ACADEMY DEBATE: A sad day for Ipswich Town – James Scowcroft

A DECISION they might live to regret.

That is the verdict of former Town striker James Scowcroft after the club controversially revealed it would be going for Category Two academy status.

Chief executive Simon Clegg insisted the decision not to apply for top-tier youth status was not showing a lack of ambition, but a way of protecting Paul Jewell’s transfer budget.

But that hasn’t washed with Scowcroft, the local lad who spent eight years in the youth set-up before progressing into the first team, who now fears arch rivals Norwich – set to go for Category One status – will swoop for young talent.

And it is unlikely to sit well with supporters after a 5,000-signature petition calling for the club to push ahead with the top status was handed to the club.

Scowcroft said: “The academy has always been the heartbeat of the club – every good Ipswich side has had academy boys in the team.

“I think the club might live to regret this in the years to come because they could lose players to clubs like Norwich when we should at least be trying to have the number one academy in East Anglia.”

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The forward, who made more than 200 appearances for the Blues, believes the Blues have “neglected” their academy system over the last few years.

He added: “The people of Ipswich are very proud of their academy and they love to see hometown players coming through.

“But this is not just a decision made today. I think this has been coming over the last few years – when other clubs have had the foresight to plan their youth structure, Ipswich haven’t done it. This is a sad day for the club.”

Explaining the decision, Clegg said: “It is a very emotive subject – I recognise that. But the most important thing is that we do the right thing for this football club and I am convinced going for Category Two is the right thing to do.”

Clegg explained that it would cost in excess of �2 million extra to apply for Category One but acknowledged the decision meant that the club might lose out on some youth players in the future.

But he pledged to look again at the situation if Town achieve promotion to the Premier League.