|What is Going on With the Academy at Ipswich Town?|
Written by itfcjoe on Thursday, 27th Oct 2016 15:41
On 31st July 2013, Ipswich Town confirmed that after initially securing Category Two standard under he new Elite Player Performance Plan, that they will be going for Category One status as an academy, and the academy director, Bryan Klug declared that “It’s absolutely vital for this club that if we are going to produce the top level of player, we are Category One."
In the season prior to this (2012/13) 17.6 per cent of league starts were made by academy graduates; the bold and ambitious statement was made that ITFC hoped to have 50 per cent of the first team squad made up by academy graduates for the 2017/18
In 2013/14 - 16.4 per cent of league starts were made by academy graduates.
On 24th July 2014 it was confirmed that Town had failed their audit for Category One status. Academy head Klug stated, “We will be audited again next season and we will be doing everything we can to achieve Category One status because that puts us in the best position to produce young footballers for Ipswich Town."
In 2014/15 - 15.2 per cent of league starts were made by academy graduates.
On 19th November 2014 Town MD Ian Milne reiterated the commitment to achieving a Category One academy by saying, “The aim is to go to Category One at the next opportunity as soon as we can, that hasn’t changed.”
In that summer, on 27th June 2015 Milne confirmed that there would be an application made for Category One, the following summer at our next audit which was stated to be the earliest possible opportunity: “I had a meeting with [owner] Marcus [Evans] on Wednesday and the news is that we are planning to apply for Category One status, through the audit process, in the autumn of 2016."
In 2015/16 - 12.5 per cent of league starts were made by academy graduates.
On 7th September 2016 Town were audited for an academy at Category Two level, despite the previous claims that we would be going for Category One at this time, and Milne stated that it is now something that will be looked at in 2017, “We’ll look at that, absolutely. It’s a case that we’ll look at it in detail, look at the cost, look at where we are."
The bullishness has gone and it has now been linked to our league status If we’re in the Premier League it’s a no-brainer.
2016/17 - 4.6 per cent of league starts have so far been made by academy graduates
Since ITFC have declared their intention to go for a Category One academy, we have had one failed audit (by 0.3 per cent), and despite the club declaring they will go for a further Category One audit on numerous occasions they have yet to do so - and currently have pushed this back to 'considering' whether to do so or not in 2017. It makes you wonder whether we ever will as a Championship club, and whether all that is being said about it has just been lip service since the first failed attempt.
The ambitious target of 50 per cent of the first team being academy graduates now looks even more like it is just a pipe-dream - the number of academy starts in the first team has fallen season upon season, and this year is now less than 5 per cent - this is the equivalent of one academy player starting every other league game.
Since the declaration three sides have stepped up from Category Two to Category One - Brighton and Hove Albion, Derby County and Swansea. The first two of those three teams did it as Championship clubs, and not in receipt parachute payments, and that shows that it isn't just in the first team where we are being left behind by our Championship rivals due to lack of investment.
Ipswich are yet to finish in the top two at either U18 or U21/23 level since the restructure of the academy system, and therefore qualify for the end of season play-offs - if we were regularly winning titles at Category Two level it may have helped make our case to be considered a Category One academy; and in the three seasons since we have elected to go Category One, we have won just one FA Youth Cup tie also (on penalties vs Colchester United).
It feels like there is no way that the club will have a Category One academy whilst we are not in the Premier League, that there is no way that there will be anywhere close to 50 per cent of the first team as academy graduates and we currently sit behind academies of League One sides in the league at both U18 and U23 level.
Results are not everything at academy level, but if you have good players they tend to win games and go far in competitions. With the U23 team failing to act as an appropriate bridge between the academy and the first team, is it time to wonder whether the plans for Category One and attempts to have 50 per cent of the first team as academy graduates have been quietly shelved?
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