Westlake - Mogga's my inspiration

MAN of the moment Ian Westlake has revealed grinning Tony Mowbray is his play-off inspiration, writes Derek Davis.While the enigmatic smile by the Mona Lisa has intrigued millions over the years, a picture of Blues legend Mowbray showing unbridled joy at the Wembley win in 2000 spurs on the Supporters' Player of the Year Westlake.

MAN of the moment Ian Westlake has revealed grinning Tony Mowbray is his play-off inspiration, writes Derek Davis.

While the enigmatic smile by the Mona Lisa has intrigued millions over the years, a picture of Blues legend Mowbray showing unbridled joy at the Wembley win in 2000 spurs on the Supporters' Player of the Year Westlake.

The 20-year-old from Clacton was among the crowd during the last promotion push but is now playing a far more prominent role.

His performances in midfield, along with seven goals including the crucial equaliser at Bramall Lane last Friday, have made him an important member of the squad and a fans' favourite.

Now, as he and the rest of the Ipswich squad prepare for Sunday's all-important final game of the regular season, Westlake exclusively revealed to the EADT what he will be focusing on from now and hopefully right up to the play-off final in Cardiff at the end of the month.

He said: "I came to the last play-off games. The semi-finals were amazing but the final itself was the best day ever.

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"You see things like that and remember them and think just how badly you want to be in games like that. It drives you on even harder.

"You look in the players' lounge and see Mogga with the biggest grin on his face that you will ever see and you want memories like that.

"It would be brilliant if I could do that here because for me Ipswich is just the best club ever."

There is little doubt that Westlake will be a starter against Cardiff City on Sunday in the game, which will be shown live on Sky TV.

Such is the impact the former England schools water polo player has made he is almost certain to lead the play-off charge as well, a long cry from August when he was not sure he would make the side.

He did, his full debut coming against West Ham United, and although he had short spells out, the 20-year-old has hardly looked back with the club handing him the John Kerridge Memorial Award for Most Improved Player.

Westlake said: "I'm a bit surprised at how well things have gone. At the beginning of the season I was hoping by Christmas I would be pushing into the team and then hold down a position. Then other players came in – Alan Mahon came on loan, we had Chris Bart-Williams. They were very good experienced players and I was wondering where I would fit in and I had my worries. But all I could do was work hard in training and show I was good enough to play.

"We have seen with people like Dean Bowditch that if you are good enough they will put you in.

"They showed their faith in me and now I hope I have started to repay them a bit."

The goals have also started to come as well, Westlake scored in three consecutive games when he netted against Bradford, Burnley and Preston in February, something which he didn't always do in the past.

He said: "When I was in the reserves I played quite defensively as we had a lot of attacking payers.

"It was nice to be able to come in and play a bit more advanced especially with Tommy (Miller) and Jamma (Jermaine Wright) who are so good at getting on the ball, that has freed me a bit to score some goals. I have got seven, which is not too bad."

There is no doubt which one of those seven is his top choice.

"The one against Sheffield United has to be my favourite. It was such a big goal to score and helped to get a massive result," he said.

"The keeper came out and I knew he was not going to go down to the floor at that angle but he was going to stand up like Peter Schmeichel does, so I thought I would hit it low by his feet. He opened his legs and it just went through. Brilliant."

The fans' vote was made before that goal but even so the Clacton lad was amazed when his name was called out as the winner in Sunday's presentations and he had his own thoughts on who might have won it.

He said: "It was a big shock, especially to get two awards. It is really exciting, so many could have won it.

"I'm local so that might help. The Clacton branch came up trumps for me.

"If Benty (Darren Bent) had played the whole season he would have about 26 goals now and would be up for it.

"Kelvin (Davis) was another I thought might get it, but everyone has done so well."

Westlake was effusive in his praise of the coaches and staff for all the help they have given him, but he was especially grateful to the senior players led by the example of skipper Jim Magilton.

He said: "They are very calm before games. I get very edgy but Jim and Jamma for example have done it all before and they are just so laid back. It is good that we have people like that and they are really approachable so you can talk to them and get help.

"In the first half at Sheffield United I was extremely nervous. It was a big game, massive crowd and it was a match we could not lose. But they helped me a lot and I settled."

Westlake will be presented with his award again on Sunday before the crucial clash with Cardiff, where he will be able to say a thank you to the Town supporters in person.

He said: "The crowd help loads. When you are away and everyone is against you it is noticeable, so being at home will help us so much on Sunday."

Perhaps in the next three weeks or so he will be helping to put that massive grin back on Mogga's face.

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