12 months is a long time in football.
From being subject of two bids from Premier League side Crystal Palace last summer, Ipswich Town midfielder Flynn Downes now finds himself training with the Tractor Boys’ Under-23s squad, as part of a huge rebuild this summer by manager Paul Cook.
From his comments towards the end of the 2020/21 campaign, you could tell the Liverpudlian was furious about his previous squad and with this, many would have predicted a rebuilding job at Portman Road during this transfer window.
What they may not have expected was the sheer scale of this rebuild, with players continuing to leave Suffolk even up until Tuesday.
Fellow exiled player Teddy Bishop finally sealed a move to League One rivals Lincoln City just over 48 hours ago.
And though Bishop has finally gone along with Jack Lankester, other players training with the Under-23s along with Flynn Downes including Kayden Jackson, Myles Kenlock and Armando Dobra are still at the club and look set to follow Bishop out the door before the end of next month.
This extreme move to demote these players has just been part and parcel of such a big rebuild – but Cook may have made a mistake with Downes this summer as he looks to build a side capable of reaching the Championship.
Although the recent signings of George Edmundson and Conor Chaplin have continued what has been a successful summer so far at Portman Road, with the club bringing in several high-calibre players, their existing squad members from last term will also be vital in helping the new team settle down and gel together.
This makes players like James Norwood, Luke Woolfenden and Jon Nolan imperative to a good start next term and with that, a successful season overall in the 2021/22 campaign.
After putting so much faith in Paul Cook by backing this rebuild, the shareholders will be expecting success on the pitch, reinforcing once again how important the trio are to the manager.
But he should also consider recalling another player from last season in 22-year-old Downes, who could help new signings Rekeem Harper and Lee Evans settle into life in Suffolk – and provide that familiar face in midfield for the Tractor Boys after being a reliable figure for the club over the past three seasons.
He would be on the only familiar faces in there with Andre Dozzell, Emyr Huws, Trystan Nydam, Cole Skuse and recently-departed Bishop all leaving the club since the end of last season.
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The midfielder’s re-emergence could also free up George Edmundson to be solely utilised by the Ipswich boss in central defence, a position they may need to strengthen once more even if the former Rangers man operates there mostly next season.
In fact, their central midfield has also been a hot talking point and with Downes still out of the first-team picture, that’s another area they may need to address even with two new signings in that position.
Recalling Downes would potentially allow Cook to strike one more position to focus on off his list and enable the 54-year-old to place his energy into other targets, something that can only benefit the third-tier outfit with still a bit of transfer business left to do in this window.
This sound crackers considering they welcomed their ninth and ten signings of the transfer window to Portman Road on Tuesday, but the number of players who have travelled in the other direction have made this need to bring in other targets necessary.
They can lighten this load by retaining Downes, giving the first team a major boost by his return and providing the 22-year-old with the opportunity to prove Cook wrong about leaving him out in the cold at the start of the summer.
There will be no lack of appetite to do this, so as long as the midfielder is up for that challenge, why not bring him back?
As it stands, no official bids have been made for the midfielder despite attracting interest from the Championship, so his head is unlikely to have been turned by a specific club in the last few months.
He may have handed in a transfer request last September to try and force a move to Crystal Palace, potentially another reason why they would want to offload him, but he spoke honestly about the situation afterwards and should be given another chance to shine with the Tractor Boys.
And let’s face it, there’s a reason why he attracted interest from a Premier League side.
He has the quality to guide the Tractor Boys back to the Championship after already gaining second-tier experience with the club in the past – and this is exactly why he should be given a second chance.
It’s time for Paul Cook to change his mind on the midfielder – and quickly considering there’s just over a week to go until the new season starts.
Even if he’s left out of the first couple of matches just to get up to speed with a new-look squad, it will be worth it for their season as a whole.