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Player in Focus : Flynn Downes, Swansea Independent, Sunday Supplement
Sunday, 26th Sep 2021 11:55 by Keith Haynes

Our Sunday supplement this week gives us an opportunity to get to know Swansea City midfielder Flynn Downes a little better. Since his arrival at the club he has earned himself many new admirers. So this is Flynn Downes, a player who is most certainly going a long way in the game.

Flynn signed for Ipswich Town when he was just seven years old, born in Brentwood, Middlesex Flynn spent ten years at Portman Road before tasting first team football. Actually it could have been very different. For his Ipswich trial his dad Micky could hardly get him out of the car after a drive to Ipswich up the A12 from Brentwood had taken a fair while. “ I was so tired and nervous I felt sick, I just wanted to go home” Flynn remembers. Micky on the other hand roared “ Get out of the car” Flynn did exactly as he was told and impressed Ipswich so much he was signed up. Flynn still has a lot of clarity on that first day, “We came and parked up at the training ground and all the boys were training inside the dome. I could hear them. “But I had slept the whole way up and I threw a bit of a strop because I was so tired and didn’t want to come in. I was tired, a few tears, but my dad told me ‘get up and get in there’.

A pupil at Brentwood school, a renowned area for producing top quality players, he had a lot of support during his school day too. Brentwood’s footballing alumni include: Frank Lampard, the all-time leading goalscorer for Chelsea, where he played for 13 years, and also ex manager of Championship club Derby County and then Chelsea. ; Former Millwall player Neil Harris; Elliot Lee who went on to Luton and Olly Lee who went north to Hearts.

It’s amazing how certain things are the catalyst for Flynn in his career to date, the hundreds of journeys between Brentwood and Ipswich which his dad Micky drove each and every time, and certain figures at Ipswich too ensured his initial success. Flynn recalls “Then Tony (Humes, former Town academy manager) came over and got me and made me feel welcome. I needed him to come and get me otherwise I might have not gone in. When you’re little you just want to do what you want, don’t you? I just wanted to sleep. “But it went well and I trained more and more at Ipswich and I kept coming back.”

Talking to Andrew Warren two years ago Flynn is humble “I went home the other day to Brentwood and got out of the car and there was a boy looking at me,” he said. “He was from Brentwood so I didn’t expect anyone to recognise me, but he kept staring at me so I looked back. Then he was like, ‘Flynn, can I have an autograph?’ And that really shocked me. “I was so shocked by that – it doesn’t happen often. “It’s been a whirlwind really, all a bit mad. But then I still feel the same. “I still love my football, really love it, and everything else that’s come has just been a bonus on that. As long as I still love my football, that’s the main thing”

That was good news for Ipswich Town then and indeed as much so for the swans today.

The aggression and fire admired by so many at Ipswich Town

However, it wasn’t all a bed of roses for Flynn, the demands of training, long journeys becoming more frequent, and then as he got older living away from home began to take their toll. “I think everything that was going on was quite stressful for me and it did take its toll,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect and I just kept going up and up and up but then at some point you have to come down a little bit. I wasn’t making the team and I was feeling tired. “The gaffer was really good with me. He knew how I was feeling in training and everything and could see I wasn’t 100 per cent. We spoke a lot and tried to get it sorted. “There was stuff at home going on and everything was taking its toll on me. But we sorted it. “If your mind is feeling fresh then your body usually follows, but my mind was so tired. I’d wake up and feel tired” His manager at the time was Mick McCarthy, his ability to manage Flynn’s situation was something Flynn recalls fondly. McCarthy eases him through the times he was so tired he couldn’t see an end to how he felt, but over time after rest and recuperation Flynn was back at it as keen as ever to succeed.

“The gaffer asked me after an under-23 game if I wanted to go to Luton. Then, the next day, boom, it all happened,” he said. “I felt like I needed a little bit of a change in some ways, just temporarily, because I’d been here so long and wanted to see what it was like at other clubs and experience something else. “It ended up being a good experience for me and that little change-up was just what I needed. “It was different. We were in the Championship and they were in League Two so things here are done that bit more professionally, but I loved it at Luton. The change of scene was good. “The promotion with Luton was a mad experience. We had a six-hour bus journey back from Carlisle after we secured promotion and it was mad. Crazy on the bus. “I’ve never experienced anything like it and when I got back Luke Chambers said to me, ‘promotion is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and some players don’t ever win promotions’. “So to be 19 and have experienced that already – I’m so grateful.”

Flynn Downes played ten games on loan at Luton Town

During his loan to Luton Town Nathan Jones stated "He was outstanding. It's as if he lives here in terms of the way he went about the pitch, the confidence he played with, the security and everything he had" Flynn was earning admirers not only for the managers he played for but those he played against. For the 2017/18 season Flynn really did up his game and was utilised by Ipswich in a midfield that needed aggressive tackling, vision and pace, Flynn had it all. Over the next three seasons playing 92 games he would eventually reach a crossroads with Paul Cook now at the club as manager.

Ipswich Town rejected two bids from Crystal Palace in September 2020, and Flynn felt he wasn’t included in the bid and was upset at the way it was handled. Without going too deep in to the background of what each party will say Flynn handed in a transfer request and was left out of the Ipswich side at the start of the season by then manager Paul Lambert. Unfortunately on his return a month later he was injured against MK Dons. Although he made a successful return under caretaker manager Matt Gill, now a member of Russell Martin’s training team at Swansea, he remained unhappy at the way he was being treated by the club he had been at now for fifteen years. Lambert stated at the time “Listen, it could well be [his last season at Portman Road]. As I’ve said before if someone comes in with a helluva lot of money are we in a position to turn it down? No, we’re not. In my opinion he’s the best midfielder in the league.”

It was Paul Cook who told Flynn he didn’t want him as a part of his team and surprisingly left him out of the squad, not even giving him a squad number in July this year. Cook made it clear Flynn could find his own way out of the situation the club felt he had created. On being alerted as to his availability a whole host of clubs became interested. None acted as swiftly and cleverly as Swansea City, who with Matt Gill now in their ranks swooped for Flynn and brought him to South Wales. The fee around 1.2 million now seems peanuts set against the player the swans now have on their hands. Flynn is destined for a memorable football career.

Ipswich manager Paul Cook told Flynn he could leave

Since arriving and settling in Swansea Flynn Downes, in the handful of games he has played has impressed his manager, fans and the club as a whole. A determined and aggressive midfielder he is just what the swans required for the new season. Set to be a permanent fixture in the starting eleven swans fans will certainly witness some real skill and determination from a 22 year old player who has devoted his life to playing professional football.

Flynn Downes, Swansea City

The future may well be unwritten, but it’s exciting and one we can all enjoy that’s for sure.

We hope you enjoyed this ‘Player in focus’ article, let us know below, and on our forums your thoughts on Flynn Downes

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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