The statistics which show Ipswich Town trusted youth more than most in the Championship
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Will Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy trust in youth?
That is one of the key questions heading into a 16th successive season of Championship football.
If the Blues are to overcome the financial odds which are stacked against them then getting the famed Playford Road production line moving again is key.
Owner Marcus Evans has put the academy right at the heart of his financially frugal five-point plan, but supporters have questioned whether McCarthy is the man to integrate young players raised to play with technique into his highly pragmatic and functional first-team set-up.
It’s a valid debate given that, during his four-and-a-half years in charge, the Yorkshireman has handed just seven homegrown players their first-team debuts.
When launching an academy fund-raising drive in 2013, the Blues set out a bold target of having half of the first-team squad made up of homegrown players by 2017. Just six of the current senior squad tick that box – Tommy Smith, Luke Hyam, Teddy Bishop, Josh Emmanuel, Myles Kenlock and Andre Dozzell.
Many fans were disappointed not to see more of Dozzell last season as the teenager was restricted to just six league outings, but McCarthy says it was a case of his team not being good enough to accommodate the England Under-18 international.
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However, delve a little deeper and such criticism appears unfair.
Supporter Joe Fairs, who runs the ITFC Academy Twitter page, has crunched the numbers and they paint Town in a positive light when it comes to use of youth last season.
Full-backs Josh Emmanuel and Myles Kenlock made 27 starts and six substitute appearances between them in the Championship last season.
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Overall, Town gave 3,399 minutes of game-time to non-loan players aged under 20 in 2016/17 and only one club in the division – Nottingham Forest – bettered that (5,185).
When it came to league minutes played by non-loan players aged under 22 the Blues were fourth (5,170) behind Brentford (7,730), Reading (6,811) and Forest (6,480). Burton (194), Fulham (197) and Sheffield Wednesday (371) are at the bottom of this table.