Reflections on Youth Cup win

Incredible, superb, stunning. The football coaches, former players and families of the Ipswich Town kids of 2005 were running out of superlatives, writes David Vincent.

Incredible, superb, stunning. The football coaches, former players and families of the Ipswich Town kids of 2005 were running out of superlatives, writes David Vincent.

Their dramatic FA Youth Cup final extra-time victory over hot favourites Southampton at Portman Road on Friday night sent the crowd into raptures.

It was a proud moment for everyone at the club, especially the Academy coaching team, the boys' parents and the landladies who adopt them when they come to town.

I've seen every minute of this FA Youth Cup run and some of the football produced by the Ipswich youngsters has been sublime – individual skills of the highest order, athletic ability, commitment and discipline.


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And they play the Ipswich way – pass, pass and pass again.

Friday's second-leg win and overall victory will etch their names in the club's history like those of Beattie, Butcher, Burley and Wark and many more who first starred in the youth team.

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A lot has changed in the 30 years since this trophy last found a home at Portman Road.

Long after the final whistle and presentations the winning players, looking dazed, wandered out of the dressing room bare-footed to greet friends and family.

Small boys waited to ask for autographs.

Many of those waiting wanted to have their photos taken, on their phones or cameras, with their heroes.

Liam Craig, the Scottish skipper of the side, paid tribute to the coaching team from Joe Royle down who worked with them at the club.

"It hasn't sunk in yet. We have got to enjoy it.

"This might turn out to be the greatest night and biggest game of our football careers. Players like John Wark are legends in the game. Hopefully some of us can go on to become legends in the game too. It is a tribute to everyone involved in the club that we have done so well."

Academy director Bryan Klug said: "It was a real battle tonight. Some of our football has been sublime during this cup run.

"We had lost a couple of players injured and ill and sheer guts kept us going. Right through the team from the keeper to the strikers they all performed. It is a credit to them.

"The players have been magnificent all season.

"I am very proud of all the lads, Supple was superb, you won't see a better double save than that in the Premier League, Spanish League or Italian League.

"Southampton were very strong, as we knew they would be, and they made us work very hard.

"The FA Youth Cup is the pinnacle; and so many people are involved in the Academy from the people who wash the kit and mow the pitches to the coaches.

"We brought this group together, including six from Ireland thanks to our friends over there, and we try and play football.

"We are trying to produce good little players. That is what the club has done."

And he thanked the fans for their support.

"Southampton were on top at times. It wasn't a sparkling performance but all credit to the crowd. They stuck with the players and encouraged them.

"In the second half of extra time the crowd raised the players when their legs were tired. Thank you."

Scorer Ed Upson made his Youth Cup debut in the final after a day at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds. Klug added: "He has done really well over the past couple of weeks when we have introduced him to Under-18 football.

"His confidence was high and we wanted somebody who would gain from the experience.

"He stroked the ball around like the quality player he is."

And Town chairman David Sheepshanks said: "It was a great final between two friendly clubs. I hope Southampton stay up and we meet them in the Premier League.

"It was absolutely fantastic. To say I am proud is the under-statement of the year.

"It must go down to Bryan's management technique as much as the players. The boys never stopped for him.

"And he changed the team formation at least three times that I noticed.

"Southampton have some superior individual talent and at times it was their attack against our defence.

"Everybody had to defend at times right through the team.

"Our big agenda is to bring through talent for the first team, that's the long-term aim, this is the investment in the future of the club. Our aim is to create a squad with players like this in it.

"When you look at the list of the recent winners, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Arsenal and the rest it is a great achievement.

"When you get such a strong unit it can produce a lot of good young players.

"We know, from winning in 1973 and 1975, what a tremendous boost that brought to the club at first-team level in the years to follow."

Around the ground there were little knots of families and friends – the Casements and the Krauses, the Craig clan and the Collins family.

James Krause was last out of the dressing room having been selected for a drugs test and finding himself dehydrated after 120 minutes of exercise and emotion.

All the players were absolutely exhausted by the occasion after they had come down from the high of winning.

It was as nerve-tingling for the families too.

Henry Moore, dad of Sammy Moore, said: "Wasn't it fantastic? I know I will go to sleep tonight and wake up wondering if it has all been a dream."

And the Irish dads went off into Town in search of a few pints of the black stuff to celebrate.

One thing hasn't changed. The down-to-earth nature of the club.

There was no swapping of shirts at the end, but not for any lack of warmth between the clubs.

The Ipswich players' kit had to go straight into the wash. They still have a couple of league games to play and need them. But in 2005 they just might be able to keep a shirt as a souvenir afterwards.

That didn't happen in 1975!

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