The pros, cons and alternatives to Ipswich boss Lambert turning to Ward after Vincent-Young injury blow
- Credit: Archant
Following Ipswich Town’s Kane Vincent-Young injury blow, Andy Warren looks at whether potential wing-back cover could be under Paul Lambert’s nose.
Ipswich Town suffered another injury blow this week after Kane Vincent-Young was ruled out for 12 weeks with a groin injury.
The defender has been an excellent addition since he was brought in from Colchester in August but manager Paul Lambert will now have to do without him for a significant period of time.
Janoi Donacien has taken his chance during an impressive five-game run in the side during November, but beyond that the Blues have no specialist back-up in the right-back position.
Grant Ward, who has played that role before for Ipswich, continues to train at the club's Playford Road base as the club undertake their duty of care following the knee ligament injury he suffered last December.
He remains a free agent, with Rotherham manager Paul Warne repeatedly stating his desire to sign the former Tottenham man, while Town boss Lambert has been tight-lipped whenever questioned over a potential return for Ward.
So could the wide-man provide cover following the Vincent-Young blow? Here we look at the positives and negatives.
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First things first, he's available now.
Any other solution to Ipswich's newly-born right-back issue would have to wait until January, when the transfer window opens. Ward could join right away and may also be happy to sign a short-term deal in a bid to prove his fitness, both to those at Ipswich and to others watching on.
He's still at the club as he continues his rehabilitation following a knee ligament injury, suffered on Boxing Day at Queens Park Rangers, and was recently involved in the Blues' internal game at Playford Road as Lambert looked to beat the ring-rust caused by the Blues' 17-day break from league action.
He knows Lambert, has been attending Ipswich games and knows the players who would become his team-mates once again should he sign. In that sense he could be up-to-speed quickly.
He's versatile and, while in this instance he would be being signed to play as a right wing-back, he could also ultimately be challenging for a place on the wing, given that's a position none of Gwion Edwards, Danny Rowe or Alan Judge have been able to lock down.
Wing back is a role he's played before, with current academy chief Bryan Klug stating during both his caretaker spells in 2018 that he believes that to be the former Tottenham man's strongest position.
Ward would be available to sign immediately, but would he be available to play?
It's been 11 months since his nasty injury and, while he's recovering well, he's yet to play a proper game against a real opponent. Under 23 football would be the next step for him, before a first-team return anywhere would even be contemplated.
Logic suggests it would take him at least a month to reach the level required for match action, if not more, which would take us into January when the opportunities for recruitment widen.
While he can play as a wing back, he's by no means a specialist there, so would this be a case of trying to force a square peg (albeit with curved edges) into a round hole?
He's an unknown quantity as a traditional right-back, just as Edwards was when he was used there against Rochdale on November 5 - an important point given Ipswich have switched between a back four and a back five at regular intervals this season.
Lambert has a large squad as it is, so large that serious changes have been needed in cup games in order to get everyone up to speed, so would adding another to the mix be either sensible or viable.
We must also remember his form was up and down during his time as a contracted Ipswich player, never again reaching the heights of his debut in August 2016 when he came off the bench to fire a hat-trick past Barnsley.
With January still a month away, Ipswich may well need to use what's already available to cover for Vincent-Young's injury.
Donacien is the presumptive starter following his good run in the side, with Edwards used there at Rochdale and Luke Woolfenden proving to be a more than capable right-back whenever he's been used there.
Then there's Barry Cotter, the man made famous when his impressive debut against Barnsley in April 2018 ended with a chorus of boos as Mick McCarthy withdrew him on the hour mark. The Town boss banged down his tea cup and departed an hour later, following a question regarding the decision.
But he's been out in the cold ever since, playing Under 23 football and heading out on loan to Chelmsford amid questions regarding his attitude and approach to the game.
It feels like a long way back for the talented Irishman, but could this offer a small window for him to impress?
While Ward could certainly do a job for Ipswich, especially in the short-term, the cons seem to outweigh the pros here.
The fact he's still not full recovered from his injury would need games to get fully up to speed means he, through no fault of his own, can't be relied upon as dependable back-up should anything now happen to Donacien.
Then with January rapidly approaching, more specialised, temporary, cover could be sought should Vincent-Young still be some way from a return.