Woolfenden back training with Ipswich as Lambert takes a look at on-loan defender
- Credit: Archant
Luke Woolfenden has been back training with Ipswich Town this week as Paul Lambert looks to assess the young defender before deciding whether to recall him from his loan at Swindon.
The 20-year-old, who has looked assured during his four Ipswich appearances to date, joined the Robins in the summer and has since made 21 starts under first Phil Brown and then Richie Wellens.
He played 90 minutes in Swindon’s 2-1 victory at Macclesfield last weekend and remains on loan in Wiltshire but, at the request of Lambert, Woolfenden returned to Ipswich to work with the first-team at Playford Road during a time when Swindon had been given days off.
That has given him the chance to stake his claim to the new Ipswich boss, with the defender’s contract due to expire this summer. The Blues do have the option to extend that deal for a further year.
Swindon boss Wellens, a former Ipswich loanee in 2012, said: “He’s an Ipswich player and Paul Lambert is trying to find out about his team.
“He’s never seen Luke play so we have to respect the fact he wants to see him in
training and get a good look at what he can do. He’ll make a decision and we have to go by that.
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“If they are able to get players in the meantime, then great, but if not then they will know exactly what Luke is. Paul will get a good close look at him.”
Wellens has been impressed with Woolfenden’s improvement during his eight weeks in the job at the County Ground, with the majority of his football coming at centre-back having spent some time at right-back under Brown.
“His improvement over the last eight weeks has been big and he has all the attributes in terms of his physicality and his quickness,” he said. “He reads the game well.
“He has things he needs to improve upon of course but he’s still a baby in terms of playing centre-half. He needs to be more physical for the Championship and maybe needs to make that first contact with a striker.
“He’s a really good kid as well.”
Lambert has stated that he will take advice before considering recalling either Woolfenden or Josh Emmanuel, who is at Shrewsbury, but has insisted he would like to add experience to his squad for a relegation battle rather than laying further responsibility on the shoulders of young players.
Speaking prior to his sacking in November, after which he was replaced by former Ipswich loanee Wellens, Brown insisted Woolfenden will be ready for the Ipswich first-team when he returns to Portman Road in the summer.
“The fact he could play in the middle and at right back really interested me but now having worked with him for a few months, seeing him in the line of fire, I’ve witnessed what a good quality lad he is,” Brown said.
“He has good assets both on and off the field and is a player who is very likeable.
“It’s a war of attrition you have to win and it’s a win-win situation for both. I get a player who can come through it and has that scar from a battle and Paul will be getting a player he hopes can come back and play first-team football at Ipswich now.
“He’s probably a year away from being able to do that for Ipswich, I wouldn’t say too much more than that. He’s had a sample of non-league football (at Bromley) and he’s now getting League Two football so I don’t think he’s that far away from playing a higher level of first team football in a first team environment.
“Once you’ve got that level of experience I think going out into a Championship environment is something you can be ready for.”