Dishonest ITFC coach avoids jail spell

A FOOTBALLER deceived into handing over thousands of pounds to his former Ipswich Town coach last night criticised the “nothing sentence” handed down to him.

A FOOTBALLER deceived into handing over thousands of pounds to his former Ipswich Town coach last night criticised the “nothing sentence” handed down to him.

Adem Atay was speaking after Ian Smith avoided a jail term after admitting 15 counts of theft from players he helped bring through the ranks at Portman Road.

Smith, 49, of Great Yeldham, was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday.

Speaking after the sentencing hearing, Mr Atay, 20, who was released from the club last year, said: “It's a nothing sentence. If I'm honest, there's no best solution because I'm not going to get my money back.


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“Just as long he changes his ways and stops him ripping off other players it will be worth it.

“I've got no regrets about coming forward, none at all. At least people are aware of what's happened. “They've been warned, so if they end up lending him money, that's up to them.”

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The court was told Smith had stolen a total of £1,000 from Mr Atay but paid back £1,100.

Judge David Goodin ordered Smith to pay compensation of £5,750 to Matt Bloomfield, his outstanding debt to the 22-year-old, who plays for League Two side Wycombe Wanderers.

Speaking on his behalf, his father, Steve, said: “I think the sentence was pretty much what Matt expected.

“I'm sure he will be delighted to hear he is going to get some money back but from what I understand Mr Smith hasn't got any to pay back.

“I suppose you could say the sentence isn't sufficient. But if he had gone to prison he would not have been in a position to pay people back, so I suppose this is the best outcome for everyone.

“Matt just wants to put it all behind him and move on. He's fed up with hearing about it.”

Smith, who now works as a self-employed taxi driver in the Chelmsford area, is believed to earn around £500 a week.

DISGRACED football coach Ian Smith's world fell apart after gambling problems took over his life, Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday.

The former Blues' assistant academy director frittered away money lent to him by footballers at the club on various misplaced wagers.

His problems reached a head when he separated from his wife and three children, eventually culminating in the 49-year-old receiving psychiatric support.

Smith, who worked at the academy for 12 years, was once a “highly regarded, respected and popular member of staff” trusted by the young players he worked with, said Robert Sadd prosecuting.

But he used this “position of trust” to influence both Adem Atay and Matt Bloomfield into investing a combined £7,000 into a commercial coaching venture.

The offences, which happened after his departure from Ipswich Town, in April 2004, came to light after both Mr Atay and Mr Bloomfield went to the police.

Although they were the only two people prepared to come forward, it is understood a number of other Blues players lent cash to Smith, including first team stars.

Mr Sadd told the court that although Smith's enterprise was initially honest he had developed a gambling habit.

“There came a time when he was no longer borrowing money from his previously young charges but was dishonestly taking from them”, he said.

Yesterday, the court heard Smith had amassed debts with a number of people, worth a combined total of between £20,000 and £30,000.

Sentencing Smith, Judge David Goodin said: “Plainly you were a talented coach and mentor of young footballers from the age of eight to early teens.

“Of course you inevitably, and rightly, earned their trust and confidence but it is there that the ugliness of your offending lies.

“Although I accept that you initially went to these young men who had your confidence for legitimate business purposes, it is plain that changed in the early part of 2005 and you abused the trust they placed in you. It is that which makes your offending particularly serious.”

Judge Goodin said his initial view was that Smith would have to go to prison for what he had done but having heard all the facts of the case and mitigation he felt able to take a different course.

He said this was possible because of Smith's early guilty pleas, his previous good character, his voluntary attendance at a police station and his genuine remorse.

Matthew Gowen, for Smith, said that in July last year his client had voluntarily gone to a police station in Essex seeking help and had spent several weeks thereafter in hospital receiving psychiatric treatment.

Mr Gowen also pointed to sums he said Smith had repaid to Mr Bloomfield and Mr Atay, saying Mr Bloomfield had received £900 and Mr Atay £1,100.

Mr Gowen said Smith had been a very talented coach with the ability to motivate young players.

“He was responsible for turning out many stars who left Ipswich and went on to greater things. He was well liked and respected,” he said.

He said Smith used the players' trust and respect in the wrong way when things started going wrong.

He claimed he had genuinely intended to repay Mr Bloomfield and Mr Atay. “This was not a scheme that was dishonest from the outset”, said Mr Gowen.

He said Smith had been dishonest for a period of three to four months between April and July last year, at a time when he had become addicted to gambling and his marriage had broken down.

Smith, a former Tottenham Hotspur trainee whose career was ended at a young age through injury, no longer has a gambling problem, according to Mr Gowen.

“This man is on many fronts thoroughly decent and anyone who had anything to do with him before the summer of last year would have had nothing but praise for him”, said Mr Gowen.

Smith declined to comment after the case. When asked if he would like to apologise to any of the players he had conned, he said: “Speak to my solicitor.”

His solicitor declined to comment on his behalf.

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