Wickham, Dyer, Bramble, Rhodes and more - Town’s Academy stars who went for big money....or left for peanuts
As Ipswich Town star Flynn Downes is linked with a big money move this summer, Mark Heath looks at other academy products who’ve departed for mega money – and others who left on the cheap.
Fee: £8.1m (Sunderland, 2011)
The biggest of all the moves, the sky was the limit for 18-year-old striker Wickham when he joined the Black Cats for an initial fee of £8.1m, which could have risen as high as £12m.
Wickham was a revelation at Portman Road, a 6ft 3ins teenager in a man’s body, who could both knock foes around or just knock the ball around them.
He scored some crackers for Town having made his first team debut aged just 16, and departed having netted 15 times in 62 games, including a hat-trick in a 6-0 away thumping of Doncaster.
In truth though, his career has never really hit the heights it should have done, injuries derailing his vast potential. He’s still only 27 though!
Fee: £6.5m (Newcastle, 1999)
Whitton boy Dyer never reached the promised land of the Premier League with his beloved Blues, but he was a huge reason why they eventually got there.
The brilliant midfielder left Portman Road for a then-record fee, having suffered play-off heartbreak at the hands of Bolton Wanderers. And the money raised from his sale helped bring in the men who would fire Town to the top tier in the very next season, as John McGreal, Jermaine Wright and Marcus Stewart all arrived at Portman Road in due course.
Fittingly, Dyer was at Wembley as Town beat Barnsley 4-2 in the play-off final, having been given special permission to leave the England training camp to attend.
He went on to star for Newcastle under Ipswich legend Sir Bobby Robson and win 33 England caps, representing his country at both the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championships. Even so, he could have achieved even more had he not suffered with injuries as he did.
He returned to Town on loan in 2011 before retiring in 2013. He was part of the Academy coaching set up at Town until last year.
Fee: £6m (Arsenal, 2001)
Unlike Dyer, Wright managed to stay at Portman Road long enough to see his boyhood club reach the Premier League, and his superb saves and rapid reflexes were key as Town went on to finish fifth in a remarkable first season back in the top tier.
He had long been considered one of the top stoppers in the country when he headed to Highbury, where it seemed certain he’d take over from David Seaman as both Arsenal and England number one.
That’s not how it turned out though, with Seaman enjoying an Indian summer in his career, and Wright heading to Everton a year later for £3.5m.
While he lasted five years at Goodison Park, again he saw a career renaissance - this time from Nigel Martyn – prevent him from making the gloves his own. He went on to play for West Ham, Southampton and Sheffield United, as well as returning to Ipswich twice, before he retired at Manchester City in 2016.
His son Harry will compete for the back-up goalkeeper job at Town this summer.
Fee: £5m (Newcastle, 2002)
Bramble was just 20-years-old when he departed Portman Road to join friend and fellow Suffolk boy Dyer at Robson’s Toon Army, having been a regular for the Blues in the Premier League.
He played 33 times as a teenager as Town finished fifth in 2000/01, making a name for himself as one of the best youg defenders in the country, before going on to score for the Blues in the UEFA Cup the following campaign, which ended in relegation.
The big centre-back was brilliant on his day, but was often underrated and maligned due to a knack for making costly errors.
He played in the Premier League for 13 straight seasons between 2000 and 2013 though - for Town, Newcastle, Wigan and Sunderland – no mean feat for any player.
Bramble retired in 2013, only to make a brief comeback for Stowmarket Town in 2017. Like Dyer, he’s been part of the coaching set-up at the Academy.
Fee: £3m (Leicester, 2001)
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Recently voted as one of the most underrated players in Town history by listeners of the Kings of Anglia podcast, West Suffolk boy Scowcroft was a key part of the side which won promotion in 2000.
Though injury prevented him from playing in the play-off final, the bustling striker was an ever-present that campaign, making 48 appearances and scoring 15 goals.
He went on to play 43 times, netting six goals, as Town enjoyed that fine first season in the Premier League.
He departed in the summer of 2001, enjoying success with the Foxes too, before returning to Portman Road briefly on loan in 2005.
Scowcroft went on to play for Coventry, Crystal Palace and Leyton Orient, before retiring in 2010.
Fee: £2.5m (Charlton, 2005)
It’s easy to forget that, while Bent may have ‘only’ gone for £2.5m when he left Town for Charlton, his next three moves after that were for serious money.
After two years with the Addicks, Bent signed for Spurs for £16.5m, then Sunderland for £10m (2007) and Aston Villa for a staggering £18m (2011) - where, of course, he’d end up falling out with current Town boss Paul Lambert.
Rewinding back to his time at Town, the lightning quick Huntingdon schoolboy was prolific over the course of four seasons, bagging seven, 18, 16 and 19 goals before leaving after a play-off defeat to West Ham.
A natural goalscorer, he also played 13 times for England, netting four goals.
Bent retired in 2018, after a loan spell at Burton Albion.
CHEAP AS CHIPS
Fee: £350,000 (Huddersfield, 2009)
Ah, the one who got away.
Mention Rhodes’ name to a Town fan, and you’ll invariably get a sigh and a roll of the eyes as they contemplate what could have been.
The young striker, a former pupil at Kesgrave High School, scored goals for fun in the youth teams at Portman Road and looked destined to be the next breakthrough star from the Academy. Then-boss Roy Keane wasn’t convinced though, and shipped the youngster off to the Terriers after just a handful of first team chances - something even he, a man who apparently doesn’t make mistakes, has since conceded was an error.
Rhodes has gone on to enjoy a fine career, scoring more than 200 goals and thrice moving for more than £8m (Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday).
Fee: Free (Luton, 2015)
Marriott’s a slightly different case to most on this list, in that he barely played for Town before departing.
The striker made just three appearances in blue and white and headed out on six different loan spells before boss Mick McCarthy decided he’d seen enough in 2015.
Big Mick would later say that Marriott’s ‘disgraceful’ pre-season was the reason he let him move to Luton, adding that he was unfit and overweight at Town.
Since then, ‘the little fat one’ has carved out a decent career, scoring regularly for the Hatters, Peterborough and Derby.
He’s still only 25 too, so plenty of time to make more of a mark in the upper echelons of the game.
Fee: Free (Portsmouth, 2016)
Like Marriott, Barham boy Clarke didn’t get much of a chance to stand out at Town, only making four substitute appearnces before heading off on loan to Pompey in 2015.
He impressed there though, enough for Portsmouth to agree a swap deal with Town, Adam Webster heading to Portman Road in the agreement.
And Clarke went on to be a vital part of the side which won the League Two title in 2016/17, and lifted the EFL Trophy in 2019.
That was enough to convince Premier League Brighton to sign him for £3.4m last summer.
He has yet to make his Seagulls’ bow though, having been sent out on loan to Derby County for the season.
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