ITFC Academy coach Alan Lee looking forward to Culford challenge
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:58 29 May 2018
A new football programme at Culford School, near Bury St Edmunds, is opening soon and Ipswich Town academy coach Alan Lee is the man heading it up. MIKE BACON went to meet him.
Alan Lee is rightly excited at the prospect of his new challenge.
The 39-year-old Ipswich Town academy coach and former Republic of Ireland international, who played almost 500 League games, will be heading up Culford School’s new football programme, starting in September.
He will continue his work at Ipswich Town’s academy.
Football may not be a sport primarily associated with independent schools, as rugby, hockey, tennis and cricket are to the fore. But at Culford they are gearing up for what they hope will be an exciting addition to their already busy sporting programme.
And Lee is front and centre of making it happen.
“I’m really excited for the challenge,” Lee said.
“I can’t wait to get out on the grass, that suits me.
“My coaching beliefs are very much the way I played the game.
“There will definitely be a focus on hard work and determination. You can go along way with those things and of course with talent added to that you can go far.
“Football is such a huge industry in the UK.
“We see this programme as a big drawer, not just for students in this country, but foreign students as well.
“You get to play competitive football here in England, foreign students can learn English and of course the English public school system has a great reputation.”
In conjunction with Ipswich Town, Lee will combine his academy role with his new role as Head of Football at Culford.
He looks and feels at home already in the fine settings of Culford School.
But did he ever envisage a time he would be coaching children on the rolling fields of an independent boarding and day school in Suffolk?
“Well, I had actually seen the end of my playing career coming, so I started at 32/33 years of age doing a business degree and some coaching badges,” he said.
“I must be honest, I was expecting to be at Huddersfield for another year longer than I was when I was playing back in 2013, but that didn’t happen. My wife moved back down to Suffolk, I followed a week later. You need to start making plans.
“I was very lucky Mick McCarthy got me in as a player-coach at Ipswich.
“But what we are doing here at Culford is so new I don’t think there is anything quite like it in the whole country, even now, let alone back in my day
“I’ll be honest, knowing what I know now, when my parents made the decision for me to leave school to come over to England to play football with all the risks involved, it would have been a different decision making process – something like this would have appealed to me back then.”
Lee has played under a number of successful managers, including Joe Royle, Neil Warnock, Simon Grayson and Lee Clark. “I’ve learned from each and every one of them,” he admits.
As he does at Ipswich Academy, he hopes to bring his experience of the game, to the pupils at Culford.
“I say to the young lads at Ipswich Town that for every boy there is here, there are 100 lads in Africa or Europe or South America who are working their socks off to be a footballer. So if you are not keeping track, they are moving ahead.
“Here at Culford we want to create the right programme for each and every kid.
“It would be fantastic to get a player into the first team at Ipswich Town from here. There is a lot of hard work to get to that level.
“This is very much a partnership with Ipswich Town.
“The Club are being very supportive to me and the School.”
Meanwhile, Dave Watkin, Assistant Head at Culford School said.
“We have obviously got the traditional sports you would expect in a school like this, rugby hockey cricket, netball. We also have a proven track record of taking a different view of sports in the school, with our programmes.
“Football is perhaps a departure from the norm.
“Football has been the recreation sport here for many years, but for a full–blown competitive football programme, it’s the first time we are launching this.
“Ipswich Town share that vision for pathways and the provision of football in Bury St Edmunds, it’s been a positive experience to explore that with them.”
And he had great praise for what he feels Alan will bring to the programme.
“Alan is a great character. What has impressed me the most is his passion to be involved in this project, his passion to support young boys and girls with aspiration for football and their education, to be able to combine the two.”
The new programme starts in September with a small cohort of pupils.
This time next year Culford hope to have up to 20 pupils across two different age groups.