Opportunity knocks

This year is one of tremendous opportunity for young players at Ipswich Town. Academy director Bryan Klug said: "There has never been a better chance for young players at this club, writes David Vincent.

This year is one of tremendous opportunity for young players at Ipswich Town. Academy director Bryan Klug said: "There has never been a better chance for young players at this club, writes David Vincent.

"There is a chance for anybody who can show a lot of enthusiam and quality.

"A player like Stuart Boardley, who managed to get a few games in before Christmas, now has the opportunity to push on in the rest of the season and impress Mr Royle.

"Stuart has had a long time out injured this season.


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"It is very frustrating for any injured players having to sit and watch while other players are doing well and pushing on.

"It is an important time for the likes of Blair Hammond and Marc Smith, who have both been long-term absentees. They can't wait to get going and need to start getting some minutes in."

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Boardley played and scored for the reserves in a friendly against Norwich on Wednesday.

Next season the senior academy playing structure changes.

There will be an Under-18 competition, rather than both U17 and U19 leagues, but three over-age players will also be allowed.

Some clubs, like Ipswich and Norwich, have only fielded U19 teams this season because of pressures on playing staffs and the average age has often been young.

At Ipswich, for example, many lads who qualify for youth games have already progressed to regular reserve-team appearances and even the first-team squad. In fact the Town reserves, under Steve McCall, are virtually an under-21 team.

The club's playing resources have been stretched at all levels.

Add to that the players out recovering from injury and the coaches have had to cope and players adapt to unusual positions.

It has meant for some strange matches with some Ipswich U19 line-ups virtually all under-18 and including schoolboys as the club aims to prevent youngsters having to play too often.

By the time players are in the third year of their scholarship they should be regulars in the reserves' squad. If not their future at Ipswich may be limited as other, younger boys, push on rapidly.

This is also the time of the year when decisions about the long-term futures of players are made; both players already on the staff and schoolboys hoping to come in as full-time scholars.

Locally Stuart Ainsley, a left-sided defender from Felixstowe and England schoolboy striker Darryl Knights from Ipswich will be arriving as scholars in the summer.

The club is also hoping to bring in three or four players for next season.

One is Irish international striker Billy Clarke, another is midfielder Owen Garvan, and there are Allan Storrie from Scotland and Northern Ireland centre-half Chris Casement.

Ipswich have good links in Ireland and Garvan is from the same Home Farm club in Dublin as Shane Supple and Michael Synnott, who are already with the academy.

Departing is schoolboy goalkeeper Floyd Croll, who is joining First Division Wigan. Klug said there were limited opportunities for Croll with Irish keeper Shane Supple ahead of him and other players behind him.

"He would have limited chances with us. He did well for us in his U17 appearances last season and several clubs have been interested in him. We think he will do very well there."

Ipswich were also interested in one or two other players who were likely to be released by their clubs so there could yet be a couple more recruits, added Klug.

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