Jack Marriott’s challenge to break into the first team

Jack Marriott

Jack Marriott - Credit: James Ager

IPSWICH Town manager Mick McCarthy has challenged youth team goal machine Jack Marriott to force his way into the first team picture.

The 18-year-old striker – one of five academy players to have been handed professional deals for next season – was last week named ‘Academy Player of the Year’ after scoring 26 goals for the club’s Under-18 and Under-21 sides this season.

Academy director Bryan Klug has already compared the teenager’s natural finishing ability to that of former youth team products Jordan Rhodes, Darren Bent and Connor Wickham, with the teenager rubbing shoulders with the likes of former Blues greats Ray Crawford, Alan Brazil, John Wark and Brian Hamilton at the end-of-season dinner.

Now McCarthy says the Kettering-born youngster must raise his game further if he is to reach the level of current first team strikers David McGoldrick, Frank Nouble, Daryl Murphy and Michael Chopra.

“It would have been great to include him in the squad had we been safe with three or four games to go, but we weren’t,” said the Blues boss.

“He’s doing very well Jack. He scores his goals, he’s industrious – I’ve been delighted with him in the Under-21s.”

Asked if he can come back in pre-season and be on a level playing field with his fellow pros, McCarthy continued: “It’s not a level playing field is it? He’s not played a game in the league. How can that be a level playing field?

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“It’s far from a level playing field. He’s down at the bottom of a big slope and only he can make it level. Not me.

“He’s got to play and train as well as them to get in the team. That goes for all of them.”

McGoldrick has already agreed a two-year permanent switch from Nottingham Forest this summer, while Nouble is beginning to look a bargain buy following his £25,000 switch from Wolves in January.

Chopra has slipped down the pecking order, but still has a year to run on his lucrative contract and appears to be going nowhere, while Murphy – out-of-contract at Celtic this summer – is keen to sign for the Blues permanently following three loan spells in Suffolk.