‘I can win it, 100%’ - FIFA talent Blunden plans to lift the Quaran-Team Cup for his beloved Blues
There may be no actual football happening until at least April 30 – but Ipswich Town’s long wait for silverware could soon be over at last.
Depending on how you look at it, the Blues have not lifted a trophy since either the 2000 play-off final - does that count? - or their triumph atop the old Second Division back in 1992.
And regardless of the coronavirus-imposed league suspension, they weren’t going to be holding anything aloft this season either.
Step forward Josh Blunden. With physical football closed down for at least the next month and a bit, the 18-year-old is now the man to whom all Town fans can look to for a chance to finally win something - in the digital football world.
To fill the soccer-shaped hole in fans’ lives, and raise a bit of cash, Leyton Orient have organised a massive 128-team FIFA 20 tournament - the Ultimate Quaran-Team Cup, see what they’ve done there? – and the Blues have selected Blunden as the player to repesent them in it.
It’s a wise choice, to be fair - Blunden is currently the 257th ranked FIFA player on the planet, and has been inside the top 100 so far this virtual season. He’ll start the tournament with an away trip against the Melbourne Victory, the side Jim Magilton once coached, this Sunday evening. The games, played on the Playstation 4, will be streamed live on Twitch.
And the chance to represent his beloved Blues is a dream come true for Blunden, who works for Evolve Financial Solutions in Brightwell and lives near Framlingham.
He said: “I reckon I can win it, 100% - I want to do the best I can for Ipswich, that means a lot to me. I just hope I can perform now!”
Of his journey to become one of the world’s top players, Blunden – a season ticket holder in the Sir Bobby Robson Stand – said it all began with a simple goal - to beat his friends.
“I’ve been playing since FIFA 08,” he explained. “I used to do career modes with Ipswich until about FIFA 16, trying to win the Champions League and Premier League.
“Then in high school I was playing FIFA 17 against my mates and I was losing five or six-nil most games. I thought ‘I’m not having that any more, I’m going to train myself up so I can not only win, but demolish them.’
“I’ve done that over the last couple of years, and this year I’ve been beating them six, seven, eight, nine, even ten-nil!”
That success, plus his climb up the global ranks of the game, has not come easy. Just like his Ipswich Town heroes in the real footballing world, Blunden has to put the hours in on the (virtual) training pitch.
“Most days I spend at least three to four hours after work training,” he said. “At weekends it’s the same, if not more.
“That’s basically matches and playing against people of my own standard. I analyse my game too, so I’ll play a game, record it and watch it back. It all helps.”
Now Blunden stands on the verge of pulling on his beloved blue and white, and putting a smile back on fans’ faces in what are extraordinary, unprecedented times.
“I saw that Leyton Orient had tweeted about the tournament and Ipswich saying they were in, “ he explained. “I thought, ‘that has to be me’ and commented on the post, which got lots of retweets and likes, and then the club contacted me.
“I’m confident I can take Town far in the competition. The first round is tricky because the guy playing for Melbourne is a similar standard to me. After that, there are players doing it just for fun, some are taking it seriously and some teams have footballers playing for them.
“I’ve been practicing quite a lot anyway, but now I’m putting 100% of my efforts into this.
“I can win it, absolutely. I’ve played a lot of the top guys before. They’ve beaten me, and I’ve beaten them - no-one stands out among the field.
“I just want to say a big thank you for all the messages of support I have been receiving the past few days – it really means a lot and I hope I can perform and progress far, or even win the cup for Ipswich!”
JOSH’S TOWN XI
This is the team and formation Josh plans to field against Melbourne on Sunday....
Back four: Vincent-Young (RB), Chambers and Woolfenden (CB), Garbutt (LB)
CDM: Huws, Downes
Wingers: Lankester, Jackson
“I’m still experimenting with Will Keane too,” he said. “Judge and Lankester are my favourite players to use.”
JOSH’S TOP FIFA TIPS
1) Practice, practice, practice.
2) Look skills up
3) Watch tutorials
4) Ask him for advice
FOLLOW JOSH ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Twitter and Instagram: @_Joshhhh9_