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Long careers, big money sales, a few false dawns and unwritten chapters - the story of Town's 16-year-old debutants

PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:33 15 November 2019

Tawanda Chirewa, right, has joined the likes of Dean Bowditch, Jason Dozzell and Connor Wickham on the list of Ipswich Town's youngest-ever players. Picture: ARCHANT

Tawanda Chirewa, right, has joined the likes of Dean Bowditch, Jason Dozzell and Connor Wickham on the list of Ipswich Town's youngest-ever players. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Tawanda Chirewa became the second-youngest player in Ipswich Town's history after making his debut at Colchester on Tuesday. ANDY WARREN looks at the other youngsters given an early start by the Blues.

Connor Wickham, pictured ahead of his debut in 2009, is the youngest player to have played for Ipswich Town. Picture: ARCHANTConnor Wickham, pictured ahead of his debut in 2009, is the youngest player to have played for Ipswich Town. Picture: ARCHANT

Connor Wickham - 16 years, 11 days

Debut: Ipswich Town 1-3 Doncaster (April 11, 2009)

The young striker was still at school in Colchester and still hadn't signed scholarship forms with the Blues when Jim Magilton called on him for senior duty.

His talent had been long-since recognised, as had his physical attributes despite his tender years, and he had been scoring goals for fun in the Under 18s despite playing two years above his level.

He was an unused substitute as a 15-year-old the previous January for an FA Cup game but, when he replaced Velice Sumulikoski against Doncaster he claimed his place in Ipswich Town history.

He played once more under Magilton before becoming a regular under Roy Keane the following season, scoring six goals as it became clear he was destined for the top as the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham all showed interest.

Wickham scored nine more the following season, including a hat-trick at Doncaster, before being sold to Sunderland at the end of the campaign for an initial £8.1million.

He's now at Crystal Palace, where he's struggled with injuries but has been able to show flashes of his ability.

Tawanda Chirewa coming on for Gwion Edwards during Town's 1-0 defeat to Colchester United in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLSTawanda Chirewa coming on for Gwion Edwards during Town's 1-0 defeat to Colchester United in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

Tawanda Chirewa - 16 years, 31 days

Debut: Colchester United 1-0 Ipswich Town (November 12, 2019)

The Essex-based midfielder, of Zimbabwean descent, had to get permission from his school in Shenfield to feature for the Blues in the EFL Trophy.

Manager Paul Lambert had revealed in the build-up to the game that he would be giving a handful of young players an opportunity in the first-team, but few would have been aware of Chirewa when the Ipswich side was announced.

He's yet to feature for the Under 18s but is a box-to-box midfielder who is highly rated.

What happens next, following his appearance from the bench in stoppage time, remains to be seen.

Byron Lawrence, pictured during his Ipswich Town debut at Doncaster in April 2012. Picture: ARCHANTByron Lawrence, pictured during his Ipswich Town debut at Doncaster in April 2012. Picture: ARCHANT

Byron Lawrence - 16 years, 47 days

Debut: Doncaster 2-3 Ipswich Town (April 28, 2012)

Paul Jewell had promised the young midfielder game time before the end of the 2011/12 season and duly obliged, giving him the final 11 minutes of the final match of the campaign.

Like Wickham had three years prior, Lawrence had impressed during a spell training with the first-team during the Easter school holidays, with Jewell previously likening him to England international Jack Wilshere.

Sadly, though, his appearance as a sub was as good as it got for the creative midfielder, and he made the bench just once the following season.

He then moved to Colchester, where he played just 14 minutes of football in two seasons and is now playing in non-league with Leiston.

Celebratios after the game as Jason Dozzell scored on his Ipswich Town debut to become the youngest goalscorer in the Englands top division in February 1984Celebratios after the game as Jason Dozzell scored on his Ipswich Town debut to become the youngest goalscorer in the Englands top division in February 1984

Jason Dozzell - 16 years, 57 days

Debut: Ipswich Town 3-1 Coventry City (February 4, 1984)

Dozzell's is a story well told - and for good reason.

He still holds the record for being the youngest player to score in the English top flight, after the kind of debut young footballers throughout the world can only dream about.

He had only played a handful of youth and reserve games after joining Ipswich as a schoolboy but was quickly called upon by manager Bobby Ferguson, who brought his only substitute off the bench against the Sky Blues after 29 minutes.

A little over an hour later, he was walking back down the tunnel, mobbed by team-mates and fans after finding the net late on in the Blues' win.

He returned to Chantry High School on Monday morning and was again mobbed by his classmates in what was just the start of things to come.

The local boy ultimately made more than 400 appearances for the club before a move to Tottenham in 1993.

He is still Ipswich's youngest scorer and remained the club's youngest player for 25 years, prior to Wickham's arrival on the scene.

Aidan Collins challenges Derby's Steve Stone during his Ipswich Town debut in 2003. Picture ARCHANTAidan Collins challenges Derby's Steve Stone during his Ipswich Town debut in 2003. Picture ARCHANT

Aidan Collins - 16 years, 198 days

Debut: Derby County 1-4 Ipswich Town (May 4, 2003)

The final game of the 2003 season is better-remembered as Matt Holland's last Ipswich Town game, but it was also the day Aidan Collins made his professional debut.

The Chelmsford-born defender had impressed in the club's youth set-up and, as a reward, was given the final 16 minutes in place of Darren Bent.

He was part of the 2005 FA Youth Cup winning squad, but didn't play in the final, and had to wait two years to play for the senior side again as he featured four times, included two starts, during the 2005/06 season before being released at the end of the campaign.

He's since played non-league football in Essex for the likes of Chelmsford and Maldon & Tiptree.

Darryl Knights at his Ipswich home with mum Maria and dad Kelvin after making his Ipswich debut in 2004. Picture: CLIFFORD HICKS.Darryl Knights at his Ipswich home with mum Maria and dad Kelvin after making his Ipswich debut in 2004. Picture: CLIFFORD HICKS.

Darryl Knights - 16 years, 204 days

Debut: Sunderland 2-0 Ipswich Town (November 21, 2004)

Another player who was part of the Ipswich Town class of 2005, as they lifted the FA Youth Cup.

Before that, though, he made his first-team debut at Sunderland as an 80th-minute substitute, following some impressive performances at youth level.

The former Chantry pupil was back in the reserves just a few days later but sadly never played for the first-team again.

After spells with Yeovil and Cambridge he's had a good career at non-league level in the West Midlands with Kidderminster, Newport, Solihull Moors, Tamworth and now Telford.

Dean Bowditch made his Ipswich debut at Norwich in 2003. Picture: ARCHANTDean Bowditch made his Ipswich debut at Norwich in 2003. Picture: ARCHANT

Dean Bowditch - 16 years, 260 days

Debut: Norwich City 0-2 Ipswich Town (March 2, 2003)

It's hard to believe it's more than 16 years since Joe Royle ruffled the hair of his 16-year-old substitute and sent him out onto the Carrow Road pitch.

When Bowditch walked off it again 19 minutes later, he did so as the great new hope at Ipswich Town.

The teenager had inspired a 2-0 victory over the old enemy, setting up the opening goal of the game just a minute after his introduction as he played with a swagger well beyond his years, placing hope and expectation firmly on his shoulders.

He ultimately couldn't deliver on that hype, which had seen the biggest clubs in the country linked, but he scored nine goals in 82 games for Ipswich and still had an excellent career lower down the pyramid, most notably at MK Dons.

He's currently on the lookout for a new club after leaving Northampton in the summer.

Liam Gibbs comes on as a late substitute in the game at Colchester.     
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comLiam Gibbs comes on as a late substitute in the game at Colchester. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Liam Gibbs - 16 years, 331 days

Debut: Colchester United 1-0 Ipswich Town (November 12, 2019)

Gibbs' appearance from the bench at Colchester was perhaps overshadowed by Chirewa's, but at just 300 days older than his team-mate, his debut is equally as special.

He's said to be creative, versatile and a good communicator with leadership qualities.

Like Chirewa he's one to watch.

Andre Dozzell scored on his Ipswich Town debut, 32 years after his father Jason did the same. Picture: PAGEPIXAndre Dozzell scored on his Ipswich Town debut, 32 years after his father Jason did the same. Picture: PAGEPIX

Andre Dozzell - 16 years, 350 days

Debut: Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Ipswich Town (April 16, 2016)

You couldn't write it.

Thirty two years on from his father Jason's stunning Ipswich Town debut, his son Andre found the net just minutes after coming off the bench to enter the world of professional football.

Manager Mick McCarthy had been aware of Dozzell Jnr's talents since he was just 14, with a host of top clubs interested in signing him.

But he committed his future to Ipswich on his 17th birthday and the former Copleston High School pupil has been under the microscope ever since.

A nasty knee injury cost him what was shaping up to be a breakthrough 2017/18 campaign and he's been playing catch-up ever since, but has regularly shown flashes of his undoubted ability.

Richard Logan made his debut in 1998. Picture: ARCHANTRichard Logan made his debut in 1998. Picture: ARCHANT

Richard Logan - 16 years, 358 days

Debut: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 Ipswich Town (December 28, 1998)

Having come through the club's youth system, Logan played the final minute of Ipswich's loss at Molineux but the striker never managed to make a senior start.

He was part of the squad which won promotion to the Premier League in 2000, celebrating on the pitch at Wembley, but he spent long spells out on loan before ultimately joining Peterborough in 2003.

He's retired now, having also played for Exeter alongside current Ipswich striker James Norwood during his career.

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