Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough - Ipswich Town have best squad in League One
PUBLISHED: 12:39 01 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:02 01 September 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town are now outright leaders at the top of League One following yesterday's 3-0 win against Shrewsbury Town at Portman Road. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
It's transfer deadline day tomorrow. Don't bother signing anyone Paul, your squad is good enough. More than good enough in fact. Actually, it's the best in the league.
There, I said it. Arrogant? Yeah. Do you know what though, a little bit of well-founded bravado - that sweet spot at the top end of the belief scale - is what you need to win titles and/or promotions.
Back to that squad...
Take That once sang 'it only takes a minute girl, to fall in love'. That's certainly been the case with Kane Vincent-Young. He had me from the very first forward burst and stepover. Two very impressive games from him at right-back. He looks a player.
Luke Chambers, Luke Woolfenden and James Wilson have all done equally well in the rotating centre-back slots. And now Toto Nsiala is ready to go again. Flynn Downes and Cole Skuse have been outstanding in the middle of the park. Now Jon Nolan is back, Emyr Huws is getting stronger by the day, while Teddy Bishop will come into the mix slightly further down the line. That's not even mentioning Andre Dozzell.
Nine goals in four games for front duo James Norwood and Kayden Jackson. They'll have Will Keane breathing down their necks soon. Don't forget Freddie Sears either, who is targeting a November return.
Want to rest Alan Judge or Myles Kenlock? Play Anthony Georgiou or Luke Garbutt. Want to give Gwion Edwards a break? Just stick in Danny Rowe, or Idris El Mizouni, or Armando Dobra.
Goalkeeper Tomas Holy recognises he's got 'the wolf from Wolves' snapping at his heels.
Two players for every position. Youth, experience, versatility, pace, goals, depth, desire... Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough. It's about time some fear factor returned to Portman Road.
Perhaps I'm getting a bit giddy. Like an athlete not used to drinking, one beer has gone straight my head. It's only September. Calm down son.
Rode their luck late on at Burton. Didn't kill off Sunderland. Used up two get out of jail free cards against Peterborough and AFC Wimbledon. The Bolton match was, in truth, a farce.
And was yesterday really a 3-0 type of game? Possibly not. An iffy penalty (replays showed initial contact may have been just outside of the box), aided massively by a mindless opposition red card and still there were some big scares along the way.
Lambert says his side is playing 'really well' and 'that's the beauty of it'. Actually, the real beauty of it is that they Town are playing quite well, are top, have gone through August unbeaten and still look there are another couple of gears to go up.
Last season was the perfect storm for people to fail. Several players asked to step up one or two leagues and gel as a collective unit. The glue of Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse watered down due to physical and mental fatigue. Semi-fit, needs-must signings subsequently being asked to be the saviours.
Now we have ideal conditions for players to grow. Squad depth lessens the pressure on individuals' shoulders, while Norwood's personality lightens the leadership load on Messrs Chambers and Skuse.
Those that withered and died on the vine under a red-hot glare are now getting just the amount of light, water and feed to grow. The green shoots of recovery are beginning to show. And you get the feeling the full bloom is still to come.
League One is providing more forgiving surroundings for the reboot that had long been required. Yes, it's the third-tier. Yes, national interest in this level of football is virtually nill (aside for some brief weeping about Bury before all eyes turn back to the Premier League). But give me winning, front foot football, at a loud and proud packed Portman Road in this division over death by a thousand cuts in the Championship any day.
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On Tuesday night, Town host Tottenham's Under-23s in their opening EFL Trophy group match.
It may feel like a 'tinpot' competition and a reminder of how far this decorated club has fallen, but it should not be treated with contempt or disdain.
The league and promotion is, of course, way at the top of priorities. The longer you stay in this division, the harder it is to get out.
Let's not turn our noses up at a golden opportunity to go all the way to Wembley though.
Lambert has repeatedly talked about the prospect of playing '60-odd games' this season. He used that as leverage when persuading owner Marcus Evans to deliver the recent signings of Vincent-Young, Georgious and Keane.
Well, with Bury expelled from the league and Town out the Carabao Cup, the only way his side can hit the 60-game mark is by reaching the Play-Off Final (three extra games), the fourth round of the FA Cup (they enter at round one) and also the final of the EFL Trophy (four knock-out rounds after the group stage).
This squad is deep enough now to give it a go in this much-maligned competition. In fact, it could be seen as a bit of a blessing seeing as the Blues have got several returning injury victims to get back up to speed.