Edwards enjoyed hot streaks but was dogged by niggles and inconsistency
- Credit: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town winger Gwion Edwards has left the club to join Wigan Athletic. Andy Warren looks back at his time in blue.
The ‘League One Six’ will be forever associated with Paul Hurst’s short Ipswich Town reign.
Gwion Edwards was one of those six, brought in from third tier clubs at a time when Hurst was searching for hungry players with points to prove after impressing outside the top two divisions of English football.
Now, following Edwards’ departure for Wigan at the end of his contract and Ellis Harrison’s exit after just one season, only four remain. Kayden Jackson, Toto Nsiala and Janoi Donacien could all depart this summer, too, which could potentially leave Jon Nolan as the last man standing.
Of those six players, it was Edwards who hit the ground running and looked the most ‘Championship ready’ as he tasted the second tier for the first time following his £700,000 move from Peterborough.
He scored just five minutes into his Town debut, raising the roof at Portman Road on an afternoon where he teased the Blackburn defence and showed real promise at the start of the Hurst era.
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The Welshman continued to impress and, just a few weeks later, again sent the home fans wild as he fired in a goal which threatened to beat Norwich City at long last. Sadly, the Blues were once again pegged back.
He scored in Hurst’s only Ipswich win, at boyhood club Swansea, and again in just the second game of Paul Lambert’s reign. He scored on the day Ipswich were finally relegated, too.
It wasn’t plain sailing and he certainly found the Championship tough at times in a struggling team, but as the Blues went down to League One, the fact the Welshman (and the rest of the ‘League One Six’) had fared so well at lower levels in years past was cause for optimism.
Edwards possibly provided most of that optimism, given he had arguably been the best of Hurst’s signings, even if he was a little inconsistent at times. Nolan may argue with that a little, following a late-season surge.
Injuries were an issue that pre-season, though, and he wasn’t ready to start the campaign before missing spells due to hamstring problems.
Lambert seemed reluctant to use him in his preferred left-sided role, where he can cut in on his right foot and cause problems, while much of his season was spent deputising at right-back following Kane Vincent-Young's injury problems. To his credit, he grew into that role.
The season was cut short due to coronavirus just a matter of minutes after he conducted an interview stressing his desire to remain at Ipswich in March 2020, with just a few months left on his initial two-year deal, and the club duly took up their one-year option on him at a time when it was unclear just when the Blues would be playing football again.
When the game did resume, in September of last year, Edwards was on fire.
He was Town’s main attacking threat, playing on the front foot and with confidence while enjoying a hot streak which saw him net five goals in a seven-game span in September and October.
Sadly, he didn’t score again, though, as the inconsistencies and injuries which had dogged him crept in once again as he missed games and also spent time on the bench. To say he was injury prone would perhaps be unfair, but you did feel knocks would hinder his ability to string good runs of form together.
He ended Lambert’s reign out of the side but did push his way back into it under Paul Cook, starting all but one of his games in charge and doing enough to persuade his manager to offer him a new deal.
Edwards opted not to sign, though and he moves on after making 109 appearances for the club and scoring 14 goals.
What went well
Edwards certainly had his good moments in an Ipswich shirt.
His debut was excellent and, as well as including a goal, also delivered one of the most-used Ipswich Town GIFS with a ‘rainbow flick’ which saw him guide the ball over the head of his man and run onto the ball.
The Norwich goal will be a stand-out moment, at a time when he was showing just how good a player he can be when full of confidence and running at his man to cause problems for defenders.
His best spell undoubtedly came at the start of last season when he hit a scoring hot streak which, at the time, put him among League One’s leading scorers.
He was particularly excellent in the 4-1 romp at Blackpool, when both of his goals came from his favoured left flank. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It would have been interesting to see just how much more effective he could have been if given a prolonged spell in that role.
Edwards deserves credit for the job he did as a makeshift right back, too, improving significantly during his run there in the winter of 2019/20.
Areas to improve
Seemingly like all wingers, consistency has been an issue for Edwards.
The endeavour is there but sometimes the execution isn’t, with the Welshman struggling to get past his man, losing possession or not delivering the final ball required.
He can sometimes be guilty of playing with his head down and regularly gave away cheap fouls which led to a total of 23 booking in his 109 games.
Let’s talk about set-pieces.
Sadly, one of the enduring memories of Edwards is going to be the corner and free-kick he delivered in the AFC Wimbledon game as time ticked down on the 2020/21 season. The corner ended up bouncing outside the penalty area before trickling out for a throw while the free-kick, somehow, ballooned into the top tier of the North Stand. Not good.
What the future holds
The move to Wigan, on the face of it, seems a good one for the Welsh winger.
The Latics, in the early days of their own new era following a takeover, look set to be in contention much higher up the League One table than they were last season under Cook’s former assistant, Leam Richardson.
Edwards will hope to stay niggle-free following his move and also get more time playing in his favoured left-side position.
If he can do both of those things, he may will be able to show Ipswich what they’re missing.