The Premier League is back. No fans, social distancing subs and fake crowd noise has been introduced but on the pitch nothing much has changed. Officials are still making almost unbelievable mistakes and David Luiz is a liability. Then there is West Ham.
Nothing much has changed here either with Declan Rice still on the radar of England’s top clubs. It’s no longer a case of if we keep him, it’s more who comes in to replace him. We think we have the answer. Flynn Downes.
Who is Flynn Downes?
Downes is currently playing in League One with one of our old favourites, Ipswich Town but looks set to leave in the summer transfer window. The Tractor Boys’ hierarchy have tried to talk down a possible departure for Downes but a £10m fee was muted by manager Paul Lambert earlier in the season. Realistically, with Ipswich now facing at least another year in the third tier, and in a post covid world too, a bid of half that would probably tempt Marcus Evans into selling. It would, however, enrage Ipswich supporters to see “one of their own" move on for, what is in today’s market, a pretty small fee.
He’s not fit to lace Rice's boots
Let’s get it out there. Flynn Downes is not as good as Declan Rice. Of course, he’s not. He would have played higher than the Championship if he was at Rice’s level. It doesn’t make him a mug though. After all, Rice is one of the brightest prospects in the country. Downes does unquestionably have a pretty bright future too. The Brentwood born youngster, 21, made his breakthrough under Mick McCarthy at the start of the 2017/18 campaign with Ipswich still in the Championship. In the first few months he made 12 appearances in all competitions, including playing the full 90 minutes at Selhurst Park as Town fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. He was expected to kick on in the second half of the season but went out on a surprise loan to then League Two side Luton. Downes excelled for the Hatters earning rave reviews with manager Nathan Jones branding him “outstanding" and likening him to former Tottenham midfielder Ryan Mason. He had England under 19 caps to his name prior to moving to Kenilworth Road and would have gone to the 2018 youth European Championships if it weren’t for Ipswich’s refusal to let him miss pre-season.
The Blues had a reason for wanting Downes, who had just won their Young Player of the Year award, in Suffolk. He was going to play a big part in the upcoming season. He racked up 30 appearances but couldn’t help his club falling to relegation. This season had looked set to be a much brighter one for Paul Lambert’s men as they were the early pace setters in League One. Downes, who became the clubs youngest ever captain during the campaign, was credited with being the driving force of that early season form. An atrocious run of form from Christmas though saw Ipswich fall from first to mid-table and the coronavirus pandemic has meant they won’t get a chance to arrest the slide. However, Downes individual performances show he can do better. The numbers of 2.5 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per match in a highly physical league like League One shows he has the aggression and strength of a Kentucky Derby horse race winner. It means the team won’t have a shot at promotion. Downes, however, will be at a higher level when the 2020/21 season begins.
Style of play
Downes’ game is all about energy – predominantly in a defensive sense. He lives for putting himself about and, despite his slight frame, he doesn’t mind getting in the face of much bigger opposition. Those qualities would quickly endear him to Hammers fans.
It’s not just in the tackle where he shows bravery though. He shows a willing to receive the ball in tight situations. His preferred option is to give possession short, where he has an 84.7% pass completion, but he’s also capable of driving beyond a tackle or two to reduce pressure on his backline.
Who else is interested?
We’ve been quite clear. Downes is destined for things much bigger than League One football. He’s highly rated by the England youth coaches and other Premier League teams are interested. Leeds, who are odds on to make it back to the promised land have expressed an interest previously, which might be firmed up if Kalvin Phillips moves on. Meanwhile Southampton and Newcastle have also reportedly put the feelers out and Arsenal have also been linked. Downes would probably take a little while to adjust to such a big step up but he has tenacity, good ability on the ball and a head that is screwed on. All of that gives him more than half a chance of growing into a very solid Premier League player.