Humes rises to challenge with Academy
New Academy boss Tony Humes talks to EADT football writer Derek Davis about his task in trying to improve on an already successful area of the clubFA YOUTH Cup winners, half-a-dozen graduates sold for around £15m, another dozen or more going on to play for the Blues' first team - there is no doubt about it, Bryan Klug did an excellent job at the Academy and following him into the role was never going to be easy.
New Academy boss Tony Humes talks to EADT football writer Derek Davis about his task in trying to improve on an already successful area of the club
FA YOUTH Cup winners, half-a-dozen graduates sold for around £15m, another dozen or more going on to play for the Blues' first team - there is no doubt about it, Bryan Klug did an excellent job at the Academy and following him into the role was never going to be easy.
But Tony Humes never shirked a challenge as a no-nonsense defender for Ipswich, and then Wrexham, and has met this new task with the same sort of vigour and determination.
When Klug joined forces with Magilton to take over the first team after Joe Royle's departure in May, the club had little hesitation and following Klug's recommendation that Humes stepped up, he took over the Academy.
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Humes was already coaching and had brought through an exciting crop of players that include Jai Reason, Ed Upson, Kurt Robinson and Jordan Rhodes.
Now he has a wider range of responsibilities and, rather than fining the prospect daunting, Humes is relishing the opportunity.
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He said: “Any promotion is a challenge and I'm enjoying it. The challenge is to try and improve on what has already been done here. The reputation and tradition has been set during Bryan's time in charge.
“The staff has not changed much, so we have the continuity, and everyone knows what we are trying to do and how we want to do things.
“The principles and values of the Academy will not change. They go back probably as far as Jackie Milburn's days and have been improved through time. We embrace changes when necessary but the values stay the same. It is not about Tony Humes but about Ipswich Town Football Club.”
As England struggles to match some of their continental cousins in terms of development on a national scale, Humes is aware of the importance of catching up but believes steps have been made and things are now moving in the right direction.
He said: “If we can improve the coaching of schoolboys from an even younger age and set the standards for those boys.
“If we can get that right, we may produce better players.
“The structures in this country have not been in place as long as other countries. If you look at France with Clairefontaine whose progression of the national teams has been there a long time, whereas the academy structure in this country is only nine years old.
“We are still searching for the best way to develop our players from the youngest age. We are on the right tracked and there has been a massive amount of good work at academies and schools of excellence but it is an area that can be improved upon.”
The perceived wisdom now is that one of the key factors behind improving young players is to change the thought process from that of winning at all costs to one of steady improvement without too much pressure, too soon.
Humes said: “One of the areas we look at is the technical side, where we are behind. We maybe need to get away from the winning mentality at ages even to 12. Sometimes that is overplayed when really we want to develop the principles of play. The Ipswich v Arsenal under nines game is not the be all and end all. We don't believe that those young teams have to win, rather than learn from what they have been doing and the importance of developing.
“The window of learning is between seven and 12 and we want the boys to understand that they are playing that game in a particular way and what they are doing. rather than worrying about winning.”
For that to happen, leagues are not encouraged at young levels and coaches are being educated but, at the same time, so are the players.
Humes said: “Teaching the coaches is a massive part of learning. Within the same aspect, the boys can teach themselves and learn from the game as a group and as an individual rather than learn from one coach.
“We look to open the boys' minds to become a better player.”
Another key factor is to get away from the mindset that focuses solely on the bigger players being the better players.
“Often the bigger boys who peak earlier may not develop because they have found it easy. The smaller player will learn the game more because he has had to battle and learn and, therefore understand the game more than the bigger lads, because he has not been able to rely on the physical aspect but that is not new for the Academy.”
Of course, when winning is ingrained in our culture, and Town have enjoyed success in the Youth Cup twice now, it is easy for parents to see only victory as the goal.
Humes said: “The Youth Cup is important because it is the highest accolade a player and team can win before becoming a professional but we are looking to get away from that aspect to an extent.
“We want to encourage the individual to become a professional player and learn new aspects from 15 to 18 by moulding him into a team structure.
“Educating parents can help. The profile of the game is so huge because their little boy can become a multi-millionaire playing in the Premiership but how often does that happen?
“They have to allow the boys to develop and not put pressure on them and allow the skilled individuals at the club to do that for them. Winning is not everything at that young age.
In Humes and his staff Ipswich fans can rest assured that the Academy will continue to flourish.