POTY, best goal, biggest disappointment and bizarre moment - Town’s end-of-season awards
- Credit: Archant
Following Ipswich Town’s 11th-place finish in League One, ANDY WARREN hands out his awards to the Blues’ best and worst from a disappointing campaign.
Player of the Year - Flynn Downes
There would only have been one winner of this award had it actually taken place this year.
From a rocky start and a headbutt at Cambridge, Downes matured in front of our eyes throughout an impressive 2019/20 season which saw him become one of only a few Ipswich players to become immune from manager Paul Lambert’s rotation policy.
He’s combative, which we knew already heading into this season, but the campaign saw him refine his ability on the ball and begin to control games in possession.
Downes knows he needs to add more goals to his game, with just two coming last season, and he’s certainly not the finished article just yet.
He will be a talking point throughout the summer as questions remain regarding his future at the club, with sides higher up the food chain interested.
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Young player of the year - Armando Dobra
In reality, Downes could win this award as well given he’s only 21. The same applies to Luke Woolfenden, who made himself a central figure despite 2019/20 being his breakthrough season at Portman Road.
But I’ll give this award to one of the nine young players given debuts by Lambert in 2019/20 - Armando Dobra.
The young Albanian international earned himself a place on Ipswich’s pre-season tour to Germany and that’s where he pushed his case, putting in exciting performances against Paderborn and then also at the Interwetten Cup.
Injuries to the likes of Jack Lankester and Gwion Edwards meant he started the season around the first-team, with his debut also bringing a goal at Luton in the Carabao Cup.
He didn’t play as often as he’d like, or maybe should have (a red card on his league debut at Accrington didn’t help), but he always looked like he could make something happen from the bench. His future is secure until 2023 – expect him to make a bigger impact next season.
Surprise package award - Kayden Jackson
Life in the Championship proved tough for Jackson during his first Ipswich Town season, meaning he entered the new campaign unsure of his role in Lambert’s side.
Speaking at the club’s German training camp, he said he was aiming to make 10 starts but we quickly began to see his role would be bigger than that as he and James Norwood hit it off, with the pair starting the season together.
Both ended it locked on 11-goals at the top of Town’s scoring charts, with all of Jackson’s strikes coming in Ipswich wins.
He still has areas to improve, with his first touch chief among them, but he was able to use his searing pace more cleverly as the team began to play to the striker’s strengths.
Biggest disappointment - Jon Nolan
Clearly, this award could and maybe should go to the entire squad, given how disastrously wrong Town’s season went after an excellent start.
Plenty of players will be disappointed with their contributions throughout the season but, for me, Jon Nolan was a player I was expecting to play a leading role. He had his injury troubles, but only made 17 league starts.
There’s definitely a good player in there. We’ve seen all of the attributes which make a good attacking midfielder in patches, but he’s just never been able to put them together on a consistent basis.
He is good on the ball, quick on the turn, can pass well and can get forward to support his strikers. We just saw it nowhere near often enough.
Signing of the season award - Kane Vincent-Young
Lambert’s summer transfer business was, in all, pretty good.
Tomas Holy proved a safe pair of hands, Norwood will surely come good next season once injury free and Luke Garbutt was an instant hit.
But the best of them is surely Kane Vincent-Young. He only played nine games as injury ruined his campaign but his 735 minutes of football were enough to show us that, once fit, the marauding wing-back will be a real asset for the Blues.
Goal of the season – James Norwood at Wycombe
Two obvious candidates for this both came in the Blues’ 4-1 victory over Tranmere in September, as Garbutt found the top corner with a stunning free-kick and Vincent-Young ran from his own half before slotting home.
But the goal I enjoyed best came on the first day of 2020. Clever thinking from Alan Judge allowed Garbutt to hit a pinpoint free-kick which Norwood headed home expertly.
It wasn’t quite Trent Alexander-Arnold and Divock Origi against Barcelona, but it was close.
Moment of the season – Tomas Holy penalty save
Giant goalkeeper (he’s 6ft 9in you know) Holy was a popular figure from day one at Ipswich, as he and the supporters struck up an immediate bond.
His crowning moment of the season was a stunning penalty stop from Wycombe’s Joe Jacobson which save a point at Portman Road, on a night when the Blues were ultimately robbed of a vital win by an appalling piece of officiating.
But the roar when Holy clawed the ball away in the 87th minute could be heard more than two miles away (so my wife says). Equally brilliant was his incredibly enthusiastic interview after the game in which he admitted he hates penalties.
Honourable mention here to Jackson’s late winner against Wimbledon back in August.
Blunder of the season – Will Norris
Referee Alan Young could get this award for the previously-mentioned error in the draw with Wycombe, but sadly there’s only one contender for this.
Will Norris will have wanted the ground to open up when he tried to move the ball round Peterborough’s Sammie Szmodics, only for the former Colchester man to steal the ball from him and turn it into an empty net on an embarrassing afternoon for Town.
We’ll leave it at that.
Game of the season – Burton (a)
The season ended in doom and gloom but there were some thoroughly enjoyable wins along the way. There were 4-1 home victories over Tranmere and Burton, the late comeback against Wimbledon and the satisfying 1-0 victory over Fleetwood in October.
But, for me, nothing beats the opening day win at Burton.
Tension filled the air. Nobody know how Ipswich would adapt to third tier life but we all felt a quick start was needed to banish lingering relegation hangovers. That’s exactly what was served up as Garbutt struck to secure three points. The scenes at the final whistle were brilliant.
Sadly, though, it proved a false dawn.
Worst game – Fleetwood (h)
There are plenty of candidates here, sadly. There’s the 5-3 loss at Lincoln which prompted an hour-long lock-in, the home humbling by Peterborough and the seemingly endless stream of bad results against promotion rivals.
But nothing sums up Town’s woes like the 1-0 defeat by Fleetwood at Portman Road in March. Ipswich were toothless, the crowd were rightfully frustrated and were on the backs of both owner Marcus Evans and manager Lambert throughout.
We didn’t know that Ipswich’s season would only have one more match to play after this, but there was a feeling that this result may have ended their promotion hopes in any case as they slipped to a loss against a side who were playing in the depths of non-league little more than a decade prior.
Oddest moment – December 26 to January 1
This award doesn’t go to a particular moment, rather to a moment in time.
That moment in time is the spell between Christmas and New Year, limbo land for many in the best of years. The 2019 edition was particularly peculiar for Ipswich Town.
It started with a bore 0-0 draw with Gillingham on Boxing Day, in which Town failed to have a shot on target, with Lambert then calling his future into doubt immediately after as he questioned whether he was close to the sack.
That speculation, caused entirely by the Town boss, wasn’t helped by the thumping at Lincoln and the hour-long lock-in that followed, as Ipswich rounded out 2019 with a whimper.
Neil Warnock, now of Middlesbrough, was linked with the Ipswich job on New Year’s Eve.
Then, in the hours prior to kick-off at Wycombe on New Year’s Day, it was announced Lambert had signed a new five-year contract.