Supporters take academy fight to the streets

A PETITION calling for Ipswich Town to push ahead with top-level academy status will be officially launched before the club’s match against Blackpool today.

The show of support for the ‘category one’ plans is the brainchild of the Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust and comes on the day owner Marcus Evans has reiterated his support of the youth system.

Carl Day, chairman of the trust, said he was delighted with the initial response of the petition, which was launched online this week.

But he now hopes to secure thousands more outside Portman Road today before handing it into the club to consider prior to them making a decision by the end of February.

Day said: “When you look at Ipswich Town’s history, and the players that have come through the academy, it is a no-brainer.

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“The club might argue about costs, but that falls flat when you think how about �30million has been raised through former academy players in the last 10 years.

“And we are not just talking about big sales, but also the likes of Ian Westlake (�400,000).

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“The academy is probably less than the salary of one of our senior players for a year.”

We understand Evans and chief executive Simon Clegg met this week to start deciding on what category status will be applied for, a decision also made in conjunction with manager Paul Jewell and academy director Sammy Morgan.

Writing in today’s official matchday programme, Evans said he was well aware of the importance of Town’s academy system – past, present and future.

The owner said: “The club is spending more money on the academy than at any time in its recent history and certainly more than before I arrived. This spend will continue.

“The manager and academy team have a clear brief to develop first team players and this tradition will continue.

“The current rules regarding category one and two are unclear, however if it’s financially viable we will apply for category one status.

“We will look at all the facts and when we are in a position to make an informed decision as to what is the best way forward for us at academy level, we will make our supporters aware of the decision and the reasons why we have come to that conclusion.”

The trust plan to ask supporters to sign the petition outside the ground before this afternoon’s clash but have already collected almost 1,000 signatures without much publicity.

Day added: “We are aware of the key issues and we feel the academy is one of the biggest issues at the moment.

“We hope the club will listen to supporters who want the money they spend on season tickets to go towards the future of Ipswich Town.

“If we don’t push for top status, we might find ourselves in the situation where the next Connor Wickham goes to a London club or Norwich instead.”

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