Planning for a busy season

It may be the football close season, with the players away on their holidays, but staff at the Ipswich Town academy are already busy planning for the new season.

It may be the football close season, with the players away on their holidays, but staff at the Ipswich Town academy are already busy planning for the new season.

It has been a longer break than usual as there has been no academy end-of-season foreign tour, understandable given the poor financial state of the club.

But the departures of first-team players during the season, along with injuries for others threw open the first-team door to academy players like Matt Richards, Matt Bloomfield, Ian Westlake, Dean Bowditch and Antonio Murray to break through. Chelmsford schoolboy centre-half Aidan Collins was one of the teenagers who received a first-team call from Joe Royle.

It made it a long, hard season for lads who had featured in U17 or U19 academy games, the FA Youth Cup, reserve fixtures and then became involved with the first-team squad.

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Academy director Bryan Klug confirmed the club is only going to field an U19 side next season and not take part in the U17 league.

“It was a long hard, season for us. We are only running an U19 side next time. By not fielding an under-17 side we will push on our youngsters. We will also have the full range of teams in action up to U16 level.

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“Our first-year scholars arrive in the first week in July and they will be stretched. They, and all the schoolboys, have had fitness programmes to work on during the summer. The younger lads return on July 8 and 9.

“It is another season of great opportunity for young players here.

“We anticipate the reserve team will be very, very young again next season.

“This is a time of preparation and planning for us. Coaches like Steve Greaves and Paul Hilton have been away on courses.”

Young striker Matt Robinson, who broke his ankle towards the end of the season, has skipped his holidays and is already working on re-building his fitness in the gym to be ready for the pre-season. He has a three-month contract in which to prove himself, along with defender Erdem Artun.

Midfielder Marc Smith, son of academy assistant director Ian Smith, is recovering at home after a major back operation. Marc had a six-hour operation on his back which involved fusing two vertebrae together, with plates and screws.

His father said: “It was an operation Marc needed whether he was going to become a footballer or anything else. He aims to be fit by November.”

Irish schoolboy goalkeeper Shane Supple has had a minor knee operation which went well and he will be joining pre-season training on July 2.

Academy physiotherapist David Weeks is leaving the club for a new job with the English FA.

“We are very pleased for David and we will miss him,” added Klug.

Academy product Darren Ambrose, now with Newcastle, dropped in to say “hi” to the staff on his way to join up with England under-21s.

Last week the academy had an awards presentation night for the schoolboy players who were then entertained by a game between coaches and dads. Goals from Simon Milton and Richard Hall set the staff on the way to a comfortable win and there was a lot of ribbing for Trevor Whymark, Town striker from the 1970s, who failed to net.

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