Ipswich Town have the perfect pitch to attract young talent to their academy
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Ipswich Town centre-back Tommy Smith is confident there will soon be plenty more homegrown players in the team.
The Blues last night officially opened a new state-of-the-art 3G pitch at their Playford Road training ground. Full-size, floodlit and compliant with FIFA’s top standards, the facility cost £750,000 and will help attract top talent to the ‘Category Two’ academy.
Town’s youth system has a rich history of success and, back in 2013, the club made a bold pledge to have half of the first team squad made up of internal graduates by 2017.
Just seven of the 27-man senior squad are homegrown at present – Smith joined by Luke Hyam, Teddy Bishop, Andre Dozzell, Michael Crowe, Josh Emmanuel and Myles Kenlock – but there is high hope for the next generation of youngsters coming through the ranks below them.
“It’s a brilliant facility and another step forward for the academy,” enthused Macclesfield-born Smith, who grew up in New Zealand before joining the Town academy at the age of 14.
“I don’t see all the young players every day, but from speaking to people in the academy they are really excited about who is coming through.
“Andre Dozzell and Ben Morris have been away on international duty with England Under-18s, while we got a glimpse of some of the younger ones in pre-season too with Tristan Nydam playing really well against Cambridge. I think the future is bright.”
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Smith, who has made more than 250 first-team appearances for Ipswich, continued: “Senior players like Jason de Vos, Richard Naylor and Fabian Wilnis helped me when I was younger and now it’s up to myself and the senior guys to help these youngsters.
“They’ll need to knuckle down and work hard, and they’ll need lucky breaks along the way too. I remember Teddy Bishop getting his chance when someone woke up ill on the morning of a game. He’s never looked back.”
Smith added: “I think it does add an extra dimension to it when you’ve come through the system and been at the club so long. You develop that rapport with fans. That’s what I’ve found personally.
“It’s great when you see young players coming through and playing for their hometown club – people like Luke Hyam and Andre Dozzell.
“It’s brilliant to see and hopefully there are a few more on the way in the not too far future.”