The Town players who have improved their stock in pre-season
- Credit: Archant
Pre-season is over and competitive football is just a few days away. Andy Warren looks at the Ipswich Town players who have improved their stock during the summer friendlies.
The biggest jump this summer has arguably been made by young forward Armando Dobra.
From being told he could move on and then returning from his summer break to be told he would indeed be training with the Under 23s, as per Cook’s message back in May, the youngster has quickly jumped back into first-team reckoning and has done his cause the world of good.
He’s performed well throughout pre-season, with his display at Colchester a highlight which earned the ‘special’ tag from coach Francis Jeffers. He appears to have played his way into Paul Cook’s thinking for the start of the serious stuff.
Maintaining a place in the matchday 18 is going to be difficult, especially given further recruits are likely in his position, but he’s pushed his own summer stock well.
Each of the nine summer signings who have played in pre-season have shown flashes of what they’re about and why they’ve been bought.
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Wes Burns was the first through the door but, as they have kept coming, the signings have arguably gotten more-and-more impressive (and in many cases more expensive) which, at times, has perhaps lessened the spotlight on the Welsh winger.
He’s certainly not a ‘forgotten man’ but, in a normal summer, when three or four players would have been brought in, Burns would have been one of the crown jewels. But these are different times.
What Burns has done during his minutes in pre-season is serve a reminder of the excitement generated when Ipswich’s first signing of the new era was completed back in June.
We’ve seen plenty of the attributes which he displayed for Fleetwood against Town during the two sides’ meetings last season, with his quick feet and desire to drive at his man combining to get fans off their feet in pre-season.
His curled free-kick at Colchester did that, too, while the fact he plays with his head up while breaking forward means he’s likely to be a real upgrade for Town.
We knew Ipswich had signed a good goalkeeper, given Hladky was League Two’s best last season and arrives from Salford with rave reviews.
He comes in as undisputed No.1 ahead of Tomas Holy and has looked excellent this summer, particularly as he turned away shot after shot against Crystal Palace. He is reminiscent of Bartosz Bialkowski in many ways.
He could certainly have done better with Benik Afobe’s opening goal for Millwall on Saturday but, aside from that, he’s served a reminder of the importance of the goalkeeping position and the points a solid stopper can win his team. Holy’s difficult night at Colchester helped his stock, too.
There’s every chance, if fit, he plays a complete 46-game league season from this point. Town have needed that in goal, given the chaos between the sticks in each of the last three campaigns.
Teenager Cameron Humphreys surely didn’t dream of a summer like this, even after his role in Town Under 18s’ run to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.
But the mass-shedding of last season’s squad and injuries suffered by Lee Evans and Jon Nolan have opened the door to first-team football, with the 17-year-old taking full advantage in his starts against Crystal Palace and then Colchester. He didn’t look out of place despite his tender years.
Maintaining his position is going to be difficult, not just due to his age, physical build and the competition already around him. But also, like Dobra, further signings in his positions are expected.
But you can’t argue his stock hasn’t risen this summer. It’s not impossible he makes the bench on opening day.
Another young player deserving of a mention is Matt Ward.
He’s only played a little over 10 minutes of pre-season football for Ipswich this summer, split across the Crystal Palace and Millwall games, but he’s certainly made those minutes count.
The versatile young attacker, who joined Town this summer from Wroxham, has a positive touch and a desire to beat players. He was able to show that.
He’s one to watch as he works his way through Town’s youth sides.
What a strange career Janoi Donacien continues to have at Ipswich Town.
Logic would have suggested he would have been released this summer when he returned from Fleetwood, given the fate of the vast majority of his former team-mates, but the Blues took the option in his contract and Cook has taken a look.
And, by all accounts, he’s liked what he’s seen. Donacien, many would argue, has proved himself to be a perfectly adequate League One back-up right-back and that’s exactly what Cook needs him to be. He’s never going to have the skillset of Kane Vincent-Young but, with the former Colchester man fit again, Donacien can sit in behind him and provide solid cover.
He didn’t have his best game when he stepped off the bench against Millwall on Saturday but, during the rest of pre-season he did enough. He even wore the armband at Colchester.
The chance is there to win a new contract, given his current one expires next summer.
The striker’s stock was at an all-time low just a few weeks ago, after being relegated to play with Town’s Under 23s despite the option in his contract being taken back in May.
A departure is still likely, given he sits behind Pigott, Macauley Bonne, James Norwood and probably now Conor Chaplin in the pecking order, but it appears his good attitude has secured a return to first-team duty and even some minutes on the pitch against Colchester and Millwall.
The road back remains a long one but Jackson has taken the first steps on it.