No go for Bow

DEAN Bowditch is the living proof that you can put an old head on young shoulders.His birth certificate may confirm he is 18, but you only need a few minutes in the Ipswich star's company to establish that he is mature beyond his tender years.

By Mel Henderson

DEAN Bowditch is the living proof that you can put an old head on young shoulders.

His birth certificate may confirm he is 18, but you only need a few minutes in the Ipswich star's company to establish that he is mature beyond his tender years.

For example, listen to him on the subject of a situation that may very well arise - a big-money attempt to lure him away from Portman Road.

Bowditch said: “I really can't see me leaving here and if I do go it will be a few years yet. I like it here and enjoy it here. More than anything, I want to be here.

“I have been here a long time, since I was ten, and the way I look at it Ipswich have invested a lot of time and effort on me and now I am paying them back.

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“If I did leave - if Ipswich accepted an offer I wouldn't have a lot of choice but to go - I would probably be stuck in the reserves somewhere.

“I don't want that. I want to be playing and even if I'm not doing it week in, week out, here at Ipswich, I'm learning and improving all the time.

“I am just like every other player. I want to play at the highest level and if I do it with Ipswich, so much the better. That's what we are striving for at the moment and it's what I have been dreaming of for years.”

Just a few weeks ago, an uninformed Liverpool fans' website claimed Bowditch had told friends he would be heading for Anfield in January, when the transfer window re-opens.

The England Under-19 star recalled: “My girlfriend rang after spotting the story on the internet and she asked me 'What's going on?'

“I hadn't a clue what she was on about and I still have no idea where the story came from. It was complete rubbish, but the trouble is that some people read it and believe it.”

His ability apart, Bowditch is a breath of fresh air at a time when the reputation of the modern-day footballer continues to suffer.

When Craig Bellamy was substituted at Charlton on Sunday, for example, he clearly swore in the direction of Newcastle boss Graeme Souness.

Maybe not surprising, given the Welsh firebrand's previous record, but you won't see Bowditch staging his very own action replay of that distasteful incident.

He vowed: “I'll never do a Bellamy. All players are disappointed when their number comes up and it also happened to me at the weekend.

“I know it will happen again in the future, but I hadn't had a single shot on target against Burnley and had to accept I wasn't my usual self.

“Bellamy is a feisty lad but there was no need for him to mouth off like that. I can't see what good it does and there are times when you just have to accept that the manager knows best.”

Town boss Joe Royle is nursing Bowditch along, as he has done countless others during a successful management career spanning 22 years.

And the player appreciates it, adding: “I've been told I will be in and out for a while, which I understand. The manager knows what he is doing and I don't have a problem with it.

“I can feel I am progressing. I'm getting stronger and I've never been fitter, but I also know I'll never be a giant physically. That's why I don't see myself as an out and out striker.

“I'm not going to be an Alan Shearer, with the power to hold people off. I prefer to drop off, get the ball and turn to run at defenders.

“I want to score more goals and I feel I'll have to be a bit more selfish. There was a time on Saturday when I passed the ball, when really I should have just had a go and hoped for the best.

“Next time I'm in that situation I can promise I'll do things differently. But that's what experience does for you in terms of learning from mistakes.

“I feel I'm now more in control of my own game. I've matured as a player, to the extent that I'm making more and more of my own decisions.

“I have more mental strength, which means knowing which positions to take up and what decisions to make on the spur of the moment.

“I want to be the best I can be, but it needs experience to make you the finish article. When you look at top players like Thierry Henry and Teddy Sheringham, they have played hundreds and hundreds of games.”

Sheringham is the player Bowditch hopes to emulate, but it was Arsenal star Dennis Bergkamp to whom boss Royle compared him recently.

It was a massive compliment for which the youngster was grateful, but he doesn't kid himself that he is anywhere near that level just yet.

With Darren Bent hoping to prove his fitness in time, Bowditch cannot even be sure of a place in Royle's starting line-up at the Walkers Stadium this evening.

He said: “If Benty is fit I would like nothing better than to partner him up front. We played together at youth level and we work hard for each other, as well as understanding each other's game.

“Without being disrespectful to Shefki and Pablo, it is sometimes difficult to communicate with them, whereas I always feel that Darren and I are on the same wavelength. I don't know what the manager is going to do but when he makes his decision I'll just get on with it, whether I'm in or out of the team.”

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