Ex-Academy coach 'conned' footballers

A FORMER Ipswich Town academy player conned out of £5,900 by one of his ex-coaches last night told how he was let down by someone he trusted “impeccably”.

A FORMER Ipswich Town academy player conned out of £5,900 by one of his ex-coaches last night told how he was let down by someone he trusted “impeccably”.

Matt Bloomfield, who now plays for League Two side Wycombe Wanderers, was speaking after Ian Smith admitted 12 counts of theft against him.

Smith, 48, of Great Yeldham, also pleaded guilty to stealing a total of £1,000 from Bloomfield's former academy team-mate Adem Atay.

Speaking last night, Suffolk-born Bloomfield, 22, said: “From my point of view it was a breach of trust from someone I trusted impeccably. It's something I didn't believe was possible.

“I haven't spoken to him since this happened. This has been a big learning curve in my life and it's something that won't happen again.

“I've got a football career which is most important to me. I just want to concentrate on that now.”

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In his role as Ipswich Town's assistant academy director, Smith helped bring a string of youngsters through the ranks, with some going on to play for the first team.

Bloomfield, who was released by Town in 2003, said: “He (Smith) had a massive impact on my career. He was instrumental in helping me develop as a player, which is why I didn't expect this to happen.

“It was a coach-to-player relationship when I was at the club and after I left it became a friendship.”

Smith has admitted 14 counts of theft between May and July 2005 and is due to be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court this week.

He admitted two counts of stealing £500 from Atay, on June 23 and 24, 2005, and also entered guilty pleas in relation to 12 counts of theft from Bloomfield, all of which were committed in May, June and July 2005, a time when he was playing for Wycombe.

It is believed the players handed over money to Smith for him to invest and were assured of a 100% return on their cash.

However, the EADT understands a police investigation was launched after claims Smith used player's money for his own purposes.

Smith, who was initially arrested in November last year, was charged with the offences in January.

Atay, 20, who was released by Town in 2005, has since turned out for non-league teams in the local area.

AS assistant academy director to Bryan Klug, Ian Smith helped bring through a string of top players who have since gone on to net the club millions of pounds in transfer fees.

Perhaps his greatest achievement at the club was leading a Town academy team, including the likes of Bloomfield, Darren Bent, Darren Ambrose, Matt Richards and Ian Westlake, to victory in the under 17 league in 2001.

Current Charlton Athletic stars Bent and Ambrose have since gone to represent England at Under 21 level, while Richards has also turned out for his country in this age group. Although left out of England's World Cup squad for this summer, Bent has been included in a number of squads for the national team and finished last season as the top-scoring Englishman in the Premier League.

A former Tottenham Hotspur apprentice, Smith left his position within the academy after Town took part in an international youth tournament in Italy, in April 2004.

Speaking last night, a spokesman for Ipswich Town said: “We are extremely distressed to hear of these allegations. Ian Smith left Ipswich Town Football Club on April 30, 2004 by mutual consent. Since then, the club has not had any contact with him.”

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