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Ipswich Town Academy manager Bryan Klug on Brett McGavin, Liam Gibbs, Jack Lankester, Tommy Smith and Tyreece Simpson as they look to follow in the footsteps of James Scowcroft




A group of talented players from west Suffolk are looking to end a long drought of representation in the Ipswich Town team. RUSSELL CLAYDON spoke to academy manager Bryan Klug about the area’s emerging crop of western boys.

It has been 19 long years since a west Suffolk player was a regular fixture in the Ipswich Town side.

Stanton’s James Scowcroft was the last to represent our side of Suffolk on a regular basis in the county’s only professional football team.

FEATURE: James Scowcroft - Ipswich Town nostalgia. Looking back, 20 years on from gaining promotion to the Premier League. He was the Supporters' Club Player of the Season that year, scoring 15 goals from midfield)....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (35295477)
FEATURE: James Scowcroft - Ipswich Town nostalgia. Looking back, 20 years on from gaining promotion to the Premier League. He was the Supporters' Club Player of the Season that year, scoring 15 goals from midfield)....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (35295477)

Bury St Edmunds schoolboy Ed Upson scored the goal that won the Blues the FA Youth Cup in 2005 but never got a senior appearance, despite going on to have a good career incorporating spells in the second tier.

Former Bury Town captain and now Walsham-le-Willows player-coach Ian Miller made one substitute appearance in March 2007. The same short cameo was afforded to Long Melford-based Jamie Griffiths, now at Needham Market, in a League Cup match in October 2010.

But just like the saying about buses, they are now lining up for their chance to make their name with a clutch of Bury St Edmunds boys led by 20-year-old Jack Lankester.

Jack Lankester receiving Ipswich Town Young Player of The Year awardPicture: Ipswich Town (37911440)
Jack Lankester receiving Ipswich Town Young Player of The Year awardPicture: Ipswich Town (37911440)

The latter could have already taken over from Scowcroft’s reign at Town were it not for two cruel back injuries which restricted the talented winger to five starts and six substitute appearances after bursting on the scene in 2018/19.

While the Fornham-raised player was sidelined for what got to be played of the coronavirus curtailed 2019/20 League One campaign, four other young talents from the area have made that big first step into the senior side.

Liam Gibbs and Tommy Smith both followed Lankester and Brett McGavin, also part of the quartet, with a loan spell at hometown club Bury Town in gaining their professional debuts along with Barningham-raised and now Stowmarket-based Tyreece Simpson.

But the abundance of west Suffolk football talent at Ipswich Town currently, with Boxford-raised fellow Bury loanee Alex Henderson having also made his debut, is not a great surprise to Bryan Klug.

Ipswich Town Academy manager Bryan KlugPicture: ITFC (38010862)
Ipswich Town Academy manager Bryan KlugPicture: ITFC (38010862)

The head of the Blues’ academy, who has been a frequent guest at Bury as he kept an eye on the developing prospects, said: “Quite often what you find with players coming through is you get these little hotspots. There are usually a few factors that encourage that.

“Obviously when players see success that encourages players for one thing. There is usually some pretty good coaching going on and that is probably true here in the area now; there are a lot of good people out there working with kids.

“There are other factors that help that along the way; you look at those lads and their families are very sporty and those things all come together and you get what I call these hotspots.

“Over the last few years we have certainly had that with that area.”

With the hurtful dissection of Town’s failed promotion bid back to the Championship having been at the forefront of supporters’ minds, there may not appear to be much excitement building for the 2020/21 campaign and beyond at Portman Road.

However, Klug’s assessment of the emerging west Suffolk talent suggests a bright new dawn is very much on its way.

Liam Gibbs came off the bench to make his Ipswich Town debut at Colchester United in the EFL TrophyPicture: Ross Halls (37910779)
Liam Gibbs came off the bench to make his Ipswich Town debut at Colchester United in the EFL TrophyPicture: Ross Halls (37910779)

LIAM GIBBS:

Position: Attacking midfielder. Age: 17

19/20 milestones:

  • Professional debut as substitute in EFL Trophy at Colchester United on November 12
  • Signed 18-month first professional contract in December

What Bryan said:

“He is a dream to work with, first and foremost. He is a really good lad who is only interested in being the best he can be and that really goes down well with everyone at the football club.

“For a first-year scholar to get some involvement with the first team is good. He has mostly been 23s. Again, physically we know he is going to develop into a really good athlete but you have to wait for those things to develop.

“He is a goalscorer and he is a goal creator. He has got a real talent and one thing now is this football club presents opportunities to people like that.

Liam Gibbs signs first Ipswich Town professional deal (18 month) on 17th birthday (16/12/2019). Picture: ITFC (37910812)
Liam Gibbs signs first Ipswich Town professional deal (18 month) on 17th birthday (16/12/2019). Picture: ITFC (37910812)

“He has got the talent, there is no doubt. He is one of the most talented people I have worked with.

“It is just really now staying fit, keeping clear of injury. And when he is 18/19 I would anticipate he would be really knocking on the door.

“He was not ready for even a loan last year but I would say he might be one of those boys that follow that route and we will just see how he comes back and starts training.

“I would not rule out anything for Liam. I think he has got the potential to be a top player.”

Tommy Smith signs first professional deal with Ipswich Town. February 2020. Picture: ITFC (37911155)
Tommy Smith signs first professional deal with Ipswich Town. February 2020. Picture: ITFC (37911155)

TOMMY SMITH:

Position: Left-back. Age: 18

19/20 milestones:

  • Professional debut as substitute in EFL Trophy at Peterborough United on December 4
  • Signed first professional contract February
  • Loan spell at Bury Town (19 apps)

What Bryan said:

“Very rarely does he have a game where he makes too many mistakes.

“I think there are lots of areas of his game we want to improve still but he has got such a good temperament for a footballer. He is a competitor and he has a lot going for him. He does not get phased and is very focused and I think that is his strength.

“We probably want him to be a bit more productive with his attacking play but he is certainly a player the manager thinks a lot of because he has got the attitude that we want at the football club.

“He hasn’t got that stamp on his head that he is going to be a left-back. He was outstanding for the under-23s as a centre-half.”

Tyreece Simpson holds the ball up during the Sky Bet League One match between Ipswich Town and Fleetwood TownPicture: ITFC (38010866)
Tyreece Simpson holds the ball up during the Sky Bet League One match between Ipswich Town and Fleetwood TownPicture: ITFC (38010866)

TYREECE SIMPSON:

Position: Striker. Age: 18

19/20 milestones:

  • Professional debut as substitute in EFL Trophy against Tottenham Hotspur U23s on September 3
  • Football League debut as substitute at Blackpool February 29
  • Signed first professional contract in March (two years)

What Bryan said:

“Tyreece is very unusual and is a bit of a rarity in terms of his background was more going down a rugby route with Leicester Tigers. He hasn’t had a history of academy football, at least.

“Obviously he is blessed with physical attributes that give you a headstart in football and the type of player he is going to be.

“It was not a gamble as such as it was probably more of a gamble for him as he had pretty good offers for rugby. He is coming down this route now and he has picked up a lot last year. He has had opportunities and he will probably get more opportunities.

Stowmarket's Tyreece Simpson signs his first professional contract with Ipswich TownPicture: ITFC(37911209)
Stowmarket's Tyreece Simpson signs his first professional contract with Ipswich TownPicture: ITFC(37911209)

“Nobody can say how good he is going to be for sure but he has got raw power, raw pace and he is a very intelligent boy who will hopefully pick it up and prove to take it into the men’s game.

“In the academy game he can look quite devastating and run over the top of people but we just hope while still doing those aggressive football skills he can still pick up the game as well.

“I would say he is ahead of where we thought he would be last year, so hopefully he will come back and kick on.”

Brett McGavin during the Sky Bet League One match between Ipswich Town and Fleetwood Town. (37910850)
Brett McGavin during the Sky Bet League One match between Ipswich Town and Fleetwood Town. (37910850)

BRETT MCGAVIN:

Position: Defensive midfielder. Age:20

19/20 milestones:

  • Professional debut starting in EFL Trophy at Colchester United on November 12
  • Back-to-back games by starting in FA Cup at Lincoln City on November 20
  • League debut starting at home to Fleetwood on March 3
  • One year option extension taken on contract in May

What Bryan said:

“He has done really, really well.

“I always thought that he would not be a late developer but we needed to buy him some time because we were waiting for his physical attributes to develop. And he is now just starting to be able to be very competitive and that is obviously part of the reason why he went to Bury, to play some men’s football at the right time.

Bury Town v Canvey Island - Brett McGavin on his Blues debutPicture: Paul Tebbutt. (37910890)
Bury Town v Canvey Island - Brett McGavin on his Blues debutPicture: Paul Tebbutt. (37910890)

“There has never been any doubt in Brett’s football abilities. With his passing range he can control the game.

“He just needed a bit of time and he has had a good year this year. He has impressed the manager and he is now in that group that we think could break into the team regularly. I think he has a massive season coming up now.”

Jack Lankester (37911380)
Jack Lankester (37911380)

JACK LANKESTER:

Position: Winger. Age: 20

19/20 milestones:

  • Successfully worked his way back from back surgery before Covid-19 hit

What Bryan said:

“I have seen his attitude around the training filed with his injury and you can’t knock him for that.

“One thing that can derail a young footballer is obviously injury, and it comes at the wrong time.

“Jack had obviously kind of burst on the scene. though we have had him a long time. He has had his ups and downs but we always knew he was an absolutely brilliant footballer with goalscoring ability and real gifts.

“You just hope with the injury he is totally focused on his football and I know that. It has been a setback.

“He has used his time well; he has been in the gym and made himself stronger. We just cannot wait to get him back playing.

“We think if he comes back and is firing on all cylinders, he can do some damage in League One, for sure.”

READ MORE: Columnist Joey Sadler reflects on Town's 2019/20 campaign


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