Gallery: Memories of Ipswich Town’s FA Youth Cup triumph – 10 years on

The FA Youth Cup winners of 2005

The FA Youth Cup winners of 2005

It was Falkirk, rather than Arsenal, that came calling for Liam Craig, but the man who skippered Ipswich Town to FA Youth Cup victory over Southampton in 2005, considers himself to be one of the lucky ones.

Up against the Blues in that glorious game which was settled by substitute Ed Upson’s extra-time winner – Town winning 1-0 on the night at Portman Road and 3-2 on aggregate in the two-legged final – was Theo Walcott, who would soon make a multi-million pound move to the Gunners, aged just 16.

Ten years on, Walcott is an established England international and, when fit, an Arsenal regular. As for Craig, he is skipper of Scottish Championship side Hibernian, the Edinburgh outfit looking to return to the top flight, north of the border, via the play-offs.

Craig was the winner in 2005, but it is Walcott that has gone on to enjoy the trappings of fame and fortune the Premier League brings, and the contrast in fortunes between the two sets of players from those two games is startling.

From the Ipswich squad, only Craig, Upson, Liam Trotter, Sammy Moore, Danny Haynes and Owen Garvan, who missed the final through illness, are still playing professionally, with only the latter having experienced the Premier League, with Crystal Palace.

In the Saints squad that played over two legs were the likes of Real Madrid’s £80m star, Gareth Bale, Liverpool’s £25m man Adam Lallana, Swansea winger Nathan Dyer and Ipswich Town’s very own David McGoldrick.

Others such as Barnsley’s Martin Cranie, Blackburn’s Leon Best and Leyton Orient’s Lloyd James, have had decent careers in the English game.

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“We laugh and joke up here (Edinburgh) about how he (Walcott) got a £10m move to Arsenal and I got a free to Falkirk!” said Craig.

“But that was an incredible Southampton team, they had won the league quite easily that year, and when you look at what the likes of Bale, Lallana and Dyer have gone onto achieve, that speaks volumes for the group of players that we had.

“We had a good group and it was two good teams coming together for what I think was a fitting final.”

Craig skippered the team on that tense night but probably didn’t envisage that his career was likely to soon be over at Portman Road.

“That capped off three great years for me at Ipswich,” he added.

“I didn’t have too many disappointments, but one would have been not getting in the first team after what we achieved as a team.”

Only Trotter, Garvan, Shane Supple and Haynes had relative success at Portman Road as professionals, while the likes of Aidan Collins, Chris Casement, Sammy Moore, Darryl Knights and Upson, who was a 105th-minute sub for Trotter that night and was only on the bench after a virus struck Garvan, achieved just a handful of games between them.

“We won the Youth Cup in May and I came in pre-season and spoke to Joe Royle at Christmas time who said my opportunities at the club would be limited,” recalls Craig.

“I was grateful to Joe for telling me early enough and I got the opportunity to go to Falkirk, with the scout that brought me down to Ipswich (from Hearts).

“It turned out for the best and I have been one of the fortunate ones to have a career out of the game, a lot of my team-mates were not as fortunate, and I’d like to think I have given it my best shot.”

Given what the two sets of squads have gone onto achieve, Town’s win must have ranked as a big surprise?

Craig gave his verdict on the class of 2005, recalling: “We had a great togetherness. Lots of players came from Scotland, Ireland, all over England, and then there were the local lads.

“A lot of the boys were away from their families for the first time, so we lived together, went to the cinema together, did everything together and that ended up helping us on the pitch.

“We were probably the underdogs in the final, but we had already won at Tottenham in the semi-finals and at Stoke, while the win at Colchester was probably my highlight.

“Bryan Klug (academy manager) and Malcolm Moore (head of recruitment) knew how to bring the best out of people.”

“When I look back at my career, they have helped mould me as a person and a footballer.”

Ipswich: Shane Supple, James Krause, Aidan Collins, Chris Casement, Michael Synott, Liam Craig, Cathal Lordan (Blair Hammond), Liam Trotter (Ed Upson), Sammy Moore, Danny Haynes (Charlie Sheringham), Darryl Knights. Subs not used: Stuart Ainsley, Andy Reynolds

Southampton: Andrew McNeil, Kyle Critchell, Sean Rudd, Martin Cranie, Craig Richards, Nathan Dyer, Tim Sparv (Adam Lallana), Lloyd James, Leon Best, Theo Walcott, David McGoldrick (Feliciano Condesso). Subs not used: Sebastian Wallis-Tayler, Josh Dutton-Black, Ashlee Jones.

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