Ipswich Town aim for '50% youth' target in first team

Dyer backs Ipswich academy push

Ipswich Town intend to have half of their squad made up of academy products within four years.

The Suffolk side are applying for Category One academy status as part of an emphasis on youth development at Portman Road.

"We see the academy as the future of the club," joint managing director Jonathan Symonds told BBC Look East.

"If we want to attract the best players for Ipswich Town we have to invest in the academy."

in England, but are waiting to find out if they have succeeded in an application to become Category One, which would allow them to recruit youngsters nationally rather than regionally and compete in youth leagues against Premier League opposition.

The Ipswich academy will be run as a Category One system until the application decision is made, which could be as late as May, but is expected much earlier.

The move will cost the Championship club £2.4m a year though, compared to £1m, and although owner Marcus Evans will finance the majority of the costs, former player and academy co-ordinator Simon Milton is leading a campaign to raise £500,000 from local sponsors.

"Marcus's commitment runs right through the squad, supporting the playing squad and the academy," added Symonds.

"We want to lessen that burden so the people who support the club can invest in the future of the club."

Town's academy enjoyed a particularly productive era in the 1990s, with England internationals Richard Wright, Kieron Dyer and Darren Bent all coming through the system during that decade.

Defender Tommy Wright and midfielder Luke Hyam are the only current first-team regulars to come through the ranks, but a third of the squad is made up of youth team youngsters.

The plan is to increase that figure to half by the 2017-18 campaign.

"If you look all around the world you'll find examples of that. The best team in the world, Barcelona, are based on homegrown players," said academy director Bryan Klug.

"We've done it in the past and with Financial Fair Play it is the way forward for football."