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Town Run Rule Over Best Northern Irish Kids
Tuesday, 19th Mar 2013 17:40

Town’s U15s beat their Northern Ireland counterparts 2-0 in a game jointly sponsored by TWTD and Suffolk New College at Playford Road on Sunday morning with Andre Dozzell and Max Melanson scoring a goal in either half. Academy recruitment officer Steve McGavin spoke to TWTD about the match and the job he took on at the start of the season.

McGavin, who was keen to avoid publicity before the game to avoid scouts from other clubs turning up, says getting the Northern Ireland youngsters over gave the club a chance to look at a lot of players who could potentially be recruited as full-time scholars in a year’s time: “Northern Ireland brought their U15 squad from which four of their players have already visited and it gives us an opportunity to see the whole squad.

“In Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland there is big demand for players because up to the age of 16 all the players are available.

“Some players do sign for clubs at 14 or 15 but the majority are available, so when you go and watch the national team, they are of a very good standard and they are available.

“Then it’s about trying to highlight players that interest you in certain positions. We’re already looking at next year’s scholars and we’ll look at our current U15s and start formulating an idea of what players we need in certain positions.”

Town’s U15s, sponsored by ex-Blue Kieron Dyer

He says some of them have already spent time at Playford Road with the academy keen to forge relationships with players over a number of years: “What we try to do is to create links with players somewhere between the ages of 14 and 15 so we see them over a period of time, it’s not just a case that they come once and we make a decision.

“We like to see them two, three, four, five times. Normally the players who are playing at that level are sought after but we’ll have created a relationship with the player where they’ll want to come to the club because they feel it’s the right environment with the right coaching that’s going to give them the best opportunity to be a player.”

From the Northern Irish perspective, Desi Curry, the technical director of the Irish Football Association, says Sunday’s game gave his boys a chance to face a decent team of their own age: “In Northern Ireland, because we’re such a small nation, we only have a population of 1.5 million, it’s difficult to find the quality of opposition at home.

“We have here the best 18 players in Northern Ireland at U15 level, so consequently if we play at home we have to play U18 teams.

“This is a good yardstick for us to discover what sort of standard we’re at at this stage of the international season.”

Northern Ireland’s U15s

Amongst the new scholars joining the Blues this coming summer is Northern Irish striker Jonathan Smith, who has got to know the academy in precisely the way McGavin outlined.

“He’s a prime example of someone with whom [former academy recruitment officer] Malcolm Moore and the previous regime here created a relationship,” he said.

“I think he first came over when he was 14, he’s had numerous visits and it’s fair to say that he’s quite a sought-after player.

“But because we’d done the groundwork and created the relationship with him, he always wanted to come and play for Ipswich, which is ultimately what we want – players who want to come and play for the club.

Action from Sunday’s game

“Even when he had interest from other clubs, it was always Ipswich that he wanted to join. For a young player to leave home at 16 and move from the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland it’s a huge thing in their life, so we try and make it as comfortable as possible.

“If they’ve been here plenty of times and they know the staff and know the environment it makes that transition as easy as possible.”

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