Edwards on Town's persistence, 'agent Rekeem' and whether he's really 'too good for League One'
- Credit: Steve Waller
How have Ipswich Town signed Kyle Edwards to play in League One?
That’s the question on the minds of those who have witnessed the winger’s first four matches in Ipswich blue.
Town are used to having hired help when it comes to quality in wide positions, with Ryan Fraser, Tom Lawrence and the newly-returned Bersant Celina all spending time on loan during the final years of Mick McCarthy’s reign.
Edwards is different. He’s a full-time Ipswich player, on a three-year deal. He’s tricky, direct, confident and appears to possess all the qualities lacking in Ipswich sides of recent years. There will no doubt by ups and downs along the way, but the early signs are extremely promising.
But, for all the thoughts of whether Ipswich have signed a player who should be doing business higher up the football pyramid, regular games in the third tier could well be the perfect platform for him to launch his career forward once again.
“If you look at the squad then lots of us have played higher in the past but I’d never say I’m too good for the league,” Edwards said, when the question many are asking was put to him.
“I’m not that type of person. I’m just here, I know where I’m at and I know I want to go back up the leagues one day.
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“I’ve enjoyed it a lot in the four games I’ve played, but to play four games consecutively is big for me because I haven’t done that much in a long, long time.
“I love the support from everyone,” he continued. “I’ve had loads of messages on Twitter and stuff and it’s always nice to know the fans have accepted me in after coming to a new place, because it could have gone differently. I’m just happy they like me.
“We’re a strong squad with a lot of potential to go up this year. People can say what they want but if you look at the games then things have been different.
“We have to respect every team we play because there are good teams and good players in this league.”
Town’s capture of the enthusiastic 23-year-old was born in the mind of chairman Mike O’Leary, a lifelong West Brom fan and former chief executive who watched the youngster’s journey through the academy to the first-team at the Hawthorns and was excited by what he had seen.
Then it was down to the persistence of CEO Mark Ashton who, with a little help from Edwards’ friend and former West Brom team-mate, Rekeem Harper, pounced at the right time to capture a winger who was close to deals with two Championship clubs this summer.
There was collateral damage, of course. The Blues’ well-advanced move for Portsmouth’s Michael Jacobs was abandoned at the last minute during a ruthless weekend of transfer negotiations, which had seen the 29-year-old travel to Suffolk and agree terms.
But, ultimately, Ipswich changed course and capitalised on a tight window to land the player they wanted.
“From the start of the summer I knew Ipswich were interested in me quite a lot and it’s been an ongoing thing since there,” Edwards said.
“I obviously trained with Reading and they couldn’t sign me because of an embargo and then I went to Bournemouth. They had a lot of players in my position so couldn’t sign me either, so things didn’t really work out.
“But I thought about it a lot and knew Ipswich wanted me for a long time. It made sense for me to come here. I spoke to the manager and he told me I needed to play games, which is what I wanted and what he told me I would be doing. So, in the end, it was a no-brainer really.
“Ipswich were speaking to my agent the whole time to try and get me to come down here, so it’s been something going on for a long time.
“I was asking Rekeem what it’s like and how it was going, how the team was, that sort of thing. So they pushed agent Rekeem on me and it all worked out. I guess he’s a good agent.”
There’s no doubting Harper’s presence in Ipswich was an attraction to Edwards.
The two had come through the ranks at West Brom together, becoming close once they had both reached the first-team.
“Rekeem is two age groups younger than me but he’d always played up at levels above his age,” Edwards explained.
“At West Brom we trained with blocks of different age groups, all together at the same time, so we were always around each other.
“Then, when we went to the first team, we were together for a good three or four years and that’s when we got really close. That’s how we were on the pitch and outside football as well.
“I’m excited to be playing with him. He’s such a good player and, having played together at West Brom we built up a good relationship so I know where he wants to be and where he wants to the ball.
“As the games go on I think people will start to see the good relationship we have and what he can bring to the team.”
As well as helping attract Edwards to Ipswich, Harper has helped his friend avoid trouble at the training ground as the duo adjust to life so far from home and away from the comforts of their boyhood club.
“It’s good to have him here because we’ve known each other since we were about 10, when Rekeem came, so for him to here is great,” Edwards said.
“I’ve been to his house a few times to watch some games and he’s helped me out a few times by saving me from some fines a few times at the training ground. He’s really helping me out.
“We didn’t have fines or anything like that at West Brom but there are just little things here like having to sign in, sign out and not having phones in certain areas. That’s a bit new to me and I got caught out a couple of times, but Rekeem helped me.
“They are all good guys in the team and we all get along well, which has helped us all settle. We’re pretty much all new and we’re all looking for the same stuff in terms of places to stay and where is good to go out and eat. We can get together to talk about that kind of stuff and go out together, which we’ve done a few times so far at some nice places.
“I’m in the process of finding somewhere to live and hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have somewhere to stay. I’m in the hotel at the moment and it’s not too bad, although you can feel a bit stuck in there sometimes. Once I’ve got somewhere sorted out it will be a lot better.”
Edwards has excited all who have watched him during his first month as an Ipswich player but, while the man himself is satisfied with his start, his high standards mean he feels he has more to come.
“Portman Road is a mad stadium and the fans are great, so it’s all been exciting and a new experience,” he said. “I just want more and more of it.
“It would have been a perfect start if I’d scored at Burton (when he hit the bar from 30 yards out) but it’s football, things don’t always happen. Hopefully a few more can fly in instead because that’s me when I’m playing – I like to cut in and get some shots off.
“It’s very different for me because I’d been at West Brom since I was six years old, living 15 minutes from the stadium and 15 minutes from training as well. So, it’s very different because I’m three hours from home now.”
“But this is a decision I had to make and progress in football and get the games I need. It’s a different challenge and I’m up for it.”