ACADEMY DEBATE: No Category One so Town need to show powers of persuasion

BRITT Assombalonga – a name that might not resonate with many Blues fans.

But last Saturday, the Town travelling support at Vicarage Road would have read Watford’s proud boast that the fantastically-named striker was the 50th player to come through the Hornets’ academy.

Impressive stuff, especially when Town’s own famed academy has this year only churned out one player worthy of being offered a professional contract – Callum Bennett.

It is against this backdrop that I find myself with mixed thoughts over the news that Ipswich are applying for Category Two – not One – status.

Every Town fan loves to see one of their own come through to the first team, it is the main reason why supporters are willing to afford the likes of a Luke Hyam more patience than a Lee Bowyer.

Town boss Paul Jewell has consistently talked about the need of “cutting your cloth” accordingly as the economic crisis finally bites in football.

So a decent youth policy would seem to go hand-in-hand with the desire not to spend millions of pounds on a twenty-something.

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With Norwich going for top-level status, surely the least Town fans should expect is matching their arch rivals?

It’s not quite as simple as that.

Yes, Category One ensures you can sign youngsters from across the country, but the second level doesn’t mean you will automatically lose local lads.

That is where the powers of persuasion from academy director Sammy Morgan, coach Russell Osman and maybe even Jewell himself will come into their own.

If teenagers from the county can be reassured that their needs are best served by being at Ipswich, it really doesn’t matter what category the football club falls under.

When all is said and done, the move into Category Two status will reap improvements right now – including the introduction of a video analyst, strength and conditioning coach and a sports scientist – and if Paul Jewell is able to put together a promotion bid next season, then the club will apply for the top-level status.

The list of Town players who have come through the academy and starred in the first team is impressive – Richard Wright, Kieron Dyer, Darren Bent, Connor Wickham, to name a few.

Will today’s announcement put an end to that extensive progression? I’m not so sure.

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