Stars back fit and firing, young guns coming through and accepting mistakes – Ipswich Town’s reasons to be cheerful
- Credit: 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!
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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?
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.