In the late 90’s to early 2000’s Ipswich Town developed a good reputation for bringing through promising young footballers. Kieran Dyer, Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent all came through and then went on to bigger clubs with varied success.
In more recent years, Connor Wickham and Jordan Rhodes have come through and gone on to other clubs and had decent careers, but there hasn’t been too much to shout about for fans of the young Tractor Boys.
The drop down to league 1 has helped give academy products Luke Woolfenden, Andre Dozzell and Teddy Bishop the chance to show they are ready to be key players in the first team, but I am keen to ensure we have a conveyor belt of talent that is at least given a chance of making it in the first team.
With this in mind, I have set up a yearly plan to encourage the youngsters into the first team set up. Four youngsters showing good potential will be training with the first team for the year, whilst remaining available for all U23 matches. Hopefully these players will also get some cup matches and the occasional league appearance. Once these (or any other youngsters) reach 20 and have not cemented themselves in the first team squad on merit, they will be sent out on loan, with 23 being the time to “fish or cut bait”, where we will look to move on those that haven’t quite made the grade.
In our first season, our “Fab 4” were as follows:
Bailey started the season showing potential that he could develop into a good left back, however injury really affected his game time as it unfortunately came at the same time as our EFL trophy matches. Therefore for this season he has been sent to Wycombe on loan a year earlier than the plan was, as I feel without game time he definitely will not make the grade.
Another familiar tale of injuries stopping any game time with Tristan, I’m not fully sure whether he suits a centre midfield or left back role more, probably the DLP role of our formation, but in all honesty I doubt he will make the grade. A loan at Chesterfield in the National League has to result in him dominating that league for him to have a chance.
Dobra is our success story of this process, getting game time in the cups and impressing either as our left sided midfielder when playing 4-4-2 or the left winger in the 4-3-3. His ability to cut in and create really showed and he forced his way into our match day plans in the league. If we had stayed in League 1 he would have stayed in the squad, but promotion means he will go out on loan to Bristol Rovers, but continued development could lead to him being a squad player next season.
Lankester was our highest rated youngster when I took over, but unfortunately missed the entire season because of a fractured spine. He will go on loan to Scunthorpe this season in the hope of getting back on track.
This season, we have 4 more players joining the first team for training, hopefully getting some appearances throughout the season.
Cameron Stewart is a talented centre back who was at the club at the start of the game – comfortable on the ball and with decent mental attributes if not fantastic, at 17 he will get a couple of years with the first team to monitor his progress.
Liam Gibbs had a great year in the under 18s last year and looks to have good potential as a goalscoring midfielder, another who has plenty of time to impress and improve.
Armando Broja was brought in on a free from Chelsea during the summer and is alot more ready for first team games. A physical striker who will have a year in our first team before being sent on loan.
Luke Fitzpatrick is the only shining light from our first youth intake, and looks to have some serious potential as a clinical striker. Born in Skegness, he has already overcome the massive obstacle of actually leaving Skegness in decent shape. Commitment like that could lead to an excellent career.
So, that gives abit of insight into how we will hopefully give Ipswich’s youth players a gateway into the first team. The next blog will see us look at how we have started the season in the Championship and how transfer deadline day played out.