Getting back into shape

Ipswich Town academy staff work at their own fitness as well as that of the boys. When I called in the other afternoon, after the scholars had trained and left for home, Ian Smith was about to work on a routine in the gym while outside Ken Goody was jogging laps around one of the pitches, writes David Vincent.

Ipswich Town academy staff work at their own fitness as well as that of the boys. When I called in the other afternoon, after the scholars had trained and left for home, Ian Smith was about to work on a routine in the gym while outside Ken Goody was jogging laps around one of the pitches, writes David Vincent.

Schoolboy training was to follow that evening.

Academy assistant director Smith, who began his playing career with the Spurs FA Youth Cup winning team in the 1970s, has needed two operations to repair his knees.

And, with the New Year, he is aiming to lose a bit of weight as well.


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The lads have all been tested for fitness with a number of scientific tests since they returned from the festive break.

Smith is pleased with the way the scholars have applied themselves since their return.

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"When they come in to the academy full-time it is a big test. It is a big physical test for them, a big ask.

"It is strange we have come back from Christmas and, after Saturday, have a break until the FA Youth Cup tie with Sunderland (January 28) though many of the boys are busy with reserve games so we shouldn't complain.

"Before the season we thought that we would be playing better by Christmas when the boys were six months stronger and mentally attuned to the training environment.

"We felt there would be a push on in the second half of the season. They can cope with a little bit more physical training than when they first came in.

"It is a big step physically for 16-year-old boys to come in and settle in this environment.

"Even if they have been with us for a few years they have been training two or three times a week and playing weekends.

"And we have been asking them to play U19 football too, so it has been a tough six months.

"Next season will be much better, when it changes to U16 and U18 age groups, but we have done it earlier than other clubs.

At Ipswich, too, many of the teenagers had pushed on and shone in the reserves, especially players like Scott Barron and Scott Mitchell, so they were missing from the Under-19s.

Saturday's performance in drawing 1-1 against Wimbledon U18s, after Aidan Collins had been red-carded, had been pleasing, he added.

"We were well on top when Aidan got sent off. I didn't feel we were going to lose the game. It was a great effort by the whole team really.

"We were a little concerned we wouldn't pick up where we were before Christmas. The indications were we certainly will.

"But we know we are going to get younger and younger, possibly against some physically stronger teams. And schoolboys will probably play more between now and the end of the season."

There are some traditions that continue at the academy.

After their Saturday training, for example, the schools' boys can re-fuel with plates of baked beans on toast.

Smith doesn't think it is the food itself that is important but the social routine of sitting down and eating with their team-mates after their football to chat before heading home.

That continued up through the academy, he said, with the full-time scholars joining the first team stars to eat their lunch at the training centre.

"This doesn't happen at every club. Here the scholars can sit down alongside first teamers and talk to them. There is no barrier."

In team news Irish international captain Gerard Nash, who will miss the rest of the season, has now had his knee surgery and is getting round on crutches.

"He has got such a fantastic attitude to everything. He is already looking forward to pre-season and that sort of thing though he has a long way to go.

"He will be out of action for a long time."

Scorer Alfie Kamara picked up a knock in the 1-1 draw with Wimbledon last Saturday but should be available for today's visit to Crystal Palace.

Marc Smith should also continue his comeback and Blair Hammond might be feature as well. And Aidan Collins may well play before his suspension takes effect, added Smith.

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