Inside the Ipswich Town Academy

AcademyCoachMick Banthorpe's car always has a kit bag with training gear in the back, writes David Vincent.The part-time Ipswich academy coach, one of the best known characters in local football, juggles his week around his training sessions for the academy and football.

Academy

Coach

Mick Banthorpe's car always has a kit bag with training gear in the back, writes David Vincent.

The part-time Ipswich academy coach, one of the best known characters in local football, juggles his week around his training sessions for the academy and football.

But, if it weren't for a key decision in life to choose hairdressing rather than football as a career, he might be speaking with an Australian accent now!

Banthorpe, along with Mark Lawrence, is responsible for the new intake of scholars at the Academy. "It is like the reception class at school," he said. "The lads have to be dealt with sensitively. It is a lot different from coaching adults."

Most Read

Banthorpe was a coach for Jewson League Woodbridge Town for 20 years and is still involved at Suffolk College, supervising fitness training in the gym.

At the college he had the dubious honour of coaching myself a good few years ago, though I wouldn't think I feature on his top 10 of successes.

I always had a good 10-yard first touch.

The new group of eight-year-olds at the Town academy at Playford Road includes boys from as far as Chelmsford and Cambridge as well as closer to home.

The under-nines get the chance to train with Ipswich three times a week and play against other club teams during the season on a Sunday, just like the other age groups.

They face the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, Fulham and Norwich City.

Banthorpe said: "It is a whole new world for these little fellers. You have to change your whole attitude. It is totally different than dealing with the older person. You have got youngsters coming in here from quite far away.

"They are little boys coming in to a huge area with a great Ipswich Town magic about it.

"It is daunting for them. We are very insistent if they have any worries they must come and see us and talk them through.

"We try to gain their confidence and let them play. Results don't matter."

The aim was the development of skills and building that self confidence, he said.

"We try to make it as relaxed and fun as we can. We want to make it different and interesting every week.

"The lads are all individuals even at this young age.

"And you soon know them; the quiet, studious ones and mischevious ones.

"Last year our group was very lively. We worked very hard with them and they progressed well.

"If you get to the last couple of games and play one of the top teams, when missing a couple of your best players, and only lose by the odd goal it is a bonus."

Academies can recruit younger boys from within an hour's travelling time; and that brings in Essex and Cambridgeshire for Town.

"But to the East there is the North Sea and you don't get many players there," Mick said.

"Our season runs from July through to May and we play 27 matches. It is a big commitment for the boys and their families.

"And from the beginning we ask them to keep a diary of their other sport and activities, like school sports, to see if they have any impact on their performance at training.

"If they have been busy at school they might seem tired."

Banthorpe, who has his own barber's shop, has been able to arrange his commitments to continue football coaching.

But when he was a player, with Enfield, he made a key decision which could have changed his life in a different direction.

"I was in London and had a trial for a West End hairdressers and I had already been offered the chance to go and play football in Australia.

"I chose London or I might have an Australian accent now."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter