A promotion, a demotion, vacancies and missing youngsters - what we can learn from Town’s new squad numbers
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town released their 2020/21 squad numbers yesterday. ANDY WARREN takes a look at what the changes may or may not mean for Paul Lambert’s side.
Football fans fall into one of two camps.
There are those, like me, who spend the entire off-season waiting for clubs to release their squad numbers for the new campaign and then hyper-analyse each and every one.
Then there are those who couldn’t care less which number a player is wearing as long as they perform on the pitch.
But even if you fall into the latter camp there are plenty of discussion points linked to the newly-released Ipswich Town numbers for 2020/21.
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Perhaps the most-notable point is the fact very little has changed from last season.
Only two players have changed number. Luke Woolfenden has moved from No.28 to No.6, while Janoi Donacien has relinquished the No.2 jersey and moved to No.12.
A total of 24 players have been given numbers from the off, as opposed to 35 at this stage last summer, with no new signings as of yet and a number of young players left off the list.
They’re signed off by manager Paul Lambert.
We’re still not sure when the season will begin, although a mid-September start is looking more and more likely, but the numbers have been confirmed at roughly the same time they would have been for an August start. There’s plenty of time for additions and subtractions.
A perfect fit
It’s been a while since we’ve seen an Ipswich Town player wearing the No.6 jersey.
It was left vacant for the entirety of last season, with Trevoh Chalobah the last man to wear it, but it came as no surprise when young centre-half Luke Woolfenden was given a prime piece of squad number real estate.
While 2019/20 was ultimately a disaster for Ipswich, for Woolfenden it was full of promise as he made his breakthrough into the Town first team like a duck to water.
His displays attracted attention from the Premier League but he’s recently put pen-to-paper on a deal until 2024 - fantastic news for the club.
That deal won’t stop teams taking a look, of course, but the next time top level scouts watch him in action he’ll be wearing a top level squad number.
Janoi Donacien has worn the No.2 shirt since arriving in the summer of 2018 but, from now on, he will be seen in No.12.
Some players place great importance on their squad number, to the extent money has changed hands in some cases, but Donacien is not the type of character who will be overly bothered by such a material change.
What is interesting, though, and what may well bother him, is what this ‘demotion’ says about his role in the Ipswich Town side going forward.
Kane Vincent-Young’s return to fitness will mean he has the right-back slot all-sewn up and, while Donacien played a lot of football at left-back earlier in his career and is also a comfortable centre-back, he’s only likely to serve as a back-up in those roles too.
The former Accrington man was in-and-out of the side last season but had a very good November once Vincent-Young’s injury hit and before Lambert began to use Gwion Edwards at wing back.
But from December onward he never started more than two games in succession, with those starts coming after long spells out of the side.
If he’s still here when the season begins, which is likely but not certain, he can probably only expect similarly sporadic game time.
Just like last summer, there are now some notable vacancies on the squad number list.
And top of that last are certainly numbers two and three, usually reserved for right and left backs respectively.
We’ve already dealt with the situation regarding Donacien, now the back-up right back, but does the decision to strip him of the No.2 jersey automatically mean Ipswich are looking for a new player in that position?
It’s hard to argue it should be a priority, in a summer where money is tight, given any incoming player would find Vincent-Young firmly entrenched in front of them and Donacien is a good back-up at this level.
Left-back is a different story, with Myles Kenlock the only specialist in that position and natural midfielder Tristan Nydam a largely untried back-up there. In any case, he’s still battling his way back from a nasty ankle injury suffered last summer.
In Kenlock’s case this is the second-successive summer where Lambert has opted against giving him the vacant No.3 jersey, with Josh Earl the man in possession of it for a brief spell last season.
It’s entirely possible Ipswich could look to land a left-sider this summer, be that Luke Garbutt or a new name.
The back-up boys
As things stand, Tomas Holy is the only goalkeeper with EFL experience at Ipswich Town.
But there is a second goalkeeper on the squad number list, in the form of Harry Wright. As he was last season, he’s in possession of the No.13 jersey.
He spent much of 2019/20 out with a knee injury, though, meaning Adam Przybek played the bulk of the Under 23 games and made a senior debut in the EFL Trophy at Peterborough.
The Ipswich coaches have been pleasantly surprised with how quickly Przybek took to life at Portman Road and have been thoroughly impressed with his progress. So it’s maybe a little surprising he didn’t retain his No.31 jersey.
That may just be an oversight, though, given he and Wright are viewed in similar light by the Blues’ coaches.
Wright’s possession of the No.13 jersey doesn’t lock him in as second choice, with the recruitment of another senior keeper certainly possible.
There’s a significant number of young players who held squad numbers last season missing from the new list.
This isn’t something to read too much into, though. It isn’t simply a case of Lambert casting the kids aside, not long after declaring they will have roles to play in the coming season.
It might just be a kick up the backside. A reminder that they haven’t made it just yet.
The likes of Brett McGavin, Ben Morris, Ben Folami and Corrie Ndaba will all be hoping to push their case next season and will surely be involved once again should the EFL Trophy take place in the coming campaign. They could, of course, also head out on loan.
Aaron Drinan, Barry Cotter and Bailey Clements are also without numbers, as are Tyreece Simpson, Liam Gibbs, Tommy Hughes and Tommy Smith.
Former Town boss Paul Hurst left the majority of the club’s young players out of the squad photo during his one summer at Ipswich, later insisting the move was to try and light a fire under the academy youngsters because he wanted to see them strive to make it.
Maybe Lambert is taking a similar approach.