We want to be better than Norwich - Ipswich Town academy director
- Credit: Archant
THE passion that Bryan Klug has for the future of Ipswich Town is unquestionable as he sits behind his desk at Playford Road and recounts the club’s past glories at academy level.
One of former manager Roy Keane’s strangest decisions during his time at Portman Road was, undoubtedly, the decision to relieve the 52-year-old of his duties as Player Development Manager in 2010, just five years after the Coventry-born coach had guided a talented youth team to FA Youth Cup glory.
Klug returned to the club last year, after a spell at Tottenham’s academy, and immediately set about repeating those glory days.
Town have the right man in place but, as Klug admits himself, it is going to be difficult to match what has gone before, especially with the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), a youth development scheme initiated by the Premier League.
The new layered system of the EPPP means Town have to obtain Category One status to give themselves the best chance of signing and keeping hold of the best young talent in the country.
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The regulations allow more movement of youngsters between academies at younger ages and the fixing of transfer fees, which allows the top clubs to cherry-pick the best talent, for a pittance, leaving the clubs that have developed the players’ talents with little reward.
Town fans may not like to admit it, but their bitter rivals up the A140 at Norwich are establishing themselves as one of the country’s best for bringing through youngsters, having reached the Youth Cup final, and are a club Klug reckons Town have to try and emulate.
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“I know what a big investment they have made, and they are having some success this season,” said Klug, who, along with his staff, would be able to recruit players from more than 90 minutes away, should their new status be awarded.
“We are currently in Category Two and delivering a great programme but if you want to compete for the best players, you have got to nail down Category One status.
“If you are not starting out with the best players then you are making it really difficult. We want to be the best academy in the area and that’s no disrespect to Norwich, West Ham or up the road at Colchester.
“The bigger clubs (in Category One) can offer better packages to these youngsters so why wouldn’t they choose to go there if they are given an extra pair of boots or training kit?
“The EPPP has thrown a lot of money at the academy system and it’s become a lot more competitive.
“I have seen the standard at Tottenham and we are not kidding ourselves that we can do the same, but we want to be on the same playing field doing it our way. It’s my job to make this place the one that everybody chooses.”
Current Inverness defender Chris Hogg did just that when he joined the club for a compensation fee of £150,000, from York City, in 2001. In recent years, however, other clubs have stolen a march.
“Coming back after years away, I look at boys at other clubs and know that they should be here, it’s as simple as that, so we have got to turn that around, even with kids as young as eight, nine or 10,” said Klug.
“When I was here before, we reached the stage where players from all over the country were trying to get in our academy.
“Chris Hogg was the England under-15 captain and he ended up here, it was his choice. He was phoning up asking to come down here.
“I have just been over to Barcelona and families from all over the world are moving there, not because they have been invited but because, if they live there, they have a chance of getting their child in the Barcelona academy.
“That kind of reputation is difficult to achieve and from my time at Tottenham, I know what the big clubs are doing and how the EPPP has made them raise their game.”
With the big clubs muscling in on the cream of British talent, in what is likely to become a lop-sided system featuring the haves and have nots, surely Town will do the same should they be awarded the top award?
However, that will not be commonplace according to Klug.
“Big clubs are now free and able pluck our best players and the compensation is not what it was when in the past you were free to negotiate,” said Klug.
“Now it is a set formula that does not reward a club that develops that player.
“Category One offers more protection at least and the compensation is a little higher.
“Obviously if we wanted to go down that route we could, but we don’t tend to do that.”