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[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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sonian_blue added 12:41 - Oct 22
Excellent Blog.

I agree with your thoughts and for me the future is bright...and definately Blue and White

tractored added 12:49 - Oct 22
This myth that Keane supporters put out that we are so much stronger than last year is laughable. If we are so strong why are we dependent on our youngsters plus 4 loans and probably another coming. Loads of senior players have left including our best player: Walters now a prem regular. The expensive but useless Martin has been shipped out on loan, no improvement from the expensive and not very good Priskin or the expensive and very average Edwards.

Yes we have more points than this time last year but we have only taken 8 from the last 8 games which is form considerably worse than the in the second half of last season.

Sometimes it is more loyal of a fan to tell the truth than live permanently with the blue tinted glasses on.

Superfrans added 13:17 - Oct 22
Tractored - After 12 matches last season, we were bottom of the division, with 6 points. After 12 matches this season, we are 8th with 18 points. We are also in the last 16 of the Carling Cup, three rounds ahead of where we were knocked out last season.
And you still think we haven't improved?

dirtydingusmagee added 14:50 - Oct 22
there isnt any doubt that we have improved,as table shows,that is GOOD, but recently things have slipped and we are struggling to score goals,and play football for 90minutes.That combined with mystifying tactics by RK ,that is a WORRY,if things dont change the danger is we will continue to slip away from top,6 it takes consistancy to achieve promotion.If a supporter feels he should moan about something so be it, its not everyone that wear rose tinted specs,as many did last season,and kept predicting a surge to the top always starting after next game .People should lighten up a bit ,not take it or make it personal all the time.

Vexorg added 15:23 - Oct 22
Yes, we are definitely better than last season but if we take out the atrocious start when we averaged just 0.6 pts/game (0-8-6 record) our average over the rest of the season was 1.5 pts/game (a 12-12-8 record), exactly the same as this year.

Over a season this would mean 69 points. Not play-off form.

What is alarming is the current downward trend. Granted, it is still early days but we are 2-2-4 since the end-August break = 1 pt/game.

This is obvious relegation form and for those that have been to the games then it is also obvious we are playing like relegation candidates as well.

Hence the concerns appear justified.

tom_the_blue added 17:43 - Oct 22
Great blog, shows how bright the future is at this club, we have got some potentially great players coming through.

SurreyITFC added 19:59 - Oct 22
Great Blog, Whilst we are going through a sticky spell, I am sure we will be up there where it matters come the end of the season.

SouperJim added 18:52 - Oct 24
I've been patient for five years. I backed Jim to the end and I've backed Keane up to very recently. Keane may have finally assembled a decent squad, but we're still no nearer having a decent team. The guy is tactically inept and we are going nowhere fast. Since Evans took over there has been much promise but zero delivery. I pay good money year on year for my season ticket, have seen very little good football since Keane has been here and I think I'm entitled to say enough is enough. If you're not sick of this utter mediocrity by now then you never will be.

Unless he turns it around by xmas, Keane out and a proven manager in.

Calmingwind added 21:03 - Nov 23
i know im posting quite late on this blog - majority of fans now are quite discontent with Roy and the way were now playing football at the moment. im righting this after the weekend of the defeat to Hull, 7 defeats in 10 games and our 3rd on the bounce. however....

i am still excited at the prospects our younger players are... wickam so far has been disapointing this season but i do think hes been over hyped slightly and perhaps this has played heavily on his shoulders.. i still think he will come good. Smith to is coming on leaps and bounds and young hyam i think has surprised everyone. eastman is playing out of position but i still think he will become a good center back if hes alowed to play there, if not at this club then out on loan.

what i would like to see is young shane oconner given a chance at left back as he had a good season last year, and he can get forward. something we have severely lacked from our players playing as full backs this season
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