|[Blog] The Latest Rush of Youth|
Written by Superfrans on Friday, 22nd Oct 2010 11:29
Isn’t it amazing what a couple of defeats can do to a bunch of supporters.
This season is already looking like a vast improvement on last, with ITFC sitting eighth after 12 matches, just three points off third place.
Frankly, I have never imagined we’d be in with a shout of automatic promotion this season – play-offs is what we should be targeting. And we are very well placed.
But read some of the posts and news comments on TWTD in the past few days and you’d think we were languishing around the relegation zone, no further ahead than we were this time last season.
And, aside from our league position, another very different factor makes me feel extra optimistic about the season – and the future for Ipswich Town.
Have a think about the number of young players we have blooded this season. Have there ever been as many quality young (20 and under) talents coming through the ranks in recent memory? Have there ever been as many with such great promise?
Connor Wickham is the player everyone (inside and outside the club) has been talking about. But he is only the tip of an iceberg – Hyam, Eastman, Lambe, Murray, Brown, Ainsley have also been given opportunities, while Smith and O’Connor have also come through in the last couple of years. It is a strong statement about the future of the club.
Of course, any perception about our club these days is inevitably connected to your attitude to Roy Keane. Whether you are a Keane “inner” or Keane “outer”. I’ll declare my hand in this – I am a Keane supporter, not a fan – I will support him while he is manager of my club, but reserve my right to criticise if he makes mistakes, as he clearly has in 18 months at the club (and which he, to his credit, openly acknowledges).
Should Roy Keane take any credit for this rush of new talent into the first team? He doesn’t, after all, have any claim to the development of players through the academy over the past few years. Many of the youngsters we are producing right now were, after all, signed when Magilton was first team coach and Bryan Klug was overseeing our youth development.
But Town’s problem, until recently, has been our willingness and, maybe, ability to usher young players into the first team, unhurried, without burdening them unduly with the pressures of first team football. To his credit, Keane seems to be achieving some success in this – it is, of course, early days, but the signs are good.
And giving young players a chance in the first team is one thing, just one part of the equation – giving them the confidence to flourish is another thing entirely.
Anyone who saw Ronan Murray at Watford on Tuesday will have seen a player brimming with confidence, despite coming up against older, more experienced midfielders and defenders. The same could be said of Reggie Lambe’s performance in the second half against Millwall in the Carling Cup.
And, of course, Hyam’s performances in the first month of the season surprised all but the most informed Ipswich fans, with their maturity and tenacity. Should Keane and his team take some plaudits for this? Of course they should.
Also, balancing the inevitable clamour for young players to play week in week out, 46 league games a season, at the age of 18/19, is clearly not sensible. And Keane and co are resisting this temptation too.
The argument is that we should warn against burn-out – mentally, as much as physically – and that is understandable. These are young players, with energy to spare, but low on mental toughness and (Wickham aside) physical strength. They won’t be able to play 46 league matches this season. They have to be swapped in and out. That is eminently sensible and is a policy which is more likely to produce benefits as the months and years pass.
It can be frustrating as well, of course. I can’t help but wonder what our team might be like if we started regularly with Lambe, Hyam, Murray and Wickham in key positions, surrounded by more experienced campaigners like Norris, McAuley, Scotland and Edwards.
To me, that sounds like an exceptionally exciting prospect – although maybe it is more realistic in a year or two, once these youngsters have a season or two under their belts, a little experience to go with their precocious young talent.
Until then, we have to remain patient. But we must also recognise the seeds of a bright future at Portman Road.
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