Bury St Edmunds youngster Jack Lankester tipped for the top by U18 academy coach and former Ipswich Town star Alan Lee
Bury St Edmunds’ Jack Lankester ‘has what it takes’, according to former Ipswich Town striker Alan Lee.
The head of football at Culford School has tipped the 18-year-old talent for ‘the big leagues’ after he made an impressive first start for the Tractor Boys on Saturday in their 2-0 loss away at Nottingham Forest.
The ex-King Edward VI School pupil, who spent a short period on loan at Bostik League North side Bury Town last season, has now played five times for the Championship club.
And Lee believes it is just the tip of the iceberg for the young forward, having been his U18 coach at the Suffolk side for the past two years.
He said: “I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen from him, he came on (for his debut from the bench in October) and changed the game.
“And then on Saturday he did the same with his decisions and movement.
“That’s what managers want, a player that can turn a game around.
“I think he has what it takes to make the big leagues, Jack has it in him to really go far.
“He’s made a great start that’s for sure.”
Lee, who played 103 times and scored 31 goals for the Blues between 2006 and 2008 before returning in 2013 to end his career as a player-coach at the club, eventually becoming as U18 coach.
He was involved in the decision to loan Lankester out to Bury last season, alongside fellow academy player Brett McGavin, to help develop his game.
“He was always very talented, that was immediately obvious,” Lee, who made a total of 481 career appearances, added.
“But he was also quite naive and young for his age – particularly in football terms with his work rate, so he wasn’t making the most of the talent he had.
“That’s where he’s really come on in the past two years, working as hard as he could has seen him come on leaps and bounds.
“His decision making and understanding of the game is really top, he makes things happen now – and that’s what managers want.”
Lee also had some advice to give the young man.
“Keep your feet on the ground and keep doing the things that have impressed,” he said.
“Don’t get complacent or lazy, keep working hard and developing, this is only the beginning and if you let up now, it could all disappear very quickly.”
He said he remembered his own surreal feelings at the start of his career and admitted it can take as many as 50 or 60 games before a young player begins to ‘feel like a professional’.
“When you’re that age, it takes a while to feel like it’s real and to actually feel like a professional,” he reminisced.
“So it’s about if he has the mentality to keep going and to keep developing.”
He added that it was the icing on the cake for Lankester to get the chance with his local professional club.
“He’s a local lad,” the Irishman, who was capped 10 times for his country, said.
“And I’m delighted for him and his family, it’s really nice for him to get a chance to play at Bury first and then move up.”
Lankester played six games for the Step 4 club last season, scoring three goals, and Lee was convinced this short spell had had a profound impact.
“There’s a lot of things to pick up from non-league games and he developed a lot in that short time,” he said.
“In an academy, you are always trying to replicate a first-team game and get them to react the way they would in play, and a chance to play competitively puts their theory into action.
“And he did this well, quickly learning you have to make the most of whatever environment you are in.”
He added he felt fellow Bury loanee McGavin could soon follow in Lankester’s footsteps, although he is no longer involved with the U18 squad having moved to Culford.
“He did very well too,” Lee said. “He’s got a lot of ability and talent and that was on show last season.
“I would imagine both have bright futures.”