Opinion: Old Badge, New Legacies
In this week’s column Matt looks back at a fairly busy last seven days at Portman Road which saw the new home kit launched and Luke Woolfenden signing a new long-term deal with the club.
Old Badge, New Legacies
I think it’s fair to surmise that this week has been a pretty positive one. Town finally revealed their new home kit, Luke Woolfenden committed himself to the Tractor Boys and the club finally announced refund options for season ticket holders! As the world slowly returns to something resembling normality, it’s about time we looked ahead to a *hopefully* better, brighter future.
It seemed apt that Town should bring back their classic badge that oversaw FA and UEFA Cup glory, with legends like Wark, Butcher and Mills all proud wearers of such an iconic Town shirt. The homage to the UEFA Cup winning team was a pleasant reminder of how big this club once was and whilst the weight of such legacies could wear heavy on some players, it’s important to remember the legacies that you carry forward.
Some fans, myself included, were baffled at the inclusion of current players like Skuse and Chambers alongside some of the icons of Town’s past in the promotional video for the new kit. It may have provided more material for memes than motivations but it’s vital, now more than ever, that this current crop of Ipswich players step up and write themselves into the rich history of this great club.
The New Generation
Despite all odds, Luke Woolfenden committed himself to the club this week. Some saw his sale as inevitable but despite the financial void left by the pandemic, Town held firm and tied one of their brightest stars down to a long-term deal.
Whilst I am not naïve enough to believe that Woolfenden will stay until 2024, it’s almost certain that he will spend another year gracing Portman Road’s hallowed turf.
His new contract, as well as the new deal signed by Armando Dobra earlier in the summer, represents sensible business and finally allows me to praise some of the behind-the-scenes work being done at Portman Road.
For too long, Town left their contract negotiations until the last minute, leaving the club with a weak hand in the transfer market. However, that appears to have changed this year, with Town finally adopting some of that all-important long-term thinking.
Ultimately, it is the next generation of Town players that will define the next ten, or more, years. The likes of Woolfenden, Downes, Dobra, Lankester, Dozzell and Nydam will all get a chance to write their own legacies.
Before the pandemic, I have no doubt that Town were looking at key areas in which they could invest but now, investment looks less likely than an open forum with Marcus Evans.
Without senior players standing in their way, there is no excuse as to why these rising stars cannot be given the chance they deserve. Dozzell and Nydam both have massive years ahead of them, aiming to finally prove their worth, just like Downes and Woolfenden have done. There are high hopes for Dobra and Lankester and if either man can live up to their billing, Town will have an exciting season ahead of them.
Developing youngsters has always been a major part of Town’s identity and I sincerely hope that Lambert will open his eyes to the breadth of quality in his academy, rather than continually opting to give chances to players who have consistently failed to prove their worth.
A Vital Year
There are no two ways about it, next season is key. With new regulations being introduced to strangle the development of third tier sides, and the cost of the pandemic becoming more clear with every passing day, Town have no choice but to do everything they can to escape this division. Whilst the mix of introducing a new generation in one of your most important seasons could prove a massive risk, it could also create something spectacular.
Despite my usual pessimism, I am excited about next season. The mix of young talent with familiar names is an exciting cocktail that could bring some of that Suffolk buzz back to Portman Road. There’s a real chance that Lankester, Downes, Woolfenden, Dozzell and Nydam could all make themselves home-town heroes, with other youngsters vying for their place in the first team.
Of course, everyone is worried about the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, but Town actually find themselves in a promising position. How many other sides in the football league boast 6-7 academy graduates that will not only contribute to the success of the present, but will also aid the club financially in the future?
Whilst no one likes the thought of losing their finest prospects, we must accept that this is inevitable. This golden generation of young, talented, English stars not only make next season exciting; they also make good reading in the transfer market. Young talent is being snapped up for millions and that is exactly the kind of fall-back deficit that Town need to sustain the long-term future and goals of the club.
The Cost of Failure
Of course, not every road is coated with gold and there is a real chance that Town’s season could sink like a lead balloon. Question marks rise every week over Lambert’s position and with so many better options out there, I am surprised that Town haven’t pulled the trigger on the poor Scot. Marcus Evans is a rich man running a poor club and that is an oxymoron that has led to the last decade of regression. Cutting corners and making costly mistakes will only lead to further disappointment and many fans won’t stand for much more.
A recent article, published by the EADT, detailed the worst-case financial losses due to the pandemic. Ultimately, those numbers are terrifying to any club. Whilst it’s a thought that may concern many, it is only realistic to surmise that Town are hanging on a knife’s edge. Another season of failure would see many fans leave their loyalties at the door and with coronavirus affecting everyone, from fan to owner, the financial implications may last far longer than just the next 12 months.
However, there is hope. The new generation of stars are bursting through the clouds and whilst Luke Woolfenden may not yet be a £20 million centre-half, his commitment to the club is a positive indicator that we are moving in the right direction. With some sensible additions and intelligent integration of Town’s new era, next season could shape up to be one of the most exciting in Town’s recent history. Of course, there are always risks but no matter how far we fall, there will always be fans, like you and I, that will cheer this club back to the triumphs of it’s past.
Our shirt may commemorate the heroes of the past, but it will be donned by the most important generation of Town players that the club has ever seen.
Thank you for reading this week’s column! Feel free to send your thoughts to me (@MattWHF) or to Talk of the Town (@tott_online)! Keep staying safe and I’ll see you next week!