Fact-checking Lambert's claim about how Town's youth record compares
- Credit: Steve Waller
Following last Tuesday night’s 2-1 home win against Burton Albion, Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert said: “We’re the team in the division who have had 26% of young players playing. Everyone else is two per cent.”
The first part of that sentence was vague, while the sweeping statement in the second part of the claim certainly seemed spurious and required further investigation.
Some context was provided when the club’s official website published a story entitled ‘youth opportunities’ last Friday.
It stated that players produced by the club’s academy accounted for 26.5% of league game time so far this season.
As expected, it knocked down Lambert's ‘everyone else is 2%’ line though, showing that Portsmouth (9.5%), Charlton (8.9%) and Lincoln (2.8%) had higher numbers than that among the then top-six.
All of the above inspired some deeper research.
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MINUTES FOR ACADEMY GRADUATES
Town are correct when they say that 10 different players produced by the club’s academy account for 26.5% of league game time so far this season.
Those 10 players are: Andre Dozzell (7.5%), Teddy Bishop (4.8%), Luke Woolfenden (4%), Jack Lankester (5%), Brett McGavin (2.1%), Myles Kenlock (1.9%), Armando Dobra (1.8%), Flynn Downes (0.4%), Liam Gibbs (0.4%) and Tyreece Simpson (>0.1%).
True, if Downes had been fit then that number would have boosted.
However, it’s also fair to say that it’s highly unlikely that McGavin, Dobra, Gibbs and Simpson would have featured at all had it not been for injuries.
Town are also right when they say that figure of 26.5% is more than anyone else in the current top six.
If you expand the research to the current top half though, then Crewe come out on top. They’ve had 11 homegrown players contribute a whopping 62.1% of league minutes so far.
The ‘minutes given to homegrown players’ table (top half teams) is thus:
1st Crewe (11 players, 62.1%)
2nd IPSWICH (10 players, 26.5%)
3rd Sunderland (four players, 15.3%)
4th Hull (five players, 12.3%)
5th Accrington (two players, 12%)
6th Portsmouth (three players, 9.1%)
7th Charlton (four players, 8.4%)
8th Fleetwood (three players, 4.7%)
9th Lincoln (one player, 2.6%)
10th Peterborough (three players, 1.9%)
11th Doncaster (two players, 1.7%)
12th Blackpool (zero players, 0%).
Lambert has insisted in the past that he wanted to get away from the club relying on loan players as that is akin to ‘throwing your money away in the street’.
Loan duo Mark McGuinness (4.7%) and Keanan Bennetts (2.4%) have contributed 7.1% of league minutes so far.
How does that compare? When looking at the current top 12, the Blues are sixth when it comes to ‘minutes given to loan players’.
The full list is:
1st Lincoln (six players, 25.6%)
2nd Doncaster (six players, 24.8%)
3rd Fleetwood (five players, 21.6%)
4th Charlton (five players, 18.3%)
5th Accrington (seven players, 13.7%)
6th IPSWICH (two players, 7.1%)
7th Blackpool (four players, 6.4%)
8th Hull (two players, 5.7%)
9th Peterborough (one player, 5.7%)
10th Portsmouth (two players, 4.6%)
11th Sunderland (one player, 1.1%)
12th Crewe (0%)
Lambert has repeatedly said that he has one of the youngest sides in the division.
But what does he define as young?
Towards the end of last month, he said: “You have to take responsibility. If you’re in a man’s world and playing professional football, you can’t be young.
“Young now is maybe 16/17. But when you hit 18/19/20 you start to become a little bit different. Or you should start to become different.”
However, later in the same interview he contradicted himself by saying that 19-year-old Dobra was 'only a young kid, he’s only a baby’.
Here’s the breakdown of how league minutes have been shared out around Town players in differing age groups.
16-18: = 0.4% (Gibbs, Simpson)
19-21 = 22.5% (Dozzell, McGuinness, Lankester, Bennetts, McGavin, Dobra, Downes)
22-24 = 11.8% (Bishop, Woolfenden, Kenlock, Drinan)
25-27 = 10.7% (Edwards, Jackson, Huws)
28-30 = 24.4% (Holy, Nsiala, Nolan, Hawkins, Cornell, Norwood)
31-33 = 13.9% (Judge, Wilson, Sears)
34+ = 16.3% (Ward, Chambers)
So how do those numbers compare to the rest of the current top 12?
Minutes for 16-18 year olds: 5th
Minutes for 19-21 year olds: 3rd
Minutes for 22-24 year olds: 10th
Minutes for 25-27 year olds: 11th
Minutes for 28-30 year olds: 3rd
Minutes for 30-33 year olds: 3rd
Minutes for 34+ year olds: 1st
If you group some of those age brackets to create three broader age categories, Town rank:
16-21: 4th (22.9% of league minutes compared to the top 12 average of 12%)
22-27: 12th (22.5% of league minutes compared to the top 12 average of 56.6%)
28+: 2nd (54.6% of league minutes compared to the top 12 average of 29.7%)
In summary: Town have lots of youth, plenty of experience, but little in between.
HIGHER LEVEL EXPERIENCE
Ipswich have 16 players who have started a combined 1,428 games at either Championship or Premier League level. They are: Chambers (445), Ward (351), Sears (164), Judge (149), Huws (76), Kenlock (51), Bishop (48), Edwards (24), Downes (24), Nolan (23), Wilson (19), Dozzell (17), Nsiala (17), Jackson (14), Lankester (5) and Woolfenden (1).
Here is the current top 12 in League One ranked by 'combined Championship and Premier League starts' from their players used so far this season:
1st Charlton (1,860)
2nd IPSWICH (1,428)
3rd Sunderland (1,321)
4th Fleetwood (946)
5th Hull (644)
6th Doncaster (456)
7th Blackpool (410)
8th Portsmouth (281)
9th Lincoln (242)
10th Crewe (206)
11th Peterborough (57)
12th Accrington (5)
* Minutes played and Championship/Premier League starts stats taken from Soccerway.com. Percentage calculations and rankings our own.