Town have 'close to a full-strength squad' as army of injured players make significant progress
- Credit: Pagepix/ITFC
Ipswich Town are getting ‘close to having a full-strength squad’ as the Blues army of injured players continue to return.
Town have been hit badly by injuries throughout the campaign to date and, heading into their 25-day Covid-enforced break from action, had 10 senior players sidelined through a mix of long, medium and short-term problems.
However, with no game since December 15, the break has allowed almost all of those players to make significant progress, with Flynn Downes, James Norwood and Freddie Sears all returning to first-team training.
A further group, made up of Kane Vincent-Young, Gwion Edwards, Jon Nolan, Teddy Bishop and Keanan Bennetts are on the grass working with the club’s fitness team and are pencilled in to return to full training on Monday.
That only leaves Cole Skuse and James Wilson, who are a little further away as they recover from knee injuries.
“Having the extra time has meant we’ve been able to help a few more get back fit without missing any games, which has been really important for us,” assistant manager Stuart Taylor said.
“They are all key players in the team so to have those fixtures put back is perhaps a good thing and hopefully we can keep our full squad fit now for all of those games because the schedule is going to be incredibly tough. It’s something like 18 games in two months, which is unheard of and really demanding.
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“We’re getting back to near-enough a full squad now, which is great news.”
On the progress of individual players, Taylor said: “James Norwood’s been back training and has done a couple of sessions this week while Flynn Downes has done every training day this week apart from one, which was always part of his rehab programme.
“It’s been a positive in that sense and having those two players back has been a lift to the dressing room. Flynn’s character and attitude, along with Nors’, has given the lads a lift.
“Freddie (Sears) is definitely back and was back earlier than Flynn and Nors, so he was probably in contention for the Fleetwood game had it been played.
“He’s come in and looked like he’s never been out which has been a real positive.
“Cole (Skuse) is getting along fine along with Willo (James Wilson) but they’re maybe a little bit away from being on the grass.”
He added: “We’ve got Kane (Vincent-Young), Gwion (Edwards), Bish (Teddy Bishop) Keanan (Bennetts) and (Jon) Nolan on the other pitch working hard with Walshy (fitness coach Tom Walsh) and they’re not too far away.
“Keanan looked really lively and dangerous in the Burton game before he got injured and got his goal, so that injury came at a terrible time for him and for us. I’m sure he’ll pick up where he left off.
“It will be great to have Kane in and about things because of how he was playing before his injury. But that was way back over a year ago now so we’ll have to be patient with him and make sure.
“He came back a couple of weeks ago and then maybe felt it a little bit, hence why he came back out again, but we know what players like him, Gwion and Nolo can bring.
“Up to now this week their programmes have all been good and, if that’s the same over the weekend then fingers crossed they will be training with us on Monday.”
The Blues have scheduled an Under 23 friendly against Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon but there are no plans for any of the club’s returning senior players to be involved at this stage.
Eight Ipswich players tested positive for coronavirus before Christmas, leading to games with Northampton and Wimbledon being postponed, but Taylor says those impacted have responded well after returning to training.
"We needed to make sure the guys were ready to go back in again, which was really important," he said.
"We tried to push them as hard as we possibly could but we didn't know how those players who dad have Covid would respond and how their breathing would be during the endurance part of training.
"Everyone's come through it fine, thankfully and every training day has seen them get stronger as stronger as we've put more demands on them."