Lankester: Great to See So Many Academy Graduates in the First Team
Thursday, 11th Mar 2021 13:43
It won’t have escaped Town fans’ attention that new boss Paul Cook’s starting line-up for his first home game in charge – Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Lincoln – featured no fewer than five outfield players who all progressed through the club academy.
One of them, Jack Lankester, was delighted to make his first start of 20121 alongside the familiar faces of Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell, Teddy Bishop and Myles Kenlock, all academy graduates whose ability has seen them gain valuable experience under a succession of managers.
Lankester, at 21 the least experienced of the group, said: “I have played with Andre and Flynn more or less the whole time I have been at the academy so it’s great to be in the team and sharing the pitch with them at first-team level.”
And the Bury St Edmunds-born midfielder is also delighted that good friend and fellow academy graduate Tristan Nydam, also 21, is now fit and looking to challenge for a first team call-up, something he last had almost two years ago as a second-half substitute in Town’s 2-0 Championship defeat at Brentford in April 2019.
Nydam, born in Zimbabwe and raised in Colchester from the age of 10, was only 17 when he made his senior debut in Town’s 2-0 win at Luton in a League Cup tie in August 2017, and he was also capped by England at both U18 and U19 levels that same year.
He clocked up a further 19 appearances in the 2017/18 season, and in August 2018 headed north of the border for a loan stint with Scottish Premiership club St Johnstone, returning to Portman Road in January and only making the one Town appearance, at Brentford, before the ends of the season.
It was in July 2019 that Nydam sustained a serious injury, fracturing his ankle and damaging ligaments in a pre-season friendly at Notts County, and he has yet to return to first-team duty, although he recently made his comeback in a recent U23 fixture when Lankester was among his team-mates.
Lankester added: “To play in that U23 game and being a close friend of his, plus playing alongside him for years, I was really buzzing for him. For the time he was on the pitch that day I would say he was the best player out there. To come back after such a long time out, and straight away show the same ability, he deserves all the plaudits.
“He got injured at a time when I was doing my rehab, which meant I was there at the start of his recovery.
“We should all be admiring him for the way he has worked at getting back. It was a really horrible injury but he has come out the other end and for him to come back and play his first game as if he had been playing all season was remarkable. He deserves all the credit he gets.
“Tristan is such a very good player and he’s showing everyone that. I would go as far as saying he is one of the best I have ever played with as we came through the academy. He was cementing his place here when we were in the Championship and he’s a very competitive guy.”
Talking of young colleagues, Lankester is also in regular contact with fellow midfielder Brett McGavin, who is currently on loan at Scottish Championship outfit Ayr United - who named former Crystal Palace and Leeds man David Hopkin as their new manager earlier today - alongside another Town youngster in defender Corrie Ndaba.
Lankester said: “Brett is a long way from home so it’s probably quite hard for him. He’s a local lad like I am and he’s used to being among family. He says it is a great learning curve and hopefully he makes a few more appearances up there before returning to show everyone what he can do back here.”
Finally, Lankester also revealed that he was not close to making a loan move as the January transfer deadline loomed, despite Salford City having shown interest. He said: “There’s always talk and obviously that was at a time when I wasn’t playing in the first team.
“My main focus was getting games, wherever that might have been, but things have changed. I’m back in the side and this is where I want to be playing my football and I got that chance on Tuesday.
“I didn’t really talk about a loan and I don’t have an agent either. I just get on with it and when someone mentions something I take whatever action I want to take. I wasn’t informed of any potential loan moves so I was just training as usual.”
Photos: Matchday Images/Werner Scholz
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