Exit Interview: Rowe showed flashes but never truly got going... and his Town career may not be done yet
- Credit: Archant
Danny Rowe is set to leave Ipswich Town when his contract expires next month. ANDY WARREN looks back at his time with the Blues.
Danny Rowe must have wondered what he had signed up for when he walked through the doors at Portman Road in January 2017.
His signing came just a week after Mick McCarthy’s Blues were dumped out of the FA Cup on live television by non-league Lincoln City, in a season where the club was slumping towards its lowest league finish in nearly 60 years. There was still lower to fall of course.
But for Rowe, this was a dream come true as he jumped from the National League to the Championship following a £100,000 move from Macclesfield.
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He arrived with a hip injury which made it difficult for him to hit the ground running and, for a variety of reasons, his Ipswich career didn’t truly begin for another two-and-a-half years.
Rowe has played under three permanent managers at Ipswich Town and hasn’t been able to be regular in the side under any of them.
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Only seven of his 29 Ipswich appearances came under McCarthy, the man who signed him. Two came under Paul Hurst and the remaining 20 were under Lambert.
Having shown flashes of what he could do under McCarthy, before a difficult time under Hurst, he so nearly made his mark in Lambert’s first game in charge of Ipswich has he unleashed a thunderous volley which was superbly saved by stand-in goalkeeper Paul Gallagher. A yard either side of the winger and Lambert would have been off-and-running with a win. Who knows what might have happened from there.
He played in the draw at Reading, too, but never featured again for Town that season, which was in part due to the emergence of youngster Jack Lankester. Then it was off to Lincoln for another spell which ended in a League Two-winners’ medal, with Rowe winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in his first loan with the Imps.
Maybe the jump from the National League to the Championship in 2017 was too great a one initially, given he was able to show his worth in League Two with Lincoln as he finished his first two full seasons as an Ipswich player on loan at Sincil Bank?
He had shown flashes of his ability at this point and did so again as Town’s life as a third-tier club began, taking advantage of injuries to Gwion Edwards and Lankester to start the season in Lambert’s side.
But a change of formation to a wing-back system and Lambert’s willingness to rotate his side meant he never truly got a consistent run of starts before he suffered a knee injury which has seen him sidelined since the start of December.
He may now be on the lookout for a new club, but it must be said that Lee O’Neill, Town’s general manager of football operations, has insisted the door is not closed on a possible return to Portman Road for Rowe, once the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic becomes clearer.
The prospect of that happening is entirely feasible.
What went well
During many of Rowe’s Ipswich appearances you had a feeling he could make something happen. It didn’t always happen, of course, but the intent was there. You were also often leaving feeling he had more to offer.
Take his performance away at Burton on the opening day of this season, for example. He was deployed on the right of a midfield four and regular picked the ball up, ran with it and cut inside. He had a couple of decent efforts on goal that day which stretched the opposition keeper. You were just left waiting for him to score a goal like that.
He is a hustler and bustler and there’s no shortage of effort. His goal at Rochdale, a winner, showed an ability to be alive to play and put himself in the right position at the right time.
That strike remains his only goal for the Blues but he showed during his two loan spells at Lincoln that he can find the net a little more regularly. He also scored an excellent hat-trick for Town’s Under 23s at home to Hull in August 2018.
All the pieces of the jigsaw appear to be there for Rowe, he’s just not had the chance or been able to showcase them consistently.
Areas to improve
The fact three Ipswich managers have opted not to use Rowe as an ‘every week’ starter tells a big part of the story, of course.
Perhaps consistency is an issue, both in training and in games, but it’s clear if he’s going to make a real impact at a club he’s going to need to spend more time on the field to do it.
That’s the biggest knock on Rowe, really. He has all the attributes for a winger but none of them have come to the fore on a consistent basis. Some of that’s down to him, some of it down to his lack of games.
Lambert has spoken of Rowe being a ‘confidence player’ in the past and that has potentially held him back at times.
Regular games could fix that.
What the future holds
He’s 28 now and maybe he will need to ignite his career elsewhere? Or maybe, just maybe, he might still return to Portman Road once the landscape becomes clearer.
But, if this is the end of the line for the winger in Suffolk, he will surely be a player being considered by many of the Blues’ League One contemporaries.
He has qualities, is still only 28 and doesn’t have a high mileage, meaning he would be an attractive proposition for many at this level and below.
It’s a tough time to be released, given how many players are out of contract this summer and the uncertainty surrounding football and life in general, but Rowe should be in a good position to get back on the field whenever sport does resume.
But it may just be that there is still further chapters to write in Rowe’s Ipswich carer.