Ipswich Town fan RUSSELL CLAYDON says the Blues should be doing everything to invest in the future of the club

IT COULD well be five straight home wins by the time you read this, so it seems strange to suggest all in the Portman Road garden is not rosy.

But a thorny issue is about to rear its head and Marcus Evans’ decision over the price put on the club’s academy threatens to deroot even more fans than the Middlesbrough ticket fiasco.

Reading between all the lines, an announcement of a Category Two academy, one below the top status affording the best chance of attracting and keeping young starlets, looks imminent ahead of the March 31 deadline before next season’s awfully-constructed Elite Player Performance Plan is implemented.

I joined more than 5,000 names on a petition by the Independent Ipswich Town Supporters’ Trust to send a message that maintaining our club’s rich tradition in developing youth should always be the number one priority at this club.

But the £2 million a year price tag of category one (out of four), which doesn’t even guarantee hot prospects being poached by other category one clubs such as Norwich City, may well have given Evans and Clegg cold feet.

A pragmatic view of the situation could deduce that Premier League clubs will stockpile youth talent, because it is now of so little cost to do so (Byron Lawrence could go for around £100,000 instead of millions in August), and act as parent clubs seeing if they sink or swim on loan deals.

So Evans and Clegg may be happy to make us a feeder club, but I see this as more of a signal of intent of their ambitions: We will never be able to compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs in the transfer market, but if we can offer youngsters from around the country regular Premier League football, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Sadly, our country is about to become a battle ground for young talent with Norwich already making their move by declaring they are to open an academy in Bury St Edmunds.

And as Ipswich’s academy manager Sammy Morgan told me in a chat back in December, you now have to make your set-up as attractive as you can, and show a strong pathway open to the first team to keep the best players.

Category One at Portman Road, coupled with a willingness to give the best young players plenty of first team chances, would do just that.

So bearing this in mind, Luke Hyam’s omission from recent squads continues to puzzle me but I hope it is not to be a bad omen for the future.

n By the time you read this I’ll have the physical and mental scars to prove I did it: I wore a Norwich City shirt.

But, of course, the cruelness off this Sport Relief charity challenge means I have to do it all over again at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre’s West Suffolk Athletics Arena on Sunday (11am). So please give generously, especially if you were one of those taunting me at Portman Road!

* To donate to my Sport Relief challenge, paste the following address into your browser: http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/canaryforaday