Search

Stars back fit and firing, young guns coming through and accepting mistakes – Ipswich Town’s reasons to be cheerful

PUBLISHED: 18:35 19 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:35 19 June 2020

Kane Vincent-Young, James Norwood and Flynn Downes are all reasons to be cheerful for Ipswich Town fans Picture: ARCHANT

Kane Vincent-Young, James Norwood and Flynn Downes are all reasons to be cheerful for Ipswich Town fans Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

It is, understandably, all rather gloomy around Ipswich Town at the moment. Mark Heath attempts to list some reasons to be cheerful ahead of next season - whenever that might be!

Jack Lankester is back training again after his injury problems Picture: ROSS HALLSJack Lankester is back training again after his injury problems Picture: ROSS HALLS

1) Rest and recovery

Number one in the case for the cheeful defendant, your honour, is the long summer which stretches ahead of us.

Town’s 2019/20 season fell apart for many reasons - endless squad rotation, postponed games, lack of consistent style, you name it. But injuries to key players also certainly played a part.

Jack Lankester went down before the season even started, Kane Vincent-Young exploded on the scene but played just a handful of games, and key summer signing James Norwood admitted himself he was playing at just 50% for much of the season due to a groin injury. Despite that, of course, he still bagged 11 goals to finish as joint-leading scorer.

While this extended break is far from ideal, it has at least given all of the above the chance to properly recover from what ails them - Lankester’s been given the all-clear to start training again, KVY is back on the grass and Norwood will be back to full fitness by the start of next season.

And oh yeah, remember Freddie Sears? Yes, he returned towards the end of the shortened season after the best part of a year out with a serious knee injury suffered against Norwich, but he wasn’t his usual self, understandably. This extra time to get stronger and fitter will benefit him greatly too.

Lankester, KVY, Norwood and Sears all fit and firing - that’s four good reasons to be cheerful right there.

Armando Dobra is one of Town's young guns Picture: ROSS HALLSArmando Dobra is one of Town's young guns Picture: ROSS HALLS

2) Young guns

Town have a rich history of bringing talent through the academy, from Darren Bent to Connor Wickham and many more. And the Blues currently have a tremendous crop of youngsters making their way up the ladder, led, of course by livewire Armando Dobra and creative spark Idris El-Mizouni.

Dobra, who’s just signed a new deal after interest from a range of clubs higher up the pyramid, will surely only get better and better as he matures and gets stronger.

El-Mizouni, meanwhile, impressed on a loan spell at League Two Cambridge, before a knee injury ended his season. But U’s boss Mark Bonner described the teenager as ‘super talented’ and tipped him to have a ‘really good career.’

Tristan Nydam, who’s had a dreadful couple of years but still has plenty to offer, will be back from his serious ankle injury by September too. And Andre Dozzell - only the England captain at U17 level, once courted by Premier League giants – is still very much in the mix, along with Skuse’s heir apparent Brett McGavin.

Below them, there’s more young talent coming through - combative striker Tyreece Simpson looks a handful, ‘terrific passer’ Tommy Hughes is set to sign his first pro deal at the club next month, while young defender Tommy Smith is also getting praise.

And 17-year-old winger Ross Crane, just signed from Bury Town, has been compared to Lankester by Bury boss Ben Chenery, who also coached Jack at Ram Meadow.

Luke Woolfenden is one of Town's crown jewels, along with Flynn Downes Picture: STEVE WALLERLuke Woolfenden is one of Town's crown jewels, along with Flynn Downes Picture: STEVE WALLER

3) Star power

Let’s not mess around here, as well as all the young talent mentioned above, Town are still doing pretty well in the star-power stakes.

Flynn Downes is one of, if not the best, midfielders in League One. Having been sent off in pre-season for a silly headbutt, he managed to rein in the red mist while still playing with the aggression and tempo which characterises his game. Every other club in the league would sign him in a heartbeat.

And they’d be after Luke Woolfenden too, after he also enjoyed a breakthrough campaign last year. These two are Town’s crown jewels - and the Blues are likely to have a job holding on to them this summer. If they can, they’ll be the heartbeat of next season’s promotion push.

Aside from the dynamic duo, Town are still well-stocked with players who, in terms of both ability and name value, are a big deal in League One.

Alan Judge had an odd season, unsettled by transfer rumours in the run-up to the big kick-off, but on his day he should be bossing things in the third tier, as should Emyr Huws, who continues to get stronger after his much-publicised and lengthy injury battles.

The aforemenioned Sears will fancy himself in League One too, while old stagers Cole Skuse and Luke Chambers – while perhaps not the players they once were – have an important role in leading the dressing room and offering advice and guidance to a team who must push for promotion next year.

Town manager Paul Lambert must learn from his mistakes Picture: STEVE WALLERTown manager Paul Lambert must learn from his mistakes Picture: STEVE WALLER

4) How not to do it

If Ipswich Town and Paul Lambert are looking for examples of how not to go about winning promotion from League One, they need only to go back and look at the shambles they put together last season.

Lambert, though rightly much-maligned, won’t be going anywhere, so it’s vital he must be big enough to learn from his mistakes.

After Town raced to the top of the table, his squad rotation and constant chopping and changing was probably the biggest single reason for Town’s embarrassing slide down the rankings. He acknowledged as much in a recent interview with the EADT, when he admitted rotation was something he’d change.

He added: “I’ve looked at things over the last few months myself and thought about what I could have done differently as well as what did and didn’t work.

“I need to look at that and change certain things. Hopefully we can bring people a lot of joy next season. These few months have given me time to think and reflect. I have a lot of things written down which I hope can be corrected.”

If Lambert sticks to his word, plays his strongest XI consistently and keeps faith with a formation and style of play, Town will surely be top six contenders....won’t they?

Owner Marcus Evans' financial clout means Town are a big fish in League One Picture: ROSS HALLSOwner Marcus Evans' financial clout means Town are a big fish in League One Picture: ROSS HALLS

5) Big fish

Finally, it’s worth reminding ourselves that, in League One, Ipswich Town are – to quote noted fictional newsman Ron Burgundy – kind of a big deal.

After years of struggling to compete financially in the Championship, Town are undeniably among the biggest financial forces in the third tier.

It’s hard to predict how the summer transfer window will play out given the impact of coronavirus, but with smaller clubs likely to be battling increased money worries, Marcus’ millions should – note, SHOULD – see Town in a pretty healthy position in the market.

With a £2.5m salary cap looming after the 2020/21 season, the Blues need to get out of League One at the next opportunity more than ever, or risk being cut adrift from what increasingly looks like a Premier League 1 and 2 scenario in the top two tiers.

Hopefully, that will be enough to persuade Marcus to dig a little deeper in his pockets to fund what has to be a serious promotion push next season.

Hopefully...


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the East Anglian Daily Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the East Anglian Daily Times

A Suffolk safari organiser is back on the trail after lockdown. Philip Charles returned from six years working as a bear guide and researcher in British Columbia in Canada to set up Spirit of Suffolk in his home county. But the newly-formed business took a temporary hit when the coronavirus crisis struck. As well as safaris, Phil also runs photography workshops, and produces prints and home-made short books. He is a lecturer at Suffolk New College, teaching wildlife and conservation-based modules on the Suffolk Rural campus in Otley. Through his business, he aims to build a conservation-based economy connecting visitors with Suffolk’s stunning countryside both digitally and physically through safaris and lectures. “I spend most of my time on safari in farmland habitat on the Shotley and Deben peninsulas,” he says. “This guiding season for Spirit of Suffolk started early March and I had several safari bookings as well as two photography workshops planned throughout March and April.” Philip was just one safari into the season – with one urban fox tour under his belt – with the business really taking off when lockdown measures were introduced on March 23, which meant he had to ditch his planned events. Lockdown hit him hard on a personal level too, he admits. “I always thought I would be able to head out to the countryside still, alone, and with caution. But as lockdown measures were introduced I realised this was not to be the case. “On a personal level this was deeply troubling as time spent in nature forms who I am as a person in both actions and spirit. “From a business perspective initially it felt shattering as I could not operate any of the core elements of the business, and to have started the season so spectacularly well with an amazing first safari and superb urban fox tour I really felt bad for the guests that had trips booked and were now not able to take them. “As a wildlife photographer but living in central Ipswich I also felt limited in what I could do photography-wise.” But he picked himself up and started working on his website and social media strategies. It was a “joy” to provide a vital connection with nature to people stuck at home, he said. “Early on in the lockdown I started a project called ‘On the Doorstep’ in which I would spend a little time each day stood on my doorstep and photograph the comings and goings of people.” The project now forms part of a cultural snapshot of Ipswich in 2020 collated by Suffolk Archives. He also used the downtime to create short books. The two titles – Suffolk Wildlife - A Photo Journey, and Spirit Bear - A True Story of Isolation and Survival – have been “very popular”, selling both in the UK and abroad. They even received an accolade from veteran environmentalist and wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough who described them as “delightful”. He has two more planned – the first of which is Bears and Hares, which is set to be followed by a collection of photo stories from the doorstep project. As lockdown eased in early August he was able to resume his safaris, initially on a two-week trial basis. The pilot proved very successful and as a result he was able to begin booking events again. “Although we are nearing the quieter season I continue to take people out who are keen on enjoying the beauty of Suffolk and its wonderful wildlife and I am personally excited for the beauty and joys of autumn,” he says. “People often purchase the safaris as a gift for someone else and this continues to be popular, as a birthday present or Christmas present that can be redeemed at any point in the future.” From October, he is also planning to resume his one-day photography workshops. “I have always loved showing people the wonders of nature, whether that be a grizzly, a barn owl, killer whales or an urban fox. I think the lockdown period offered a different appreciation for the things around us and I am ever so excited to be with people again and to be showing them all the wonderful wildlife of my favourite spots in Suffolk.” He has had to adapt the tours to ensure safety, but the changes are subtle and don’t detract from the main goal - which is seeing nature, he says. “I now encourage the guest to bring along their own drink and snacks and to also bring their own pair of binoculars. We do wear face coverings while in the vehicle and with the windows open to ensure ventilation. Such changes have been well received by the safari guests and we continue to have some great wildlife viewing.” He’ll be “forever grateful” to his customers and guests for their support and understanding during the pandemic. “Recovery all depends on the current status of local restrictions and the virus itself. I am hoping that a vaccine can be in place as soon as possible. As a fledgling business I have felt a hit, although the sales of short books has helped.” But he remains “positive and optimistic”, he says. “The only way is up,” he says. His hope is that Spirit of Suffolk will become a well-known brand. “I have long term goals of buying woodland for conservation and wildlife viewing and also establishing a small lodge where I can accommodate guests for taking multi-day safaris and tours. “For now I am happy to take things slowly and cautiously, testing the waters in certain areas as I continue to grow the brand and products that I provide. “It is exciting. I am so deeply passionate about what I do that I know it will continue to be a success.” Suffolk’s wildlife in spotlight as safaris get back on track