‘He just has to trust us’ – Hurst on why making a frustrated Dozzell train with the U23s is not a punishment
PUBLISHED: 17:43 13 September 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town boss Paul Hurst says a frustrated Andre Dozzell must not see training with the Under-23s as a punishment.
The 19-year-old midfielder missed virtually the whole of last season after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury on the opening weekend.
Many expected the England youth international to be a key first team player this campaign after he played a key role throughout pre-season, producing an eye-catching assist against West Ham.
However, he finds himself well down the midfield pecking order with fellow England Under-19 internationals Trevoh Chalobah and Tayo Edun having been brought in on loan from Chelsea and Fulham respectively and Jon Nolan signed from Shrewsbury.
“Andre’s not in consideration for the first team at this moment in time,” said Hurst, who recently said sports science staff had detected ‘physical deficiencies’ in Dozzell as he stepped up his training.
“He’s getting through (Under-23) games and overall the distances he’s covering and that kind of things is fine, but he can’t reach the required levels throughout games.
“He’s working extremely hard, doing the extra sessions provided for him to strengthen that knee and get to the level where we can make a fair judgement on him.
“I will reiterate what I’ve said right from the start, he’s showing a fantastic attitude to get that point. He’s someone I do want to work with and I hope, in time, he gets the rewards his hard work deserves.”
On Dozzell not training with the first team, Hurst said: “(Training with the Under-23s) is sometimes deemed as a punishment – and it might be on some occasions – but generally it’s about doing what’s right for the first team on that given day.
“If I have a squad of 26 players and I want to do 11 v 11 we can’t do that numbers-wise. Do you have two people stood in one position or do you have them stood on the side and swap lads over?
“I want to work with what’s best and that will be fluid in time. Sometimes there will be more injuries than others so nobody will be with the Under-23s group, then others it might be positionally we don’t need certain types and they will be asked to play elsewhere.
“When it comes to gym sessions they are all together, in groups, and the togetherness is there. What we want to try and create is an environment where you have to be at it every day otherwise someone will overtake you and you slip down the pecking order.
“If you only have 16 players that won’t work. Some days we will have all of the group together if we can make it work, but for some sessions we don’t. “Mondays and Tuesdays aren’t too bad but when you get later in the week you want a tighter group to work on things.”
On Dozzell’s physical condition, Hurst continued: “It’s improving and that’s where it’s nice to have some concrete evidence to show we are making progress.
“Every game he plays he should realistically get stronger, but what we had noticed was from pre-season to six, seven weeks in there probably wasn’t a big enough difference compared to the other players.
“Hopefully when I speak about Andre it comes across in the right way. I think I’ve made it clear I think he’s a very good player but I’ve come in to Ipswich and he’s being held up on this pedestal which is not quite right.
“I don’t think he’s had enough games or done enough in his career so far for that. That’s for his own good, not to put too much pressure on a player at the age he’s at.
“There’s no doubt he’s a got talent and ability and I’m sure he’ll have a long, good career. I’m sure of that. But let’s not put too much on him because there are a lot of other good players who have not been in the team or haven’t hit form yet.
“I feel like I’m talking about him a helluva lot and I don’t think that’s particularly good for the lad.”
Confirming Dozzell was frustrated at the situation, Hurst added: “I think that’s part of the battle for him because he wants it instantly and I can relate to that. I’m very fortunate in that I never had an injury that kept me out for a length of time until very late in my career.
“I understand the type of lad he is. A lot of credit to him. Thirty of forty years ago he would have been asked to just get on with it and we would have all applauded him for that.
“But we’re trying to look after an asset for the football club and make sure he comes back stronger and fitter than he ever has been and doesn’t risk that injury.
“The medical team have looked at some things and said he’s more at risk of doing something like that again and that’s what we’ve tried to explain to Andre.
“Yes, he might be a little frustrated at this time but what’s worse? Would you rather get injured again and miss another year? I’d suggest that’s not a good idea to go down that route.
“He’s having to be patient. It’s clear he enjoys his football – more than some others do – and you can see it in him. It’s like he’s a kid who wants to get out on the playground at school because he can’t wait to play football.
“He just has to trust us and understand everything’s in his best interest. I see it as a duty of care for someone we see as a real asset for us.”