.
Comeback player of the year
Normally, this award would be for a player who has fought his way back from injury. This year it’s a little different.
Nsiala could win it for making himself a regular in the side, despite signs pointing to his exit from the club.
James Norwood could win it, for his late return to the team following a period training with the Under 23s.
But the winner is Janoi Donacien. He’s a player who didn’t play at all for Ipswich in 2021 until August, having been loaned out once again by Paul Lambert in January.
He survived Cook’s summer cull, though, forced his way into the team, performed on a consistent basis and earned a new contract.
Donacien has had a few resurgences during the most unusual of Ipswich career, but this one feels a little more permanent.
Goal of the year
I’ll be honest, I sat down to hand out these awards and kind of hoped I’d go back through all of the goals from the first half of 2021 and find a forgotten one which made me smile.
Sadly, though, I’ve not been able to find anything to beat Bersant Celina’s incredible goal against Crewe from a month ago. The touch, the vision, the execution. The audacity of it all. Amazing.
Macauley Bonne’s thumping finish against MK Dons isn’t far behind, though, with another honourable mention for his clever finish in the hammering of Doncaster.
Looking back at the first half of the year, I’ll give a participation certificate to Alan Judge for both his excellent finish versus Blackpool and beautiful free-kick against Doncaster in February.
But Celina wins it.
Alternative goal of the year
Just a quick award to give credit to another stunner scored at Portman Road in 2021.
Scott Twine, now of MK Dons, then of Swindon, let fly from nearly 40 yards in his side’s 3-2 January victory over the Blues, giving David Cornell in the Ipswich goal no chance whatsoever.
An incredible strike.
It looked like Bonne had this one sewn up, with his 11 goals taking him past the 10 James Norwood had managed prior to his exile to the Under 23.
But Town’s No.10 has returned with a bang, scoring three times to take the title on 13.
It’s a vast improvement, given last year’s Golden Boot was jointly won by Gwion Edwards, Kayden Jackson and Jon Nolan on a pathetic five.
Norwood and Bonne’s closest challengers were Conor Chaplin (six), Bersant Celina, Wes Burns, Judge (all four) and Sone Aluko (three).
Norwood was the first Ipswich player to score in 2021, netting in the loss to Swindon, and also the last, courtesy of his winner against Wycombe on Wednesday.
I like that.
David McGoldrick was the first and last Ipswich player to score in 2014, finding the net against Preston in January and Charlton in December. It must be said the first Ipswich goal in 2014 was an own goal, scored by Richard Wood of Charlton.
No, not Wes Burns’ twerking at Wycombe, Celina whipping his shirt off or George Edmundson winding up the Plymouth crowd.
This one goes to a man in a suit, rather than a football kit.
Relief was in the air at SIncil Bank, as Town finally won a game at Lincoln at the Blues’ eighth attempt following an extremely difficult start.
And no man was more relieved than Town CEO Mark Ashton, who quickly made his way to the Town fans at the final whistle and embraced the entire front row of the away end before coming back for more.
Unlike Celina, he managed to keep his shirt on.
Save of the year
Town have used four senior goalkeepers this year and you would think most would judge Christian Walton to be the best of those.
So it’s perhaps fitting he picks up this golden glove for a stunning save in the 4-1 win at Wycombe, which saw him show just how sharp his reflexes are as he sprung to his right to keep out Anthony Stewart’s header.
A brilliant save.
Team of the year
There have been two very distinct versions of Ipswich Town this season – one under Lambert and Cook’s first act, followed by the latter’s rebuilt squad.
But neither can win this award.
This goes to Adem Atay’s Under 18s, who enjoyed a stunning first-half to the year as they charged all the way to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.
They eventually lost to Liverpool, having taken the lead during a game televised live on BT Sport, but did the club proud throughout their run.
Moment in time award
Portman Road had an ‘I was there moment’ earlier this season.
Sadly, I wasn’t there. I was at a very good friend’s wedding when Bonne stalked Sheffield Wednesday’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell, before the goalkeeper dropped the ball and watched on in horror as the Town striker stole it and eventually helped get the ball to Conor Chaplin to score.
Players, manager and supporters (as well as some reporters) can go an entire football-watching lifetime without witnessing such a moment live in the flesh.
So special was this moment, it is already commemorated by a big picture on the back of the North Stand.
Forgotten moment of the year
So much has happened at Ipswich Town in 2021.
A sacking, a new manager, a takeover, Demolition Man, a miserable finish, 19 signings, a miserable start, another sacking, another new manager and a packed-out Portman Road.
But in any other year, an incident on February 16 could easily have been the most notable thing to happen during the 12 months.
An otherwise forgettable 0-0 draw with Northampton was lit up by a clash between referee Darren Drysdale and midfielder Alan Judge, in which the official appeared to move his head towards Town’s Irishman.
What followed was Drysdale accusing Judge of ‘the worst abuse I’ve received as a referee’, which the midfielder and Town both denied vehemently.
Drysdale received a retrospective four-game ban for his actions, following an FA hearing.
Quote of the year
Cook gave us some great quotes during 2021. But one will remain synonymous with his Ipswich Town reign.
The man who called his players a ‘Sunday League team’ and insisted he ‘can’t stand watching them play’ ultimately reached breaking point after a miserable 3-0 loss at AFC Wimbledon.
“What you guys will now get is a million rumours because I will be like Demolition Man,” he said on April 16.
“There’s going to be a lot of pain at the club over the next few weeks and I’m fully prepared for that pain.
“We’re all clamouring for something that works and sometimes the solution isn’t in the building, sometimes it has to come from outside the building.
“I don’t like the team and I haven’t got a clue what I’m getting out of them. That will end at the end of this season, 100%.”
He was true to his word.
Miss of the year
Bonne has done a lot of good during his six months as an Ipswich Town player.
But his miss at Cheltenham in August doesn’t fall into that category.
He certainly made up for it in the weeks that followed, though.
It’s not been a vintage year, but there are some candidates here.
All of them, aside from Kieran McKenna’s victory over Wycombe, came under Cook following his summer rebuild.
There was the Lee Evans-inspired 6-0 victory over Doncaster, Celina’s dramatic winner against Fleetwood and then the 4-0 humbling of Portsmouth.
But it has to be the 4-1 win at Wycombe at the start of November. Town were ruthless that night.
Take your pick.
There’s been some utter rubbish in 2021, particularly during that 10-hour run without a goal towards the end of last season.
The 3-0 losses at Wimbledon and Northampton at the end of last season stand out, as does the 5-2 home humbling by Bolton. All of those came under Cook.
But the one I’m picking here was the final match of the Marcus Evans era. A 0-0 draw at Rochdale in which neither side had a shot on target. It was absolutely pathetic.
It was that bad, Evans opted to sell the club just a few days later.
One that got away
Town landed their key transfer targets in the summer, most notably Sam Morsy and Celina on deadline day.
But they didn’t get everything they wanted.
Sonny Bradley still feels like a big miss early in the window, with the big defender ultimately staying at Luton in the Championship. How different would things have been had he and George Edmundson been in place for the start of the season?
Then there’s Matt Crooks, the big No.10 who eventually joined Middlesbrough from Rotherham, rather than Ipswich.
But this award is an off-field one.
How different would Paul Cook’s reign have been had he brought loyal assistant Leam Richardson with him, as he appeared to expect to be able to do?
Instead, Richardson signed on full-time at Wigan and now has the Latics in the thick of the automatic promotion race, while his old boss is out of work once again. A Sliding Doors moment?
There’s plenty to choose from here, with 23 senior signings made over the course of 2021.
All the evidence suggests I should give this to Edmundson, for the reasons mentioned in the player-of-the-year category.
For me, he has the potential to go the furthest in the game of any player on the Ipswich books right now. An excellent investment which hopefully won’t outgrow Town too soon.
But I’m actually going to give this award to Bonne, because of the Macauley-Mania which took off during the early weeks of the campaign and did wonders in helping to connect the Ipswich fans to a group of players with whom they had no prior history.
Without him, Town would have lost to Morecambe on the opening day, been denied the ‘he’s behind you’ moment against Sheffield Wednesday and Ashton’s celebrations following a long-awaited win at Lincoln.
The Ipswich boy has kept morale high when results were poor. Remarkable for a loan player.
Unveiling of the year
Town’s social media team were certainly kept busy as the signings continued to arrive during a hectic summer.
And that meant some excellent unveilings for Ipswich’s new recruits.
We had Bonne revealed during a video shoot in Christchurch Park, Barry from Eastenders used on a semi-regular basis and a scene from Come Fly With Me redubbed to celebrate Celina’s arrival.
But the winner for me is the Inbetweeners clip used to welcome Tom Carroll as signing No.16.
The simple ones are the best.
Again, we have contenders.
Of the current crop, Louie Barry has barely played and Hayden Coulson has spent most of his stay injured, while the likes of Vaclav Hladky, Joe Pigott and Cameron Burgess have had their struggles.
But, just like last year when Josh Earl took this award, it’s going to have to go to a January signing.
We’ll excuse Troy Parrott, who was fine, but the trio of Luke Thomas, Luke Matheson and Josh Harrop barely made an impact.
The latter wins it, though, with Harrop anonymous in the majority of his Ipswich games, failing to find a role and costing his side with a red card at Wimbledon before Town fell to a miserable loss.
He hasn’t kicked a ball since returning to parent club Preston, having been excluded from their Championship squad.
Airball of the year
Full disclosure, I just wanted to shoehorn this in, one way or another.
So we have an award for the best/worst airball of the year.
Harrop came close to a second gong, following an horrific shot on goal which repeatedly bounced of parts of the empty stand at Swindon before ultimately finding its way out of the ground.
But the winner, by unanimous decision, is Gwion Edwards for a pair of efforts in the 0-0 home draw with AFC Wimbledon at the end of last season.
First, a corner swung so deep that it landed outside the penalty area on the opposite side of the field, before a free-kick rocketed close to the top tier of the North Stand, resembling a rugby conversion.
Well done, Gwion. The award is yours.
Town have worn five different outfield kits during 2021.
Last season’s away kit is marooned at the bottom, I’m afraid, despite the sustainability of the material used for it.
There’s also a clear winner.
I, like many, love the black and grey third kit recently used at Wigan and Barrow. It’s great. It’s just a shame it’s not available to buy.
(If anyone at Ipswich Town fancies sending me one, then please get in touch).
An honourable mention here for this season’s pink goalkeeper kit.
Long service award
The summer of 2021 saw two stalwarts depart, having served the club with real commitment for the best part of a decade each.
Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse made nearly 700 appearances between them during their time together at Portman Road, with Chambers breaking into the club’s top-10 appearance makers as a result.
Both exited in front of empty stands, with their final game against Fleetwood played behind-closed-doors, meaning they were denied the send-off their years of service deserved.
They’re still together, currently playing for Colchester in League Two.