Aston Villa loanee Louie Barry is the forgotten signing at Ipswich Town... he'll be hoping to get his chance this week
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Louie Barry has struggled to make an impact, since joining Ipswich Town on loan from Aston Villa in August. Andy Warren looks at the teenager's situation.
An intriguing addition
When Louie Barry signed for Ipswich Town on August 6, he arrived with a fair amount of excitement and plenty of intrigue.
“Louie is such an exciting player,” Town boss Paul Cook said.
“He really wants to play football and do well in a first-team environment. Our job is to provide him with a platform to build and also give him an opportunity to express himself.”
Teenager Barry arrived, of course, with great pedigree. He’d been part of the famed Barcelona academy and had made an impact at senior level for Villa, scoring against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
He’s one of the leading prospects at Villa Park for many a year. His path is similar in some ways to that of Jack Grealish, another boyhood Villa fan who had enjoyed a loan spell in the EFL with Notts County in 2013/14, before breaking into the Premier League side’s first-team. The hope is for Barry to do the same.
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His arrival in Suffolk came on a typically busy day of Ipswich Town news, as Sone Aluko joined the club just a few hours later.
Even at this stage, signing these two players at opposite ends of their careers did leave you scratching your head a little. Especially considering Ipswich also remained in talks with fellow attacker Michael Jacobs on that same day. It was clear the signings weren’t stopping.
Then, over the weekend, Town switched course as they turned away from Jacobs to sign Kyle Edwards, completing a deal for three attackers in as many days.
Wes Burns, Scott Fraser and Conor Chaplin had already been signed for those positions at this point, while Armando Dobra had yet to be loaned out. That was already seven players for three spots.
Still, though, the addition of Barry was an exciting one, given his pedigree.
The signing of all the players previously mentioned came at a time when the Blues were chasing Bersant Celina. And, specifically at the time of Barry and Aluko’s arrival, Town had not long found out Celina had suffered a heart infection linked to contracting Covid-19.
So it seemed extremely unlikely the Kosovo international, always seen as the cherry on top of Town’s hectic summer of recruitment, would be arriving.
But, as we know, he did ultimately sign on deadline day, further bolstering an area of the pitch where the Blues had already strengthened in significant numbers.
As it’s turned out, Barry hasn’t played a single minute of league football since Celina’s arrival.
Indeed, he’s only made one League One squad since Celina made his debut for the club. He was an unused substitute for the win at Portsmouth.
Barry’s route to the Ipswich first-team is an extremely difficult one, with plenty of traffic in his way.
His only two league appearances have come in games in which Burns, Chaplin, Aluko and Celina were not available, with those four players, Fraser and Edwards undoubtedly ahead of him in any working of the pecking order.
But there have maybe been some unexpected obstacles, too. Rekeem Harper is now used as a more advanced midfielder, resembling something of a No.10, while Idris El Mizouni has been used in that role, too.
Kayden Jackson appears to be Ipswich’s third-choice striker at this time, blocking that route for Barry, while Hayden Coulson was used on the right wing at Plymouth. Barry was on that trip but didn’t make the bench.
He’s played just 68 minutes of league football and 186 in total. That’s by far the lowest number for any of the 19 summer signings, with Tom Carroll on 321 and Coulson on 370.
On the pitch
Barry has made it onto the pitch, of course, even if it’s in small bursts.
So how has he got on?
His debut against Newport saw some promising signs, as he looked positive whenever on the ball and keen to impress. His first league start saw him touch the ball just nine times against Burton, though, but he did always look to play with positivity and energy. He also won a penalty which Fraser ultimately missed.
A very brief appearance against Cheltenham from the bench was followed by a long spell out of the side, in which he struggled with some difficult dental issues which are said to have led to dizzy spells, before he returned to the side a month later for the Papa John’s Trophy clash with West Ham.
He struggled to get into that game, though, playing from the left flank. Then it was a cameo from the bench at Gillingham in the same competition, which was probably his most effective appearance yet as he got on the ball and drove towards the box on a couple of notable occasions.
Barry looked lively in his most recent Ipswich appearance, against Colchester in the Trophy, with the youngster positive on the ball once again and keen to make something happen.
That’s Barry in a nutshell, from what we’ve seen of him in an Ipswich shirt. But he’s not been able to convert that into tangible production during his sporadic appearances for the club. He’s still only 18-year-old, so maybe that was to be expected despite his supreme talent?
He’s also made a few appearances for Ipswich’s Under 23s, who obviously play at a lower level than he is used to with Villa’s equivalent. He scored 13 goals in 15 starts for them last season.
He’ll certainly be hoping to impress this week, should he get his chance against either Arsenal’s Under 21s or Barrow.
Despite his lack of action, the hope must be that he’s benefitted well from being in a senior environment at such a young age.
What Cook’s said
The Town boss has always spoken fondly of Barry when asked about him, with the suggestion he enjoys coaching the teenager and has been impressed with how he’s handling his situation at Ipswich.
He may be something of a forgotten signing when it comes to supporters, but that's not the case when it comes to Town's manager.
Speaking after Barry’s appearance from the bench at Gillingham, Cook said: “I think when you’re in an environment, taking steps forward is perceived as a given. But if you look around the country in general, there are not many 18-year-old lads sustaining playing league football. It’s been very, very difficult.
“He’s got a bit of devilment, he’s got real excitement in his play, he makes things happen in the final third and he can certainly create and score a goal. The squad is very, very strong, the size of the squad is strong. Getting on our bench at the minute now is very, very tough and they’re decisions you have to make.”
What the future holds
Barry is likely to have some involvement with the Ipswich first-team this week, most likely on Wednesday evening when Arsenal’s Under 21s visit in the EFL Trophy. He’ll also be hoping to make the squad for the FA Cup clash with Barrow.
Logic suggests this period could be the last involvement in a first-team squad for Barry in 2021, before the January transfer window opens.
It remains to be seen whether Ipswich, Villa and the player himself are happy for him to remain in Suffolk beyond that point.