Released Ipswich Town academy players claim support was 'completely inadequate'
- Credit: Ross Halls/Archant
Two teenage footballers who were released from Ipswich Town's academy have claimed they received "completely inadequate" support.
Second-year scholars Lewis Reed and Jake Alley were let go by the Blues last season after an unhappy end to their time in Suffolk.
The pair argue the club should have done more to support them and other released players, and called for academies to offer more training, guidance and counselling as they seek careers outside of the sport.
Their comments come off the back of a national debate around an apparent lack of support for young players who are released by clubs.
'I never had a phone call or email to say I was being released'
Lewis Reed joined Ipswich's academy in 2018 but has always had family connections to the club - his grandfather Billy was Town's first Welsh international.
The striker moved more than 300 miles from his family home in Swansea as he chased his goal of making it as a professional.
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But the 19-year-old said his dream fell apart when injuries struck and his relationship with the coaches broke down, meaning he was not getting as many opportunities as others in his age group.
Lewis said his situation meant his parents were starting to become concerned about his mental health.
In his second season, he was allowed to go on trial at nearby Colchester United - a side he had struck a hat-trick against at under-18 level only weeks prior.
While in Essex and still contracted to the Blues, Lewis said he never received any contact from his parent club on his progress.
Colchester were keen to keep him but, in March 2020, had to let him go as the club's finances took a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lewis said he never received any formal contact from Ipswich to say he had been released at the end of 2019/20 season.
It was after he moved back to Wales due to the collapse of his Colchester move when Lewis said his depression hit him the hardest, saying his dream had been "taken away by a killer virus and being treated so poorly for nearly 18 months".
He said: "Really early on in my second year I got the sense I wasn't wanted. We were part of a group held back with the under-18s, while others were in the under-23s.
"I had the thought that one foot was out the door.
"At Colchester I hit the ground running - it was like turning on a switch. The coaches made me feel welcome and I felt like one of the boys.
"But when I joined Colchester I had no form of contact from Ipswich.
"I never had a phone call or a letter ever to say I was being released. I had no message, no email.
"My family has now fallen out of love with the club."
Lewis, who has since joined Welsh semi-pro side Llanelli Town and is working for his mother, has called for more support to be offered to players who are expected to be let go from academies.
He said it is only with the support of his family that he has built up the "courage" to speak up about his time with Ipswich.
Lewis said more has to be done "so that we don't lose another Jeremy Wisten" in reference to an 18-year-old footballer who was found dead after his release from Manchester City's youth set-up.
He added: "There needs to be some form of guidance and counselling. Some players get hit harder than me.
"All we've known out of school is football. We've had to go and find income ourselves - we've got thrown into the real world."
'It's quite daunting to seek counselling for yourself'
Goalkeeper Jake Alley is another player who said he was not made to feel welcome in Ipswich's academy.
Jake, now 19, joined the Blues as a 15-year-old schoolboy and said his initial experience at the club was "brilliant", making a "great group of friends" that he is still in daily contact with.
He was delighted to be offered a scholarship and begin training full-time - but his time at Town quickly soured.
In a heartfelt Twitter post, Jake claimed he was bullied by some older teammates for his appearance and was given meals of beans and lettuce at his accommodation.
However, he said any complaints made never came to any resolution.
Jake, from Hertfordshire, also said he struggled for game time in the first year of scholarship and was unable to make an impression during his time on the pitch.
For the first five months of his second year, Jake said he and his fellow goalkeepers did not have a dedicated coach - forcing them to look up YouTube tutorials for training sessions.
Upon his release in March last year, Jake said a member of staff no longer working at the club was the one person who kept most in touch.
He said: "When I was let go I wasn't really surprised.
"When the other lads are getting more playing time, you get the impression that you're on the way out."
Jake, who is preparing to study accounting at Loughborough University later this year, said he sought counselling after struggling to adapt to life outside of football.
He is planning to write to the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), which represents players across the country, as he calls for a mandatory post-football plan to be offered to youngsters let go from academies before they enter the "real world".
Jake called the after-care he received "completely inadequate".
He added: "I just think, from my experience, me and all the lads released have really struggled.
"It's quite daunting to seek counselling for yourself. Things need to be in place at the club - there needs to be a way.
"We had to deal with this blow all by ourselves."
Ipswich Town said they would be providing a detailed response in due course.