Big night for Town's young guns

TONIGHT is a big night for the young guns of Ipswich Town and Colchester United as they take on Watford and Aston Villa respectively in the FA Youth Cup.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

TONIGHT is a big night for the young guns of Ipswich Town and Colchester United as they take on Watford and Aston Villa respectively in the FA Youth Cup.

Ipswich, in particular, have a proud tradition, winning the cup three times.

As part of their preparation for the game at Portman Road against Watford's youngsters, Blues academy boss Tony Humes has impressed upon his players how important the competition is to Ipswich Town and to them.

Winning tonight's match and going on to lift the trophy has multi-faceted benefits, although the key for Humes is always about personal development.

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Humes said: “With the success of three years ago and the progression of many of those lads into the first team squad shows the importance of the competition in the lads' development.

“It brings together a good spirit within the squad as they recognise what a good competition it is to go on and try to win. It also gives them an insight in what is required, day in and day out in professional football.”

Town's success in the cup and as an academy has gone hand in hand. However, it is the progression of those players into first team football that has proved a fairly unique selling point for the Championship club over its rivals in the top flight.

Town's youngsters' win in the previous round at QPR showed the way for the senior side, although Humes admits he loves playing at home.

He said: “I would rather we did not have any more draws away after being QPR. That win there showed a lot about the character and resolve within the lads. To score four goals in the last eight minutes shows the mental strength of the boys. They stuck to the beliefs that we have and the way we want to play football. They could have panicked and lost the way, but they stuck to the right football and got their rewards.”

Jordan Rhodes has already made his mark in this year's FA Youth Cup and was on the scoresheet again last weekend as Town beat their Portsmouth counterparts.

He underlines what can be achieved as he follows the likes of Danny Haynes, Shane Supple, Liam Trotter, Billy Clarke and Owen Garvan into the first team.

Humes said: “Jordan scored a hat-trick in that win at QPR and has made two appearances from the bench for the first team. It is good to see that progression and more will follow.

“There has always been the belief here that if they are good enough they are old enough.”

Not that Humes is expecting an easy game, even in front of a Portman Road crowd boosted by free tickets, some of the 1,000 are still available.

He said: “We have seen Watford and they try to play the right way so hopefully it will be a good game of football. We try to bring the lads up in the traditional Ipswich way of pass and move. We want the lads to take what they have been doing in training and in the games before Christmas into this game.”

Although a sickness bug has hit the camp over the past couple of weeks, former Blues Youth Cup winner Ed Upson is expected to be fit along with Tommy Smith Jai Reason and Kurt Robinson.

Humes added: “A few of the lads have had a bit of illness. Jordan was one of those and we are hoping he will be fine after coming back to training.”

Tonight's squad: Plummer, Ward, Clemo, Robinson, Watson, Smith, Williams, Reason, Ainsley, Murphy, Rhodes, Upson, Lambe, Daniels, Calver, Hyam, Dunbar, Clark

TOWN'S youngsters won the FA Youth Cup in 1973, 1975 and 2005.