Kenlock's been cut loose by Town but leaves as part of exclusive club
- Credit: Pagepix
Myles Kenlock is part of a unique Ipswich Town club.
His time with the Blues is over, following his release, but he played his way onto a list including only nine others during his seven seasons in the Ipswich first team.
He made 103 appearances in a Town shirt, making him one of only 10 players to graduate from the club’s academy and go on to reach a senior century.
That puts him in a list alongside the likes of Darren Bent, Tommy Smith, Owen Garvan, Danny Haynes, Teddy Bishop and its most-recent member, Luke Woolfenden.
It’s a great achievement.
But it’s probably fair to say Kenlock won’t be remembered in the same way many of those players are.
There are a number of reasons for that.
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Despite bursts here and there, he never truly established himself as a long-time starter under any of his four permanent managers. Five if you include Kieran McKenna.
He was playing in teams which, as every season passed, slipped further down the standings and doesn’t have the goals, highlight moments or memorable performances which will make him stand out.
But, more often than not, he was a dependable performer when called upon. He certainly wasn’t spectacular or consistent enough, though.
That’s why every Ipswich manager who has had Kenlock in their squads has looked to sign someone to play ahead of him at almost every turn.
Jonas Knudsen was the incumbent when Kenlock broke into the picture, alongside right-sided colleague Josh Emmanuel, at the beginning of 2015/16.
There would be no way past the Dane under Mick McCarthy, with Knudsen the nailed-on starter during a three-year period which ultimately took him to the 2018 World Cup in Russia with Denmark.
Kenlock made 37 appearances under McCarthy as a sporadic replacement, helped by a shoulder injury suffered by Knudsen at the end of 2016/17, before playing just six minutes of football under Paul Hurst.
It’s under Paul Lambert he made his biggest chunk of appearances, profiting from Knudsen’s vanishing act from the Ipswich first-team as contract discussions stalled at the end of 2018. Kenlock started 18 games in the final months of Town’s time in the Championship but only after the signing of Callum Elder was tried and failed, as the Aussie struggled and then suffered an injury.
That all led Lambert to declare Kenlock to be in ‘pole position’ for a starting job in League One, but the defender wasn’t able to convert his grid position into a chequered flag.
He did begin the season as a starter but, once new signing Luke Garbutt dropped back from the left wing to left back early in the season, Kenlock was out of the side and started just one league match after September.
Josh Earl was brought in ahead of him in January, with Garbutt dealing with injuries, and once the two loanees’ time with the Blues ended it was Stephen Ward who was brought in over Kenlock. The theme continued.
He barely featured in the first half of the season as Ward performed well but, when the veteran’s form fell away, Kenlock came into the side and arguably had his most consistent run of form despite Lambert’s side’s struggles. The Scot was sacked in February of 2021, of course.
It felt like his replacement, Paul Cook, quickly made up his mind on Kenlock, with the academy graduate quickly dropping out of the side after starting his first four matches. He returned only once the decision had been made for Ward to stand down, in order to avoid triggering a new contract due to an appearance clause.
And so Kenlock, still under contract, was consigned to the Ipswich bomb squad, training and playing with the Under 23s while Cook and Mark Ashton built a new team without him last summer. Matt Penney, Hayden Coulson and Dominic Thompson were all signed to play ahead of him, with Kenlock not registered and therefore ineligible for League One matches.
He did return, against the odds, to four matchday squads in cup games, with Cook suggesting Kenlock’s professionalism and the fact he had ‘not been any trouble’ played a part in those decisions. He played twice, but that’s where his Town career ended as he joined Colchester on loan in January to see out his deal.
We saw enough of Kenlock to feel like we knew his game, both in terms of strengths and weaknesses, but in more optimistic moments we maybe felt he wasn’t given enough consistent gametime to iron out his issues.
At his best, the 25-year-old can get up and down the left flank, defending well enough and getting himself into good attacking positions. His trademark ‘chop’ inside proved very useful in attacking situations at times and he has also been able to produce some good assists over the years. His pin-point diagonal ball for James Norwood at Hull, in the final days of Lambert, is a standout moment.
But he certainly had weaknesses. Like so many Ipswich full backs in recent years, getting tight to stop crosses was a problem for long spells. He has also had games where he’s been out-muscled on the flanks or has allowed attackers far too much space in behind him.
So, what next?
Well, Kenlock’s loan to Colchester is the first of his career and it’s gone fairly well. He’s scored three goals in 20 games and it would be no surprise if the U’s made his deal permanent this summer. They do like a signing from Ipswich, after all.
If that’s not the destination, he’s surely done enough to earn a deal somewhere in League Two, where he will truly need to get his career going again as he integrates into a new dressing room, away from the safe waters of Ipswich Town’s Playford Road base.