Hawkins: Brilliant Start From All the Boys
Sunday, 27th Sep 2020 17:25
Striker Oli Hawkins was pleased to pick up an assist on his full league debut for the top-of-the-table Blues in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Rochdale and felt he was unlucky not to score having hit the post, seen a header brilliantly saved had having had another effort cleared off the line.
Hawkins, who joined Town in the summer having left Portsmouth, had previously started only the Carabao Cup tie against Fulham and had made sub appearances in the two games against Bristol Rovers, one in the cup and last week’s league match, prior to Saturday.
The 28-year-old is delighted that his new club has made such a good start, picking up nine points from their first nine to climb to the top of League One.
“Brilliant start from all the boys - three 2-0s, three clean sheets, three wins,” he said. “They’re the starts you look for and now we’re focused game-in, game-out that that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Reflecting on his display against Dale, he said: “I’m really pleased, firstly with the win, secondly that I was able to get an assist for Ted [Bishop]. And then thirdly as a striker having had a lot of chances.
“I know I was unlucky not to score but the chances were there for me and if the chances keep coming I’ll eventually score one and once the first one goes in, which is the hardest one, then hopefully I can start scoring more.”
The one-time Dagenham & Redbridge striker admitted he thought he’d scored when his first-half header seemed goal-bound until brilliantly saved by Rochdale’s 18-year-old on-loan Manchester City keeper Gavin Bazunu.
“I was very confident going into today’s game that I was going to score and when the goalie made the save I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
“And then I had the left-foot shot which hit the post and then after that I was thinking it might be a bit trickier to get this first goal.
“But, as a striker, you’ve got to stay patient and at the end of the day I was able to get an assist and for me assists as just as important as goals, as the type of player I am, and I’m happy I was able to do that and start the 1-0 off.”
Hawkins says scoring the first goal at a new club is always important: “As a striker, you want to score. As soon as that first goal goes in then you’re relaxed.
“I see the first goal as like an initiation song when you go to a new club. Once you do it, afterwards you feel really relaxed with the players, you feel really comfortable.
“With me it’s the goals. Once I score one, then I can relax and know that there will be plenty more to come and there will be more chances to come.
“As long as I can stay patient with it and keep getting in the box and keep getting in the areas, it will happen.”
The Ealing-born frontman’s inclusion was the only change from the team which started and won 2-0 at Bristol Rovers last week but he says he wouldn’t have been too shocked if manager Paul Lambert had stuck with the same side.
“Don’t get my wrong, I would have been the first person to say ‘Keep the same team, keep the winning team’,” he said.
“Nors [James Norwood] did really well last week. I know when we made the changes we ended up winning 2-0 but I don’t know if that was anything to do with it.
“But I was pleased when I was named in the starting XI and all I wanted to do was show what I can bring and what I can do and help the boys to get the wins.”
Hawkins says the central striking role in a front three suits him having played there at Pompey.
“Previously when I was at Portsmouth for three years we predominantly played with one up front, so I’m used to it,” he continued.
“As a big, tall striker, as long as you’ve got really creative players around you and players who run off you, it will always benefit me and also the team. So, I do enjoy playing that system and hopefully there’ll be more to come.”
At 6ft 5in tall his height is an obvious asset, but he says he also likes the ball played in to feet.
“I don’t want to be predominantly seen as a massive head on a stick or a target man. I do like it to feet,” he said.
“It may not be my strongest point but I will always try and come to feet and try my hardest to help our team out and if they want to play the ball to feet more than in the air, then I’m there, if they want to play it more to my head I’m there as well.
“It’s just working out, especially early days with myself having just joined the club, what’s best for the team and what’s the best way to get the best out of me.”
Hawkins also operated as a centre-half at Portsmouth and he played his part defensively on Saturday from set pieces.
“I think I came here on the back of a few centre-half performances at my previous club, so it’s well known that the defensive part of my game is going to be vital in a long season because I will look to head everything out in the six-yard box and defend as much as I can when I’m back there for set pieces,” he said
“It will be good for me to be back there and help out the team, but predominantly a striker and you want to be on the end of anything scoring goals.”
He says Lambert is aware that he can play at the back and they spoke about it when he joined but he sees himself primarily as a striker.
“It would have been a conversation when I first met the gaffer that it was at the back of his mind that I can play centre-half,” he said. “Lucky for me, we’ve got brilliant centre-halves here and a lot of them, and we’ve also brought another youngster [Mark McGuinness] in.
“It’s more that I’m an emergency centre-half. If we had no centre-halves or people suspended, then I’d hold my hand up and say I could do a job there.
“But for me here at Ipswich Town Football Club, I’m predominantly a striker, being up there as a focal point and just doing as well as I can.”
Going back to the summer following his Fratton Park exit, he says he had little hesitation in joining the Blues once he was aware of their interest.
“Previously when I was at a big club like Portsmouth, I did have a lot of options to maybe go to a lesser team and try becoming like a main striker and looking to play week-in, week-out.
“And then when Ipswich came calling, it was a no-brainer. I want to be at a big club with a big fanbase, I want to be at a club that’s got promotion as their ambition.
“So as soon as I knew there might have been a slight interest I made it my main focal point to try and come here and as we stand I’m here an Ipswich player and just want to do as well as I can to get promotion with them.”
Hawkins has been impressed by the squad he has joined at Portman Road: “I think when you look around everywhere, positions, players off the pitch, players out of the squad, for me there are a lot of ballers, a lot of great footballers and a lot of just all-round good players.
“That’s certainly going to benefit me playing with players like this. I just want to keep going, trying my hardest and hopefully it all works out.”
And he welcomes the competition up front with Kayden Jackson, joint-top scorer last season with 11 along with Norwood, closing in on a return after a groin injury.
“When I first came here I saw the striking options we had and was amazed at how good Kayden is and Nors, and then young Aaron [Drinan] unfortunately got injured but started pre-season brilliantly. I’ve never seen someone like him play so well in the first few pre-season games.
“It’s very healthy, especially in the climate we’re in where there are going to be a lot of games, a lot of quick turnovers.
“Healthy competition is good and it keeps players on their toes and playing their best. Me having those two behind me today and this week made me try my hardest and hopefully got the best out of me out there.
“And vice versa, when they start and I’m on the bench, we’re all fighting for that space in a healthy way and one of us will take it.”
Hawkins says he’s still not quite at full fitness having joined the squad a few weeks into pre-season having been training on his own following his departure from Pompey.
“When I found out I wasn’t staying at Portsmouth, I think it may have been a month and a half or two months where I was really just working out at home doing a few road runs, trying to find a solution and waiting with the wage caps and rumours about Covid and stuff like that,” he recalled.
“It wasn’t a quick turnover and I had to be patient with it and when I did finally come to Ipswich I wasn’t anywhere near where they were, they were three weeks ahead of me.
“I still think I’m a game behind or maybe a week behind now and there’s still a lot more to bring and a lot more training and things to work on, working out how everyone players and how everyone likes stuff.
“It was a tough first month or two to get here and then the first month here just playing catch-up but hopefully I’m almost there.
“I was happy to start today and getting just under 70 minutes is really good for me and good for my fitness and good for me working out how the boys play a lot and the manager’s ways and tactics. I can only get stronger and better and progress with the team.”
He says there’s more to his game than scoring goals: “With me it’s predominantly confidence and the better I am the more my confidence is getting boosted, and from other players and from management staff.
“Today I just felt really confident leading up to the game in the last few days of training and I did try my hardest out there, I almost scored, I got an assist, I felt like I had an OK performance, a good performance.
“For any player, if you know you’re playing week-in, week-out and there’s no pressure to do certain things and you can play your own game, that’s when people play their best games.
“When you might be in the team one week and then out of it the other week, it’s hard to get form, it’s hard to do it.
“But, like I say, with a big season this year, for me it’s important that Ipswich get up this year and I’m part of it and whenever I fit it and wherever I’ll play I’ll be trying my hardest to stay in the team and do well.”
Town’s goals again came from midfield and out wide on Saturday with Bishop and Gwion Edwards each netting their second of the campaign, and Hawkins says it’s important for goals to come from throughout the team.
“I think a promotion side needs more than just one guy scoring 30-odd goals,” he reflected. “I think somebody like Peterborough last season relied on Ivan Toney who scored loads of goals  and unfortunately they didn’t get anywhere near [promotion].
“But as a collective team, if your striker and your wingers and your attacking midfielders are all getting double figures then that for me signals a promotion side.
“As you can see, the start we’ve had, none of the strikers have scored yet in the first three games, but you just know that other people getting goals means that the strikers will eventually score and you’re laughing really.
“The chances are definitely there, we’ll work in training and as strikers we know the chances are there and we know we’ll eventually score.”
Photos: TWTD/Matchday Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 270 bloggers
Climbing Up the Walls by Mullet
The world has undoubtedly changed and with it, until some indeterminate point, football has done too. Not only have we seen another club disappear as the fans of Macclesfield joined those of Bury in being locked out of the game, we might count ourselves lucky to only be locked out of Portman Road for our own good.
A Head in the Right Place by NormEmerges
A nice victory against Wigan, well played the Town, and you achieved it without what many consider our best player. For the second match in a row, Flynn Downes was left out because “his head wasn’t in the right place”.
Pyramid Strong by Mullet
On Friday the members of League One voted by majority to instigate a salary cap. In doing so they not only limit everybody in the division to spending £2.5m per season, but they limit themselves in making the transition to established second tier side or beyond.
We Should Encourage the Club and the League to Stream All Games by rugbytomc
In an ideal world, all League One clubs for next season would take the extra steps of temperature checks at the turnstiles with entry refused for anyone with a temperature and also insist on every fan entering the ground wearing a mask for the entirety of their time in the ground.
Euro Glory for Town by clivebleedingthomas
This was the season in which we had a realistic chance of winning the Treble - it sounds like complete fantasy now, but it happened. Our hopes of FA Cup glory had been finished, along with Kevin Beattie’s career as a Town player, at Villa Park.
Ipswich Town Polls
[ Vote here ]