'A lot has been said about whether I can do it or not' - Jackson on playing in a front three
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Ipswich Town striker Kayden Jackson is confident that he can play any attacking role asked of him.
The 26-year-old scored 11 goals and provided seven assists in 2019/20, having played largely in a front two.
Blues boss Paul Lambert now insists his side are ‘useless’ with two up top though and has stuck rigidly to variations of 4-3-3 throughout this campaign.
Jackson saw his opening two months of this campaign badly disrupted by injury and illness. Since returning to action, he’s started as the lone striker on four occasions and, in Tuesday night’s 2-1 home win against Burton, operated on the right wing.
“I think a lot’s been said about whether I can do it or not,” said Jackson, when asked about the lone striker role.
“I think I’ve shown that, if the passes are good enough, I can deal with balls played into my chest and bring others into play. I’ve always been confident in my ability.
“When you’re isolated as a striker it can look like ‘he’s not good enough, he can’t play that role, his touch isn’t good enough’ or this or that. But when you’ve got bodies around you it’s a lot easier to play up there.”
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On playing wide in a 4-3-3, he said: “I’m sure I have the attributes to do well playing wide. If we get the football right I’m sure any one of the three attacking positions would be good for me.
“My movement up there could help the team and create space for the midfielders, who have been among the goals this season.
“I’m not a player who likes to stand still; I like to be moving, whether that be running to get on the ball or moving defenders out of the way for others.
“When I’m fully fit, I like to think I can keep going and going at high speed. That’s quite rare in the game and defenders don’t enjoy playing against that type of player, whether I’m running in behind for the ball or I’m running directly at them. I like to be in their faces and make the game as hard as possible for them.”
Though reluctant to play two up front, Lambert has switched to a 4-4-2 system late in recent games.
And the partnership between target man Oli Hawkins and the rapid running of Jackson has brought joy.
Hawkins set up Jackson for the winner at Plymouth, with the 6ft 5in striker then causing havoc in the box prior to Emyr Huws’ winner against Burton in midweek.
"Obviously Hawks gives us a different dimension,” said Jackson, speaking ahead of Town’s top-six clash with Peterborough, at London Road, tomorrow.
“He’s a nightmare to play against. Just having him on the pitch creates a disturbance among defenders and space for others.
“He naturally peels and looks to bring players like myself into play and the goal at Plymouth showed perfectly what we could do as a two if given the opportunity.
“But as a player I’m just happy to be in the team and play and hopefully help the team win games.”
Asked about Jackson, who has just started three games in a row for the first time since February, Lambert said: “The goal against Plymouth will have done him the world of good because I think, in the first few weeks, he was low on confidence because he hadn’t played in a long, long time, not just with his injury but with the lockdown.
“To come back and get hurt against Tottenham (in pre-season) and not really play, it’s certainly hampered him.
“But slowly but surely he’s getting back.”
On his decision to start Jackson wide right in midweek, he said: “We just threw it on him the day before. He said he can play that role, so we gave him a shot at it.
“Then I changed it to two up with him going through the middle alongside Oli (Hawkins) and Judgey (Alan Judge) wide. That seemed to work. But he did well on the right hand side.”
The Blues boss added: “It’s like anything, in any team you couldn’t have 11 Andre Dozzells, you couldn’t have 11 Jon Nolans or 11 Flynn Downes or Stephen Wards.
“You have to have people to fit the jigsaw and the finishing touch, as everyone knows, at the top end of the pitch.
“And if you can score more goals than not, you’ve got a better chance of winning games.”