'He's done really well... but he needs a kick up the backside sometimes' - Lambert on Ipswich defender Woolfenden
PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:30 11 September 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert has been impressed with Luke Woolfenden's early-season performances, even if the young defender does need 'a kick up the backside' on occasions.
The academy product has started five of Town's six League One games and has handled the physicality of the league well, winning 80 per cent of his headers and averaging the highest number of interceptions of any player in the division.
He does it all with an air of calm and confidence in his ability and, while Lambert has been impressed with what he's seen, the Town boss admitted Woolfenden does sometimes need reminding of the intensity required.
"He's done well," Lambert said. "Sometimes I think Woolfy needs a kick up the backside at certain times because he's that laid-back, but he's done well.
"Again, he's only a kid and he will have his ups and downs, and the team will have its ups and downs because it's young.
"That's normal, young players make mistakes, we're not overly experienced with players. Young lads will make mistakes, it's a rollercoaster ride I guess but it's exciting.
"I think it's just the way he is. It's his personality, he's laid-back, but as long as it doesn't go too far that way. Once he's in this game for a long time, he'll start to realise what he's involved in."
While Woolfenden has stood up to the physical nature of the league, perhaps the most impressive side to the defender's game is his ability on the ball and a desire to play out from the back.
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"He can do that, but there are times when to do it and times when not to do it, and that will come from experience," Lambert said.
"When he gets older and used to playing, that'll come with experience, he'll know when and not to do it.
"That's the same with any young player that we have, they will make mistakes, they will do great things, but there's got to be that realism of where they are, they're still developing in a lot of aspects in their game."
Woolfenden has only made three league appearances for the Blues prior to this season, having spent a productive campaign in the fourth tier with Swindon Town in 2018/19.
"I think it's been massive for him going out on loan," Lambert said.
"I'm not convinced about the U23 league, and I think going out and playing proper football, real football, brings kids on quicker than their own age group.
"So I think that certainly helped him with it, and that's the benefit of it when you do go out and play real football, it gives the benefit to your parent club."
Woolfenden now faces added competition for a starting spot from the returning Toto Nsiala, who stepped up his recovery from a hamstring injury for the Under 23s on Monday night.
Meanwhile, Ipswich Town midfielder Alan Judge played 60 minutes in the Republic of Ireland's 3-1 victory over Bulgaria in Dublin last night.
Alan Browne, Kevin Long and James Collins scored the goals for Mick McCarthy's men.