Exit Interview: Nydam showed 'heart, desire and hunger' but was never able to take the next step
- Credit: Steve Waller
Tristan Nydam has been released by Ipswich Town at the end of his contract. Andy Warren looks back on his time in blue.
Of the six Ipswich players released on what could now be called ‘Demolition Monday’, perhaps the most surprising was Tristan Nydam.
He was by far the least experienced on that list, with just 22 Ipswich appearances to his name, but all the signs were pointing towards an extended stay for a player who joined the club while still at primary school and burst onto the scene in 2017, but has seen his career stall ever since.
The Nydam we first saw under Mick McCarthy, aged just 17, was tenacious, hard-working, skilful and driven. He delivered on everything we’d heard about a young midfielder who, coming through Town’s academy, was seen to be ahead of team-mate Flynn Downes by many.
He wasn’t overawed, despite being thrown into the rough-and-tumble of the Championship, at a time when injuries to Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi and Teddy Bishop meant Nydam and Downes were being asked to do things many their age would not be capable of.
Nydam set himself a target of 20 appearances that season, a target he ultimately met in the final weeks of the campaign, following McCarthy’s exit, and he headed into the summer with many expecting him to take the next step under a new manager.
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The now famous photo of Nydam, Downes, Andre Dozzell and Luke Woolfenden, prior to Paul Hurst’s Ipswich Town dress rehearsal against West Ham in 2018, was supposed to be an image of the club’s future core. They all impressed that day, too.
But the reality is the quartet never played a single competitive minute together for the club.
Things began to go wrong when Hurst sent Nydam on loan to St Johnstone, a club who didn’t seem to know why they had signed him and ended up giving him just one start and four brief substitute appearances during his four months in Perthshire.
He was isolated, 450 miles from home, and was back at Ipswich long before his loan officially ended in January, at a time when Paul Lambert had taken charge and had bolstered his squad with Premier League loanees in a desperate bid for Championship survival. Another barrier.
That meant Nydam’s only involvement was a 10-minute cameo at Brentford once relegation was as-good-as confirmed, before the youngster again entered a summer hoping to make a jump as the Blues prepared for League One.
With significant midfield traffic, Nydam reverted to left-back and looked as if he was forcing himself into first-team contention, before a nasty ankle break in a pre-season game at Notts County ended his season and, as it turned out, his Town career.
So why was his release surprising? Well, Nydam’s courage to battle back from a nasty injury saw him first return in the Under 23s in February, after 581 days out. He then took to the field for 30 minutes in the first game after the club’s American takeover, showing many of his old qualities as he provided the only real highlight of another drab 0-0 draw with MK Dons in April.
His display prompted some extremely encouraging words from boss Paul Cook, who said: “Tristan has the heart, desire and hunger that a lot of people at this football club don’t have.
"I’ve watched him in two Under-23s games. When pain comes, he bites it to his bottom lip and drives on. That’s a characteristic that I love in players.”
All that pointed to Nydam’s contract option being taken at the very least, just as it has been in the past with other academy products coming back from bad injuries. His talent was surely too great to simply be discarded.
It’s unclear exactly what happened. Did Cook simply not rate him? Did the Town boss see too much traffic between him and a first-team place? Was he a casualty of Cook wanting to work with small squads or did Nydam himself indicate he needed to move on in order to get his career going again?
However things shook out, the result of Cook’s decision means Nydam moves on after finding barriers at so many turns, meaning he was unable to make the jump so many expected him to.
What went well
There’s so much to like about Nydam as a footballer.
He battles for everything, can pick a pass, move with the ball and take up good positions to help team-mates.
We’ve mostly seen him operate as a central midfielder in the first-team but was handling his switch to left-back well during the summer of 2019, where many of his skills were just as effective.
That looked his most-likely route to the starting line-up at the time but his versatility between the two roles should serve him well.
There’s a lot to like about him as a person, too. He’s confident, polite, thoughtful and committed. The kind of person you can’t help but want to succeed.
He has so many pieces of the puzzle, it’s just a shame they didn’t come together at Ipswich.
There were no real standout moments or occasions where he brought hugely memorable influence to games. Just an extremely solid body of work, packed with potential which has sadly not been realised in Suffolk.
Areas to improve
The big thing holding Nydam back has been his lack of time on the field.
None of that is really his fault, of course, but it is the reason why his career has hit the brakes over the course of the last three years.
Going back to 2017/18, you could perhaps say he was a little undersized and found bigger, more physical midfield opponents a little tough to handle, though it must be said he battled away tirelessly even when mismatched.
But to highlight deficiencies from three years ago, when he had only just burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old, is unfair. We just don’t really know what a 21-year-old Tristan Nydam is capable of.
Hopefully he can show us all elsewhere in the coming years.
What the future holds
There will be clubs keen on taking Nydam for the next few years, of that there is surely no doubt.
His 20-game run in the Championship and good reputation may be enough to convince a League One club to take the plunge but, if he does have to drop into League Two, the benefactor would be getting a player with plenty of potential, hunger, desire and a point to prove.
There’s the potential for Nydam to come back and bite Ipswich a little here but, at the same time, it may also be that a fresh start is exactly what the youngster needs to get his career back on track again.
Plenty will be watching his career with real interest from this point and wishing him nothing but the best.