Making the grade
Chris Burton chats to Aaron Cresswell about his step up into the Championship with Ipswich Town.
Last Updated: 23/12/11 5:46pm
The end of a calendar year is an ideal time to sit back and reflect on what you have achieved during the past 12 months.
For some, their show reel will make for impressive viewing, with giant strides made in 2011.
Aaron Cresswell can consider himself to be among that select band, with the 22-year-old having taken tough decisions for the good of his career and reaped the rewards.
This time last year, the promising full-back was turning out for Tranmere Rovers in the lower reaches of League One.
He was, however, billed as a potential star of the future and was not expected to hang around on his native Merseyside for long.
Sure enough, with his contract having run down, Ipswich Town came calling over the summer and lured him away to Suffolk.
In the space of less than six months at Portman Road, Cresswell has already become one of the first names on the team sheet, reportedly attracted top-flight interest and earned himself an improved contract.
That is not bad going by anyone's standards.
Making the step up onto a higher stage with a new club, in unfamiliar surroundings, is never easy, but Cresswell has made it look that way.
He can rightly look back on 2011 as a year in which his career hit new heights, and he is more than deserving of the Christmas break he was readying himself for when skysports.com's Chris Burton caught up with him recently.
"I am going back to see the family," said Cresswell.
"I have got a couple of day offs and then we are back in again on Saturday. The game (against Leicester) is then on Monday, so it's nice to get back. With me being away and my family being in Liverpool it's not nice not seeing them for long periods, but I'll get go back for a couple of days and enjoy myself."
While Cresswell is looking forward to heading home, he admits he has loved every minute of his time at Portman Road.
He said: "Yeah, of course. We are doing well at the minute, the last two games. Before that we were on a bad patch, we lost seven games on the bounce which isn't nice for anyone. But we are looking up and things are going well at the minute.
"Things are going well for me personally as well. When I first went down there I thought there would be a massive step up and I would just have to take every game as it comes. But after the gaffer brought me down here, he just said do well in pre-season and I managed to do that. The games then come thick and fast and I have done well in the games that I have played. I haven't looked back since."
Working towards short-term goals has paved the way for Cresswell's rapid rise, with it important not to get too carried away by initial success.
"I don't really set myself any targets at the start of the season," he said.
"I just try to keep my name on the team sheet, which is the most important thing for me personally. The games have come - we have played 21 games now and I have only missed one game through suspension. Apart from that, things have gone well for me personally."
Things have gone so well that Ipswich boss Paul Jewell opted to hand Cresswell an extension to his contract less than four months into the three-year deal he penned on his arrival.
The highly-rated defender, who is now tied to Town until 2015, said: "That was about a couple of months ago now. The gaffer has always said that if any young lad is doing well, he will reward them. He has just done the same with Jack Ainsley, who has just signed a new 18-month deal on top of the one he was one. So if any young lad does well, the gaffer will reward them."
Cresswell's ongoing development has been well-served by Ipswich, with the club having experienced highs and lows this term.
A run of seven straight defeats saw them at their lowest ebb, but victories over Barnsley and Derby County have offered the perfect response to that autumn slump.
"No team likes to play seven games on the bounce and get beat, that's no good for anyone," said Cresswell.
"But, obviously, things have picked up in the last two games so we can't look back. We just have to keep on putting massive effort in and look forward to the next game."
It was not that Ipswich were playing badly during their wobble, though, with most of their defeats seeing them come unstuck by the odd goal here and there.
Poor showings at The Den and Turf Moor blotted their copybook, but Cresswell insists confidence was never knocked beyond repair.
He said: "At Millwall and Burnley, especially Burnley, we didn't really turn up whatsoever. But we played Forest, Reading, Watford and they were games that we were winning with 5-10 minutes to go and they then scored two goals in the last few minutes to win them the game. You need a bit of luck as well in football and it just wasn't happening. I don't think we were playing that badly at the time, but goals change games and we weren't getting many points."
Having returned to winning ways, Ipswich are now looking upwards rather than over their shoulder, with nine points separating them from the play-off places at present.
Cresswell said: "There are still 25 games left in the league so we are about halfway through the season. I think if we keep progressing the way we are, and work the way we have been, there is no reason why we can't make the top six come the end of the season.
"There are still so many games left and we have got a game in hand on most of the teams around us, apart from Birmingham. I think we can pick up three or four wins on the bounce, which is doable in the Championship because anyone can beat anyone. There is still all to play for in the race for the top six at the minute."
Fresh faces could help Ipswich to push on over the second half of the season and, with the transfer window fast approaching, Cresswell expects there to be movement at Portman Road in January.
He said: "When the transfer window opens in January, that will be when we need to keep Keith Andrews as well. He has done very well for us. The gaffer will obviously look to bring players in and probably a few players will go out on loan, a few young lads. It would be good for us to get a few new faces in the team."
For now, though, Cresswell is focused on maintaining his own high standards over the festive period, with it important for him to fly into 2012 if the next 12 months are to be as memorable as the last 12.
He said: "On a personal note, I just want to play as many games as I can throughout the season. Whatever else comes will be a bonus for me. The main thing for me is for the team to do well and to finish as high as possible up the table."