A tale of two young midfielders - but Downes and Dozzell are heading in different directions
The last time I moonlighted as a football reporter, I walked out the ground shaking my head, writes Dave Gooderham. How could someone be so foolish at the end of such a meaningless game?
In the proceeding 89 minutes or so of the pre-season friendly at the Abbey Stadium, Flynn Downes had shown all the reasons why Luke Chambers reportedly thinks the midfielder is the best at the club.
Downes was tenacious, determined, box-to-box, simple and careful when he needed to be, fearless at other times. He acted like the type of player you needed in a relentless and no-nonsense League 1 campaign.
Then he headbutted someone. An act of stupidity, although after what was a rather dangerous tackle it must be said. I left wondering if the real Flynn Downes could stand up. Could he make his mark - the right mark - in the heart of Ipswich Town's midfield or would his aggression continue to boil over and leave him as a marked man and one that couldn't be trusted?
A quarter into the season and I think I have my answer. And if I was unsure, I only have to check the stats. Ipswich have only lost two games all season - and Downes was absent from both.
When he entered the first team fray, he looked a player from the start. He may not have had the silky touches of Andre Dozzell but he imposed himself on games, ignoring the fact that he was one of the youngest on the pitch.
A loan spell at Luton ensued, and it was probably the right decision for his own development even if it sometimes seemed wrong from an Ipswich perspective.
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Fast forward to present day and Downes is simply undroppable. The fact that he and Cole Skuse have been ever present in an ever-changing team says it all. Downes returned to the side against Southend on Saturday afternoon and we soon stopped talking about how big a blip it was and a new manager bounce. Flynn was back and Southend didn't stand a chance.
The worrying thing is that the better Downes does, and likewise his club, the more likely scouts will circle. I don't envisage this happening in January. I'd hope pretty much every Town player realises they have a job to do and that won't end until May.
But whether we get promoted or not, Downes will be on the radar and a move to a higher end Championship side or even a Premier League club would be difficult to resist for both employee and employer alike. Let's enjoy him while we can folks as he may not be around too much longer.
This is actually a tale of two young midfielders. As while Downes' star continues to ascend, Dozzell's form continues to be a source of huge worry. The precocious 20-year-old has had chances, but he is yet to impose himself on the League One scene.
You could understand this a little if he was man marked or smothered by a narrow opposition, but in truth the problems over performance seem simply down to Dozzell and Dozzell only.
No one knows what is going on in his mind, a crisis of confidence perhaps. But one has to hope manager Paul Lambert can find the right words to help Dozzell find his spark. Getting him back firing doesn't hold the key to Ipswich getting promoted.
At present, we seem to have more than enough to sustain a challenge. But every Town fan, for every reason, should want to see Dozzell truly fighting for a place alongside Downes.
MORE: 'If Ipswich and Wycombe hadn't played Bolton's youth team we might have been top' - Posh boss Ferguson on League One table
As I write these words, comments from Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson surfaced about their own start to the campaign and how his hugely impressive Posh side could be even higher than their current third position. In a headline writer's dream, Ferguson pretty much claimed that Peterborough would be higher than Ipswich if the latter hadn't played Bolton's youth team in August.
I understand Town fans' accusation of sour grapes - which followed similar claims by Peterborough's outspoken owner Darragh MacAnthony - but you have to say they have a point. After Ipswich beat the Bolton kids 5-0, I did wonder how others in the league might look at it once Daryl Murphy replaced Ronan Darcy for the Wanderers.
I know we would all feel, and state, exactly the same views had they been the 'victims'. But the overriding thing here is that Bolton supporters still have a football team to cheer on.
And I would be hugely surprised if the events at the Macron Stadium a full eight months before the season ends will make any bearing on the final league table.
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