Kyle Edwards still believes in the 'Jogo Bonito' mantra
- Credit: ITFC
Kyle Edwards has had Ipswich Town fans off their seats this season. STUART WATSON spoke to the skilful winger.
Eric Cantona looks down the lens.
“When you are a kid, it’s easy,” says the Frenchman. “You are not afraid to try... to dare.
“You do it, just because you like it.”
The 2006 Nike TV advert cuts to archive footage of Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho, as a young child, dancing his way around an indoor futsal pitch with an array of flicks and tricks.
Set to samba music, the action is interspersed with scenes of Ronaldinho replicating those moves as an adult with the same infectious smile on his face.
“So my advice to you, my friends,” pipes up our cool Gallic narrator, as Ronaldinho stoops to head the ball over the line on the floor. “Is never grow up.”
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In the West Midlands, that message resonated with an eight-year-old Kyle Edwards.
“Do you remember Jogo Bonito?” he says, referring to that famous commercial campaign which, translated from Portuguese, means ‘Beautiful Game’.
“Me and my cousins used to watch Ronaldinho on YouTube all the time.
“He was a different level. He was special. Every time we went outside we were just trying to copy everything he did.
“It was always the flip-flap. That was his trademark skill. We weren’t always very good at it but that didn’t stop us!”
Fast forward to current day and Edwards, now 23, still abides by the Jogo Bonito mantra.
The summer signing from West Brom had fans mesmerised within minutes of stepping off the bench to make his debut at Burton.
Several more electric wing displays followed and, following a five-game injury absence, he was quickly back to getting bums off seats.
In the 2-0 win at Gillingham in the Papa John’s Trophy, he controlled the ball out the sky, spun on a sixpence tight to the byline and looked to be taken out for a penalty. Nothing was given.
Then, in the last minute of last weekend’s 2-1 home win against Shrewsbury, he left Elliott Bennett for dead with an outrageous Cruyff-turn tight to the left touchline. A driving run into the box followed, with more big penalty shouts dismissed.
“That’s the sort of thing I’ve always enjoyed trying,” he says, laughing. “I’m just that type of player. I like to beat my marker. That’s kind of my job.
“It’s kind of just impulsive. When I was younger, as I said, I always used to try different tricks and skills. Now it’s a thing that just kind of happens.”
Edwards laughs when asked if he had ever been picked to take part in Soccer AM’s ‘Skill Skool’ segment, which pitted two academy players from the same club up against each other in a fun freestyle battle.
“No, I didn’t get to do that, man, and I’m disappointed because I always loved that. I think I might have been able to produce a few skills and tricks you know!”
He continued: “If young kids are excited watching me then that’s amazing.
“What I would say, is it’s all well and good doing a skill or a trick, but I now need to start adding more goals and assists to my name.
“In the past, stats weren’t something I worried about too much. I just wanted to play well. I am starting to look at them a lot more now though.
“I ask myself ‘how am I affecting the game?’ After I’ve beaten a man, can I get a shot off and score? Or can I get a cross off and set up a team-mate? These are the things I’ve got to add to become a way better player. I’m always trying to improve.
“I was definitely a frustrated watcher recently, especially when we were winning 6-0 (against Doncaster). I was thinking that’s the sort of game where I might have been able to nick a goal or something!”
On the injury which he picked up at the end of August, Edwards explained: “It was a little tear in my groin that set me back a few weeks. Obviously I was disappointed to come out, but these things happen.
“Now it’s all good, it’s healed up. I’ve been back in training a few weeks now, I’ve had a couple of games and I feel raring to go.”
Town face Cambridge United at The Abbey Stadium tomorrow. Whether Edwards makes his first league start since the 2-2 home draw with AFC Wimbledon remains to be seen.
There’s fierce competition for places in those three support roles behind in-form striker Macauley Bonne. Scott Fraser, Conor Chaplin and Wes Burns played last weekend, Bersant Celina is now back from international duty and the likes of Joe Pigott, Sone Aluko, Rekeem Harper and Louie Barry are also champing at the bit.
“I feel like it’s good for the team,” said Edwards. “No-one can get comfortable. If you’re playing then you know someone else with quality is waiting to take your place. It keeps everyone on their toes.
“The standard in training is high. Everyone wants to make sure they are in the manager’s head when the time comes for him to pick his team.”
Asked if he could play on the right wing if required, Edwards said: “Yeah, I can play on the right. I used to play as a No.10 when I was younger. I’ve played central midfield. Basically, I can play anywhere as long as the manager picks me!”
On tomorrow’s game, he added: “I’m looking forward to it. The whole team’s looking forward to it. After winning last week, we’re just looking to start getting rolling really.
“The squad’s getting on really well. Everyone can talk to everyone, everyone can banter with everyone. I feel like we’ve quickly gelled off the pitch and that’s starting to translate on the pitch.
“We haven’t had the best of starts to the season but we all know what we can do. Now we just need to start stringing together some back-to-back results.”