‘I was in an Ipswich Town kit as a baby; it’s my club’ – Jack Lankester’s first big interview
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Jack Lankester is the name on Ipswich Town fans’ lips after his recent breakthrough into the first team. Here’s what the 18-year-old attacker had to say in his first interview with the club’s programme.
Jack Lankester may have taken the step up to the Ipswich Town first team in his stride, but the teenager’s friends and family are still getting used it.
The 18-year-old, born and raised in Bury St Edmunds, has been at the club since the age of six. On Saturday, he made his first senior start at Portman Road as the Blues beat Wigan 1-0 to keep hopes alive of ‘the great escape’.
“I went to a development centre and from there to the academy, so I have gone right the way through the levels here,” explained Lankester, in an interview with the club’s programme.
“I’ve been here 12 years now. It’s my club, Ipswich. My family are all Ipswich fans. There are a few pictures around of me in a kit when I was a baby.
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“I used to train on Saturday morning at the training ground and then all of us kids used to go to Portman Road to watch the first team. I remember Pablo Counago playing. I used to watch him a lot. The game against Coventry was one that sticks out, when Counago scored right at the end (of a 3-2 win).
“I would never have expected to be sitting here at this moment in time saying I have started games in the Championship.
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“I think some of my friends and family feel it’s a bit weird! A couple of cousins and some of my mates are season ticket holders and a few years ago they wouldn’t be thinking they will have to pay to watch me so it’s strange for them I guess.”
That’s three starts and four substitute appearances in the Championship now. Thrown into the deep end of a difficult relegation battle for an inexperienced squad it would have been easy for the young man to sink, or at the very least frantically tread water. But boy has he swum.
What is known in the business as a ‘wand of a left foot’ (why are right feet never described that way?), he has that intoxicating fearlessness of youth but also – it seems – a maturity beyond his years, both on and off the field.
When talent, belief and determination combine it’s a potent mix.
“I’m aware of the pitfalls and challenges ahead – you have to be,” said Lankester, who is contracted until 2020. “Yes, it’s great to be where I am but I can’t be complacent because I am only at the start of a long, long road. I’ve got a long way to go and a lot to prove.
“I’ve got a great family around me. I’m at a great club as well, with current players and ex-pros all helping me.
“And the fans here have always been great with the young players. That does make it a lot easier when you go on the pitch knowing they are right behind you and knowing all they want is to see you doing well.”
Every football supporter loves a homegrown hero. Ipswich Town fans perhaps more so than most given the club’s rich history of producing from within.
The Playford Road production line stalled and stuttered from some time. Now, following a full service from Bryan Klug, Lee O’Neill and co, it’s a well-oiled machine again.
Andre Dozzell, Flynn Downes, and Tristan Nydam and Ben Morris have all represented England at Under-19 level. There are many more bright young talents causing cautious excitement in the lower age groups too.
It’s Lankester who has drawn the most effusive praise from experienced Blues boss Paul Lambert in recent weeks though, being labelled ‘a huge talent’.
“To hear what he has said is massive for me, from someone who has won the Champions League,” said Lankester. “It gives me so much confidence. I think any player would get a boost from being told they are ‘a talent’.
“The other players; the manager; the staff – they have all been great with me. They have just said go out there and play with no fear, just do my own thing, and that makes it easier for me.”
With Town now facing crucial festive fixtures against Sheffield United (h), QPR (a), Middlesbrough (a) and Millwall (h), Lankester continued: “I did set myself targets at the start of the season. I was looking to get off to a good start with the Under-23s and score as many goals as I could for them. I wanted to be involved, eventually, with the first team.
“I wasn’t really looking at starting games, I was more hoping for perhaps one or two substitute appearances towards the end of the season so obviously for the opportunities to come around as quick as they have done is great for me.
“It’s a massive step up from the U23s to the first team. There is the physical side for starters, and I have to get used to that, but the whole thing is different. It means so much more but I like it. The results are vital.
“I am obviously in the squad now and I want to be involved as much as possible. I believe I have the ability to do that. I just want to do the best for the team and for myself and get the most out of the season as I can.”
He added: “I have watched Ipswich for many years, the club is close to my heart and hopefully I can go on and play a lot of games here.”