James Blanchfield is firmly in Mick McCarthy’s plans
Ipswich Town youngster James Blanchfield is rapidly pushing himself into Mick McCarthy’s plans for the coming season.
The 18-year-old midfielder enjoyed an eye-catching late cameo in last weekend’s 2-1 friendly win at Irish side Shelbourne and again impressed when playing the entire second half of a 1-0 defeat at Barnet on Wednesday.
Born in Southend, he was at Arsenal’s academy from the age of eight and had a trial at Manchester United in 2014 before becoming a first-year scholar at Playford Road at the age of 16.
And having become a regular for the Under-21 side last season, Blanchfield – along with Monty Patterson, Jacob Marsden, George Fowler, Chris Smith and Shane McLoughlin – put pen to paper on a one-year professional deal at the start of this month.
“Blanch has always been one that I’ve fancied would come through because he’s a good player,” enthused McCarthy, speaking after Blanchfield played on the right of midfield for the entire second half at The Hive Stadium.
“He’s progressing physically. Twelve months ago he was a skinny kid, but he’s put some shoulders and some beef on him now and he can handle this.
“Technically he’s very good and I think he’ll contribute to the season. I like him, I think he’s a good player.”
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The Blues may not have made many summer recruits following last season’s seventh-place Championship finish – defenders Adam Webster and Paul Digby the only new faces thus far – but that could open the door for a number of academy graduates to make their mark.
Midfielder Teddy Bishop burst on the scene in 2014/15, then full-backs Myles Kenlock and Josh Emmanuel both made their first-team breakthroughs last season.
Andre Dozzell memorably scored on his senior debut, aged just 16, and clearly has a very bright future. The midfielder is joined in the England Under-17 set-up by striker Ben Morris. Forwards Shane McLoughlin and Monty Patterson have also had pre-season minutes, while George Fowler and Chris Smith were part of the squad in north London on Wednesday night.
“There is a few of them I’d like to get out on loan, but first I need to make sure we’ve got our rock-solid squad of 22 and then keep a few to supplement it,” said McCarthy. “I think Dozza and James Blanchfield did themselves no harm tonight.”
Ipswich have no game this weekend as McCarthy is out in Portugal playing in the annual Sir Bobby Robson Golf Classic Tournament in Portugal, along with Blues owner Marcus Evans.
Town’s preparations for the 2016/17 campaign continues with a game at Colchester United next Wednesday night, followed by a trip to Cambridge on Saturday.
“So far, quite clearly, it’s been two mixed up teams in each half – some youngsters and some with experience – but now it might be a case of some players getting 60/70 minutes at Colchester and others getting 60/70 minutes at Cambridge,” said the Blues boss.