WHAT price can you put on Ipswich Town’s Academy?
Over the international break club owner Marcus Evans will have been deliberating over that very question, in light of the controversial new Elite Players Performance Plan set to be introduced (the fact this was forced on Football League clubs is another issue entirely).
Well, Marcus, for us Ipswich fans this decision should be the easiest you will make.
While everyone else is talking about going January shopping, our club’s financial future could be secured for the sum of £2.3 million - which will make us a ‘category one’ academy and allow us to prevent fledgling stars setting up elsewhere to begin their promising careers.
Imagine where this club would be today without the £12 million sale of Connor Wickham, the £6 million sale of Kieron Dyer, or the sums acquired for players such as James Scowcroft, Titus Bramble and Darren Ambrose (even though the latter was significantly less than it should have been). Just one of these sales would recoup the investment required for category one status and there is nothing supporters want more than seeing their own coming through the ranks.
Down the years at Portman Road we have been blessed with producing future internationals, such as Darren Bent who we proudly watched help conquer the World Champions on Saturday, and to lose that for the sum we have spent on the likes of a Tamas Priskin and Jonathan Stead over the last few miserable years would be criminal.
Having been at the Academy showcase game against Manchester United at the end of last season, I reported on one such talent who Sammy Morgan and his team have been fighting off interest from the big London clubs to keep him for the first team when the time comes, should he continue to progress at the same rate in the next few years.
George Fowler, who can play just about anywhere, is still too young to get too carried away over, despite being the first player since Connor Wickham to be so good he is playing two age groups above himself. But I received a call only a few weeks ago from a major sports company asking for his father’s number to offer to sponsor him as part of their dedication to helping unearth the footballing stars of the future.
I didn’t get involved with talking to them about figures, but if they’re willing to invest heavily in our future talent why shouldn’t we?