The candidates to win Ipswich Town's player-of-the-year award
- Credit: Archant
It's been a desperately poor season at Portman Road, with Ipswich Town once again finishing mid-table in the third tier of English football.
There have been some on-pitch highs but they have largely been eclipsed by the lows, while most of the excitement has come off the pitch as Town head into a new era this summer under American ownership.
But there must still be a player-of-the-year, with Ipswich Town Supporters Club's poll now closed and the winner set to be announced in the coming days.
Here, Andy Warren takes a look at the candidates for the prize and picks his own winner.
Andre Dozzell - 45 games, no goals
This has been the year Andre Dozzell’s career got going again after a frustrating time in recent seasons.
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Injury chopped him down in the summer of 2017 and effectively robbed him of two seasons, just as he was ready for his big break, while he never truly held down a place in the side during the Blues’ first attempt at League One during the last campaign.
It’s been a different story this season, though, with the youngster making 45 appearances in all competitions and well-and-truly nailing down his spot in the centre of midfield.
His range of passing has been clear for all to see and he’s seen plenty of the ball as he was trusted to be the starting point for almost every Ipswich attack under former boss Paul Lambert.
He’s been far from perfect, sometimes struggling against more physical midfielders and also lacking intensity at times, and has plenty still to prove but to see him play so much football has been great.
James Norwood - 28 games, nine goals
Town’s leading scorer has had another injury-hit season but still tops Town’s goal charts.
Hamstring trouble has restricted him to just 28 appearances, with his 1,496 league minutes totalling less than 17 full matches. He’s managed eight of his nine goals in that time, too.
Things could have been very different for Town had Norwood, by far the Blues’ most dangerous striker, been fit all season.
He figures to play a key role next term, with Paul Cook trusting him with the armband in the last two games.
Toto Nsiala - 30 games, no goals
It looked for all the world like Toto Nsiala’s Ipswich Town career was over when he was sent on loan to Bolton in January 2020.
But he returned in the summer, made a starting spot his own and has, in general, managed to remove the major individual errors which had previously damaged both he and his side.
He’s out of the team at the moment, initially due to injury, but has had some imperious games at the heart of defence.
James Wilson – 18 games, two goals
The Welshman has made just 18 appearances all season but, given the poor season his side have had, has to be in the conversation.
He’s understated but effective, always in control of what he’s doing and executing his game smoothly at the back.
Wilson has weighed in with a couple of timely goals, too, with injury keeping him out of the side and hurting both his season and his team’s.
The partnership of Nsiala and Wilson averages 1.76 points per game during their 17 league matches paired at the heart of defence. Extrapolate that over the 45 games played so far and Town would be sitting third, secure of a place in the play-offs.
That’s maybe an overly simplistic way of looking at things but it does highlight how well they have played as a pair.
Alan Judge – 38 games, four goals
If this award was for Town’s best player of 2021, Judge might just get my vote.
The Irishman has already left Portman Road, of course, but had been a rare bright spot during the opening months of the new year, in which all four of his goals came.
He showed creativity and commitment during what was an extremely difficult period of his life, in which he lost his mother to cancer and also dealt with the fall-out of a high-profile incident involving referee Darren Drysdale.
It’s a shame his Ipswich career ended the way it did, with a contract clause meaning the Blues didn’t want him to start one more game, given that would trigger another season.
There are other players worthy of note here, having produced some good spells during a difficult campaign.
Teddy Bishop and Gwion Edwards both enjoyed scoring streaks early on, while the going was good for Town, but neither have netted since October.
Only Dozzell has made more league starts than captain Luke Chambers, who was superb at right-back early on and was solid enough at the heart of defence, before dropping out of the side of late, while Tomas Holy is the only other player not so far mentioned to have made more than 30 league appearances.
In total, 34 players have made league appearances for Town this season.
Clearly it’s not been a vintage year for Town and that’s led to some suggestions no player of the year should be crowned due to the team’s shortcomings.
But surely we can’t just abandon awards like this when the going gets tough – there are players who have emerged from the wreckage and have performed well in a poor side.
Andre Dozzell gets my bronze medal. It's been great to see him enjoying his football again but there's still, hopefully, plenty more to come from him. Hopefully Paul Cook's the man to bring him on further.
But for the winner I think you have to look at the defence, given just how bad Ipswich have been in front of goal this season, meaning that conversation comes down to a choice between James Wilson and Toto Nsiala.
As a pair they have been Ipswich’s strongest at centre half and you could certainly argue the Blues would have been higher in the league table had both stayed fit or in the team for longer.
Nsiala is going to edge this one for me, given he’s played more games and has made real strides from where he stood heading into the campaign.
Again, he’s been far from perfect but he has had some excellent games, particularly at the start of 2021, heading every ball, making vital blocks and crucially managing to keep errors to a minimum.
Wilson is a close second but Toto Nsiala is my pick for Ipswich Town’s player-of-the-year.