ACADEMY DEBATE: Simon Milton hopes that Ipswich Town fans continue to donate money to the academy, despite the Category One application being rejected
- Credit: Stephen Waller
Simon Milton hopes that Ipswich Town supporters will continue to give their financial backing to the club’s academy following the news that an application for Category One status had fallen short by just 0.3% after a complex audit.
Former Blues player Milton, who has been associated with the club for more than 25 years, has been working as an academy fundraiser.
This time last year, supporters and local businesses were asked to take out various donation packages – starting from £5-a-month to as much as £25,000-a-year. With the annual running costs of a Category One academy estimated at around £2.5m, the goal was to raise £500,000 of that a year from donations.
Is it going to be difficult selling packages given the recent news?
“I guess I will find out,” said Milton. “Let’s see what the next few weeks and months bring. I’ll be disappointed if people say I would have invested if you’d got Category One but I won’t now.
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“The message from the club is it wasn’t Category One or bust. If a player turns up here at 13 years old this week, one year at Category Two level won’t be detrimental to his progress. The only difference is he won’t be playing Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea for a year. Apart from that it’s business as usual.
“Listen, this time next year we could be in the Premier League. A year in football is a massive, massive time.
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“Last year we built a lot of positivity about the club from top to bottom and there’s a real feeling of momentum about the place.
“The manager could see everyone was flat yesterday but he took it upon himself to get all the staff together and give a little pep talk. And the owner’s immediate reaction was ‘let’s go again’.”
He continued: “All the calls I’ve had over the last 24 hours have been from people saying ‘I’m so sorry to hear about this, pass on my best to everyone up at the training ground, you can still bank on my support’. They’re good people and they know what we’re trying to achieve.
“I can promise people that their money has made a difference. This academy is better than ever and it will continue to get better.
“I’ll be writing an open letter to all of the academy friends and sponsors. I always work on an open door policy and I’m happy to meet and discuss things here at the training ground, at Portman Road or at their offices if they want to discuss the findings, where things are now and the plan going forwards.
“I’ll be out there shouting from the rafters what a great academy we’ve got. We haven’t quite made it this time, but we’ll kick on again.
“Our goal of having 50% of first team players having come through the ranks won’t change. There’s a real feeling that the future is bright.”