Opinion: The Three Keys

In this week’s column, Matt looks at three players who could play a big part in any success Town have this season.

It’s common knowledge that Town have an inflated squad. With youngsters pushing into the first team and senior pros desperate to better themselves, Paul Lambert has a huge task of keeping everyone happy. It’s abundantly clear that ‘consistency’ is the word of the hour and with Lambert challenging each player to ‘keep the shirt’ it will be interesting to see who rises to the challenge, and who fails to complete the task. 

This week, considering Town’s most recent displays whilst looking ahead to the rest of the season, I am going to pinpoint three key individuals that could make the difference for Town this season. There’s huge pressure to make this season successful and whilst the talents of KVY, Jackson, Downes and Woolfenden are common knowledge, I want to look at three other players that could hold the key to a season of glory. 

Stephen Ward

I’ll admit, I had my doubts about Ward when his name was mentioned on the transfer rumour mill. It’s very difficult to get excited about a 35-year-old at the end of his career, but his first few displays for Town have been exemplary. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he has been the most impressive player for Town over the last few games. His maturity and professionalism on the ball have set a perfect example to the younger players and his presence across the backline has been particularly impressive. 

The biggest gamble with Ward is his fitness: can he play a full season? Whilst I’m doubtful that the answer is yes, simply having someone of his stature around the club should help massively. Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse have been tasked with setting an example to the younger players and Wards arrival allows that burden to be lifted slightly. Hopefully, Ward can spend a valuable year at Portman Road, nurturing the young players whilst turning in impressive performances. 

Old doesn’t necessarily mean incapable and whilst Ward may not be winning any 100 metre sprints against League One wingers, he certainly knows how to outsmart them and use his years of experience to his advantage. If he can stay fit, he will provide the perfect contrast to KVY and could play a huge role in Town’s promotion push. 

Andre Dozzell

Dozzell was a forgotten man last season. Bafflingly, underperforming senior players were being selected ahead of him and whilst some of his performances left a lot to be desired, there is no doubting his capability on the ball. His eye for a pass and intelligence in the centre of the park are a huge asset to Town and he could be a surprising star of the new season. 

Of course, he’s not yet the complete article. Lambert wants to drop him into the holding midfield role, placing him in front of the defence. Naturally, Dozzell will take time to adapt to this new position but his performances against Bristol Rovers and Wigan prove that he is more than capable of stepping up to the challenge. Whilst the Flynn Downes saga rumbles on, this is the perfect chance for Andre to prove himself. As an academy graduate, he’s bound to grow into a fan’s favourite and Town can count themselves lucky that they can replace the talented Downes with a luxury player like Dozzell. 

The ideal scenario is to see Dozzell playing alongside Downes in Town’s midfield, but if Crystal Palace are destined to secure Flynn’s signature, Town need to ensure Andre’s future in the first team. This season offers a real chance to shine and with the likes of Bishop and Woolfenden stepping up, I see no reason why Dozzell cannot do the same. His range of passing and impressive tackling ability make him the perfect midfielder, one that could have a huge impact on Town’s promotion hopes. 

Alan Judge 

There was a huge buzz around Portman Road when Judge signed, little over 18 months ago. Tricky, agile and an eye for a goal, Judge was the goalscoring midfielder that Town were crying out for. Fast forward a year, things hadn’t really worked out. There was talk of transfers, the player was unsettled, and Judge barely kicked a ball in pre-season. All of those elements affected his capabilities on the pitch, and we thought we might never see the Alan Judge who performed so well for Brentford. 

However, this season looks a little different. Judge and his family are settled in the area and with no sign of a ROI international call-up, the Irishman was able to focus on club football and settle into a full pre-season with Paul Lambert’s side. The results are clear to see. Judge is far from the best player in the Town side and whilst I wince when I see him playing on the wings, I must remind myself of the quality he possesses. I would argue that there is no better dead-ball specialist in the league, with Judge finally finding the quality in his free-kicks and corners. His performance against Bristol Rovers was fantastic, with the tricky Irishman able to drift inside and find central positions, giving him the license to play shorter, quicker passes. 

Judge might not end up as the player of the season, but his contributions may prove vital. His impact on the flank can’t be likened to that of Edwards or Sears, but his range of passing and stunning accuracy make him the perfect supply line for Jackson, Norwood, Hawkins or Drinan. We simply haven’t seen enough from him yet, but I can see clear signs that, this season, we are finally going to see the best of Alan Judge!

Whilst my picks may be unconventional and may proven to be flawed by the end of the campaign, I am hopeful that these three men can step up and make the difference. As I said before, KVY, Woolfenden, Norwood, Jackson and Downes (if they stay) will likely have the biggest impact this season, but the three aforementioned players have a huge chance of stamping their mark and proving their quality. Town have a huge squad and it is vital that the cream rises to the top and players start to show the quality that we all know they have. Each one of these players could be easily replaced by a fellow professional waiting to pounce on their opportunity, therefore it is vital that the whole team pulls together and finally showcases the quality to take us back to where we belong. 

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!

Images: Richard Calver / TOTT

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