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Talk of the Town - an exclusive weekly look at Ipswich Town
ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD TOWN CORRESPONDENT MATT PLUMMER DELIVERS HIS WEEKLY THOUGHTS ON THE NEWS FROM PORTMAN ROAD:
What a difference a few days make.
A fortnight ago, intrigue and uncertainty surrounded the future of beleaguered boss Roy Keane.
Depending on which tabloid you read, he was even on the cusp of losing his job if Town lost at Swansea.
A hard-earned draw and two quick-fire wins later, things suddenly look decidedly rosier and it’s largely down to one man – former Colchester schoolboy Connor Wickham.
His performances in both games last weekend were a delight but most pleasing, in the grand scheme of things, was the news he has committed himself to a two-year deal.
Wickham appears to have the football world at his feet and even Town chief executive Simon Clegg admitted there had been approaches from rival sides, presumably from the Barclays Premier League.
But both the player and his family and agent have surely made a sensible decision in sticking at Ipswich.
Clearly, as we’ve already seen, first-team opportunities are there for the taking and if he progresses as everyone hopes and expects, he’ll soon become a big fish in a little pond.
However, it’s about far more than his boundless talent on the pitch.
Half the battle will be in his head, in terms of attitude and application, and that’s why I was so impressed by his first press conference after the Reading game on Saturday.
If I picture myself at 17, I’d have frozen in that situation. Like the proverbial rabbit in headlights, I’d have hated every second of my baptism in front of the media gaze.
Not Wickham. Relaxed, clear, confident and articulate, he spoke the way he plays – with an air of maturity that belied his tender years.
Predictably, the press pack were fascinated by his fairytale scenario and many of the questions centred around things like his family, friends, education and driving lessons (I wish my first car had been an Audi!).
He took it all in his stride and also (as instructed, no doubt) batted away anything to do with his contract and interest from other clubs, saying he left that side of things to his dad and agent.
All in all, it was a very composed, polished introduction to a fundamental part of being a professional footballer – dealing with the media.
His performance for the assembled reporters was as impressive as his display on the pitch, as he’d made a real impact as a second-half substitute against the Royals.
But it wasn’t a patch on the way things went for him at Derby on Monday.
Deservedly in from the start, Wickham was a revelation and clearly man-of-the-match. Astonishingly strong and robust, I remember him setting the tone for his heroics as early as the second minute.
He muscled past his marker, a bruising centre-half, like he was little more than a nuisance or inconvenience and it confirmed once again that he’s more than ready for the rigours of Championship football.
If there were any lingering doubts along those lines, they would have been blown away by Wickham’s injury-time goal at Pride Park.
After twisting past his marker, he raced clear and finished with coolness and aplomb – the perfect end to a special and memorable weekend.
Town’s weekend victories have certainly lifted spirits.
As I’ve said in this column, I was as down-hearted and disillusioned as anyone a few weeks ago and struggling to see what, if any, progress was being made.
Now, thanks to five wins in eight games, the outlook looks so much brighter and fingers crossed that the strong finish continues until May 2.
Clearly, Nottingham Forest will provide one of the biggest challenges of the season tomorrow but, if Town can replicate their performance at Pride Park, it’s not beyond them to pocket three more points in the East Midlands.