Now representing his eighth team in just three years, it would appear that 23-year old Welshman Tom Lawrence has finally found an environment in which he is able to thrive, having netted ten times for Championship side Ipswich Town this campaign.
Who is Tom Lawrence?
Lawrence is a 23-year old who can play anywhere along the front line, and can also seamlessly place himself in behind the lead striker as a modern day ‘number ten’. He was born in Wrexham before being snapped up by, first Everton, and then his boyhood club Manchester United at the age of just eight.
Having played his way through the age groups, the Welshman made his debut for United’s u18s under the watchful eye of legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson, in a friendly when he was just 15 – immediately making his mark by scoring from the substitute’s bench.
Competing against a host of injuries and a number of recognisable names such as Bournemouth’s Joshua King and Hull City’s Will Keane, now both plying their trade in the Premier League, Lawrence struggled to make an impact after graduating from a highly successful youth spell with the Old Trafford outfit, leading to two relatively unsuccessful loan spells with Carlisle United and Yeovil Town in England’s football league.
Having returned to United at the backend of the 2013-14 season, Lawrence was awarded his first-team debut by interim boss Ryan Giggs, in a 3-1 victory against Hull, before being signed by newly promoted Leicester City on a four-year deal at the end of that calendar year.
Lawrence’s Leicester lows
It would hardly be an unfair criticism of Leicester City and of manager Claudio Ranieri to say that Lawrence’s parent club have yet to even provide him with the opportunity to show what he can bring to this team that has achieved so much since he joined them in September 2014.
In fact, in his three seasons with the East Midlands outfit, the attacker has played just three games, a period in which he has also been loaned out to four different Championship clubs, including three disappointing spells at Rotherham United, Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff City, scoring just three times in 43 appearances.
An Ipswich icon
Returning to Leicester City’s Belvoir Drive training ground to re-join his teammates on the back of their unforgettable Premier League winning campaign last season, Lawrence’s chances in a Foxes
shirt were looking slim, his days at the club all the more limited. That was before Mick McCarthy came calling.
Lawrence joined the Championship’s most consistent club Ipswich Town – now enjoying a fifteenth successive season in England’s second division – at the end of August 2016. Fast forward six months and the fortunes of Leicester and Lawrence could barely be more different, as the former are fearing their Premier League status, while the latter has all but guaranteed his future at that level.
After netting goal number one back in November, this ‘Welsh wizard’ has hardly stopped ever since, banging in nine more for the Suffolk club, the majority of which have been goal of the season contenders.
And the attacker’s efforts has not gone unnoticed by his manager McCarthy, who, when speaking to the Ipswich club website following Lawrence’s latest brace in a 2-2 draw against promotion chasers Reading, illustrated that: “The fans were singing ‘sign him up’. That would be lovely but he wants to play in the Premier League and he’ll do that. I told him he won’t be short of offers.”
With McCarthy also informing the footballing world that Leicester had received offers for the Welshman during the January transfer window, it would appear that Ipswich’s new fan favourite might, to the utter dismay of Town supporters, be plying his trade elsewhere from next season.
Whether Lawrence is ready to shine in arguably the toughest and most spectacular league in the world quite yet remains to be seen, but one thing that is for sure is that Ranieri will have a big decision to make at the end of the season, whether his side are able to secure survival come May or otherwise turn to the kind of firepower that is needed to gain promotion from one of the world’s most gruelling divisions.
Another coach who will undoubtedly be tracking Lawrence’s exploits this season is Wales boss Chris Coleman, who, with the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey both on the treatment table, would be ill-advised to pass up the opportunity to provide his nation’s latest footballing sensation with only a fifth international cap, as they prepare to face Group D leaders Ireland in a crucial World Cup Qualifier next month.
As an Ipswich Town supporter myself, all I am left to say is that you are more than welcome to stay at Portman Road next season, Tom.