Penney on Premier League ambitions and Coulson competition
- Credit: PA
Matt Penney wants to follow in the footsteps of previous Ipswich Town left-backs and make it to the Premier League.
Aaron Cresswell and Tyrone Mings have both earned England caps and become established top-flight players, at West Ham and Aston Villa respectively, since leaving Portman Road.
Cresswell arrived at Ipswich from League One club Tranmere aged 22, while Mings was 19 when recruited from non-league outfit Chippenham Town.
Penney, who Town picked up on a Bosman free transfer from Sheffield Wednesday this summer, still has much of his career ahead of him at 23.
Asked if he took inspiration from the likes of Cresswell and Mings, he said: "I'm very ambitious. From a young age I've always said it would be a dream to play in the Premier League. I'm going to work really hard to try and make that happen. That's the aim, to one day play in the Premier League."
Penney made a big decision in his pursuit of that dream back in the summer.
Having been at Sheffield Wednesday since the age of eight, making a sporadic 28 appearances for them in the Championship, he opted to turn down a new deal and seek a fresh challenge.
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"I’d been at Sheffield Wednesday for a long while and I’d been out on loan a couple of times," he explained. "In my last season there I was in and out of the side.
“It felt as if I needed a fresh start somewhere, at a club where I could refresh and go again.
“I was looking for a move to a club where I would settle down and, hopefully, play week-in, week-out.
“I had spoken to a few managers and some different clubs but when I came down here and spoke to Paul Cook it kind of all made sense.
"I’m really happy with the choice I made and I am convinced it was the right one."
It's not the first time Penney has made a bold career choice. Back in 2019 he opted to join German side St Pauli on a season-long loan.
That move came about as his former Owls boss Jos Luhukay was in charge of the second-tier outfit with a large cult following.
“I had always said to my family and friends that I would love to go abroad for a spell, not just to experience a different way of football but to sample the culture of the place," reflects Penney.
“So when the opportunity came along I went with it and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. It was really, really good and it’s the highlight so far.
“I learned so much and at the age of only 21 it was a phenomenal experience for me. I knew zero German when I went out there but after a difficult couple of months I started taking German lessons and I was soon able to get by.
“That was all part of the experience and I soon began to understand what was being said in the team meetings.
“Would I do it again? Absolutely, I would. I think it would be easier for a single guy, rather than someone who is married and has children, to move abroad.
“That was why I bit the bullet and went out to Germany. I didn’t have any baggage – it was just me and a willingness to go to a foreign country and learn how they did things differently.
“I had never been to Germany previously and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I found Hamburg a beautiful city and really enjoyed my time there. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any young players who get the chance that I had.
“The football is less physical than it is in England and I think it is easier for young players to break through to the first team over there.”
Penney started the season as Town's first choice left-back, was replaced for a spell by new loan signing Hayden Coulson, but got back in the team when the latter suffered a thigh injury at Lincoln.
Time will tell which of those two plays at Cambridge United on Saturday given Penney was subbed off with a tight hamstring in the second half of last weekend's 2-1 home win over Shrewsbury and Coulson is nearing the end of his rehab period.
"I’m relishing every chance I get and every time I get a chance to pull on the shirt I’ll be doing my best to do what I do," said Penney.
"We all know there is competition for places after all the signings that were made in the transfer window and the manager can’t guarantee us anything.
“With me and Hayden both being left-backs we are going to push each other for a place in the side but when one player is picked he knows he has the support of the other.
“Hayden and I get on – there’s no bad blood – and we both want the best for Ipswich. When we pull on the shirt we both want to win so it’s all good.”