Ipswich Town’s bold academy pledge

Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town - Credit: Archant

Half of the Ipswich Town first team squad will be home-grown players by 2017.

That’s the bold pledge being made by the club as it pushes hard to return to its proud roots, rebel against the Premier League and become one of just a handful of Championship clubs to achieve Category One academy status.

With auditors due at the club around the turn of the year to judge whether stringent stipulations have been met, academy director Bryan Klug has revealed some of the proposals which were included in the application submitted back in April.

“The goal is obviously to get as many academy graduates as we can into the first team,” said Klug. “But as part of your academy performance plan you have to put some figures on it and we’ve said we’re aiming for at least 50% of the first team squad to be home-grown by 2017.

“This club obviously achieved those sort of figures a few years ago and I think we can get back there again.”

When the controversial new Elite Player Performance Plan was accepted by the 72 member clubs of the Football League in October 2011, the Blues were one of 22 to vote against the proposals.

Many Football League clubs felt they’d been priced out of the Premier League-led changes, with costly facility upgrades and extra staff required if teams wanted the benefits of playing in an elite Under-21 league and the freedom to sign schoolboys from across the country.

Most Read

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore threatened to withdrawn the £5m of funding that gets passed down the pyramid for youth development each year though, and enough reluctant votes were achieved.

Town fans are proud of their club’s academy production line, with the likes of Kieron Dyer, Richard Wright, Jordan Rhodes and Connor Wickham all having emerged to earn the club some sizeable transfer fees.

But despite more than 5,000 supporters signing a petition which urged the Blues to apply for Category One status, the annual operational costs of £2.5m and 18 full-time staff members required meant that it was Category Two that was opted for.

The return of Klug as academy director last summer – following his departure under Roy Keane’s management and subsequent spell at Tottenham - persuaded owner Marcus Evans that the huge financial commitment makes good business sense though.

– See tomorrow’s EADT and Ipswich Star paper for an in-depth feature on Town’s academy plans.