Aubameyang and Lacazette? I had them in my back pocket! – McGuinness ready to make his mark at Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:29 02 October 2020
Ipswich Town signed young defender Mark McGuinness on loan from Arsenal last week. Stuart Watson spoke to the Republic of Ireland U19 international.
At times when talking to Mark McGuinness you forget he is just 19 years old.
Ipswich Town’s latest recruit speaks with a maturity beyond his years. Take his assessment of training with Arsenal’s first team, for example.
Asked how he fared against top-class strikers like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in practice matches, the 6ft 4in centre-back was confident enough to quip “they’re still in my back pocket somewhere” before adding “I hope they don’t see this!”
A tongue-in-cheek comment of course, but one you sense was also underpinned by an underlying sense of belief in his ability.
This is a young man who has visualised himself ultimately playing for his boyhood club in the Premier League. This is a young man who is comfortable enough to say that he has come to Ipswich ‘to play the majority of games’, to be a leader and that heading is his ‘super strength’.
And yet none of it feels arrogant, brash or cocky.
“My aim is to eventually play at the highest level possible, whether that turns out to be Arsenal or somewhere else, just the top level,” he says.
“My dad was always an Arsenal fan and he was chuffed when I joined them at a young age. I definitely want to play for the first team – that’s my goal – and this move is a good stepping-stone to reaching the highest level.
“But for now I am only focused on Ipswich and helping them to win promotion this season.”
He continued: “I’m a football fan as well as a player and I know all about Ipswich, so I was aware of the club’s history. But I want to know more about it and I look forward to connecting to everybody, the people at the club and the fans as well.
“It’s only a loan spell but I’m fully committed to being an Ipswich player this season and I want to be fully involved in what’s going on.”
McGuinness, on loan from the Gunners for the campaign, was left out of the 18-man matchday squad for last weekend’s 2-0 home win over Rochdale.
James Wilson and Toto Nsiala have formed a central defensive partnership that has kept three clean sheets at the start of the new League One season, while Luke Woolfenden – a player linked to Premier League clubs himself last season – is now fit again following a groin injury.
“I’m not coming here thinking I can just walk straight into the side, definitely not,” said McGuinness. “But I’ll be working as hard as I can in training and breathing down their necks to try to get into the side.
“I want to play as many games as I can and as regularly as possible. I want to get into that routine of playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday and I want to learn as much as possible from the lads here so that I can take it forward with me wherever I go on loan in the future.
“It’s been nice settling in over the past few days. I’ve had a little walkabout and it seems to be a nice town. Hopefully I’ll get my own place soon. It’s only a couple of hours from home, so that’s not a problem. I can do a bit of cooking, so I won’t be living off Pot Noodles!”
He continued: “The training’s a top standard. I’ve been with the first team from time to time at Arsenal and it’s definitely up there in terms of quality and intensity. There’s a similar philosophy between the gaffer here and at Arsenal (Mikel Arteta).
“The style of football Ipswich are playing was an important factor for my development as a player. These days centre-halves are expected to be comfortable on the ball and to be able to play out from the back, and that’s how they want to play at this club.
“In my time at Arsenal I’ve always been encouraged to get on the ball and try to start attacks from the back, but I also love to defend. I like to get my head on the ball, make tackles and clear it. At the end of the day that’s my job.
“Over the last couple of years I’ve been working on the attacking aspect of my heading to make it another one of my strengths.”
Having been a captain at Arsenal through the age groups, McGuinness added: “I think I will continue to be a leader here. I know there are plenty of players here who are older and more experienced than me but hopefully when we’re on the pitch we’re working together.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in this group who will see it as anything but constructive. I hope to bring out those qualities and once I get to know everyone I’m sure it will be very comfortable.
“I’m quite vocal when I’m playing and I see that as one of my strengths. Whether I’m wearing the armband or not it just comes out. I definitely like to lead and be a leader on the pitch.”
McGuinness, who had an operation on his shoulder in January, continues: “There were a few clubs interested in signing me – it’s amazing what a couple of good games can do – but I’m confident this is the right choice for me and will only help me to progress in the game.
“I remember Ainsley Maitland-Niles coming here on loan and he seemed to really enjoy it. I see this as a fantastic opportunity. It’s a great platform, a great club.
“I didn’t actually speak to Ainsley but I did have a chat with Harry Clarke, who plays alongside me for Arsenal after joining from Ipswich (as an academy schoolboy in 2015).
“He doesn’t live too far from me and he had nothing but good things to say about Ipswich. It was good to speak to him because he couldn’t have been more positive.”
He adds: “I’m just grateful that I’ve got such a good loan at a big club sorted out and I can’t wait to get started.
“I’d love to help Ipswich win promotion this season. With the team they have at the moment I think they have a great chance, so to be involved in something like that would be great.
“I just want to pull on the Ipswich shirt now and get out on the pitch to show what I have to offer.”