Town’s new coach has major role
IPSWICH TOWN: Mike Pejic has joined the Blues to lift the club back into the forefront of English football.
The former England defender will not be a high profile member of manager Roy Keane staff, but he will be charged with the task of producing youngsters who will join the likes of Connor Wickham and Tommy Smith and make the jump from the academy to the first team.
The conveyor belt of young talent has slowed down in recent seasons following the heady days when future internationals were developed as a matter of course during the Sir Bobby Robson era.
In more recent times the likes of Kieron Dyer, Richard Wright, Titus Bramble, Darren Ambrose and Owen Garvan have come through Town’s famed academy system.
But despite every one of last season’s final year scholars being offered contracts the number of home grown players in Ipswich’s first team in recent years has been low.
Pejic, who has been recruited by academy manager Sammy Morgan as head of youth coaching and coach education, did an excellent job at Plymouth Argyle in sparking up their youth policy.
And he will be asked to do the same at Portman Road in these days when transfers fees and wages are reducing Town’s chances of purchasing already proven quality players.
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With Bryan Klug – widely recognised as a leading player in developing Town youngsters in the past – having moved on Pejic’s role will be vitally important.
The former Stoke City, Aston Villa and Everton full-back was taken to Plymouth by Ian Holloway in February 2007, and supervised unprecedented and consistent success in the FA Youth Cup in his time with the Pilgrims, as well as delivering promising players such as Joe Mason and Ryan Leonard to the Devon club’s first-team squad.
He will work with Morgan with Chris Kiwomya now having responsibility for the reserve team where performances are valued highly by Keane after relinquishing his Under-18 duties.
Pejic, who was offered a new deal by Plymouth after his contract ended this month, has managed Chester and coached at Port Vale and Stoke as well as working in Kuwait, Malaysia and Zimbabwe.
Keane has not only failed to make the summer signings he hoped for he has also hit a brick wall when it comes to finding an assistant manager.
He emphasised at the end of last season that he felt he needed an experienced man beside him with former Reading and Watford manager Brendan Rodgers the favourite to take the role.
But Keane said: “There is no news on a number two, I’m afraid.
“I’ve been a bit busy trying to get players in, but we’ve got four or five weeks ahead of us before the season starts.”
Coach Ian McParland is to remain at Portman Road and will return later this week after undergoing a double hip replacement operation in May
Tony Loughlin remains first team coach with Antonio Gomez fitness coach and James Hollman goalkeeper coach.
Damien Delaney (ankle) and Jon Stead (knee) have been back at Playford Road for a while doing re-hab after serious injuries and joined in training this week when the whole Town playing staff were put through their paces apart from Tommy Smith, who is back in England after playing for New Zealand in the World Cup.
Smith is set to return to training on July 20 with Town set to play Southend away on Friday week - July 9.