Academy leads the way

IPSWICH Town is leading the way in making England become a top force in international football.Academies, like the one run by Town in Playford Road, Rushmere, are starting to produce talent that looks good enough to conquer the world.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Town is leading the way in making England become a top force in international football.

Academies, like the one run by Town in Playford Road, Rushmere, are starting to produce talent that looks good enough to conquer the world.

Two members of Ipswich's Academy, Darren Bent, from Huntingdon, and Matthew Bloomfield, from Trimley, will both be making their England Under-19 debuts in Thursday's international friendly against Germany at Portman Road.

The Germans do not have a similar development programme and they are already casting envious eyes.

"It is not just the Germans," said England Under-19 manager Martin Hunter today. "A host of other countries are so impressed with the progress we have made since Academies began that they are planning to follow suit.

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"Academies have been running now for five years and already you can see a big improvement in young players' technique. The benchmark will come after ten years, but we are looking on course to produce many more talented youngsters like Darren and Matt.

"The future of English football looks bright."

Hunter's squad arrived in Ipswich yesterday and will be using the Playford Road facilities leading up to Thursday's game, that is set to attract around 20,000 supporters and is also being televised live.

"Ipswich's facilities are first class and their hospitality second to none," added Hunter. "Every member of the squad will get a game at some stage. Darren came on our winter training camp in La Manga while Matt has been involved at Under-18 level.

"We have a large scouting system and watch matches from first team level down to Under-19. The best way to judge players is on the pitch and every member of the squad will feature on Thursday.

"Most have not played in front of 20,000 before and it is something they will have to get used to. Thursday will be a big occasion for everybody."

Prolific scorer Bent and midfielder Bloomfield will be among eight debutants. Bent has played at every international level since he was 15. Bloomfield has had one other international cap after representing the England Under-17s in Italy last summer.

Bent made his Town senior debut in the UEFA Cup second round in Helsingborg, scored against Newcastle United in the Worthington Cup and made his Premiership debut against Bolton Wanderers last November.

He has one special person he wants to impress. "My nan, Edith Lang, very rarely gets a chance to see me play. She is my biggest fan and will be looking in on television," said Bent, who will also have an avid following from former classmates at Hinchingbrooke School.

"Mum and dad, Shirley and Mervyn, will in the crowd and I shall give it an extra ten per cent playing at Portman Road. Ipswich fans are so special. They have been so good to me and have backed me in the youth team, the reserves and the first team."

"It is weird training at Playford Road this week – with an England tracksuit on."

Special deals for schools will swell the attendance. Town chairman David Sheepshanks said: "There are still plenty of seats available so it's a good opportunity to come along and have the fun of being part of a big match crowd and support our young international stars of tomorrow, including our own Darren Bent and Matt Bloomfield."

The North Stand section of the ground will be closed. Advance tickets are still on sale by contacting the ticket office on 01473 400555 or to personal callers, until Thursday, 8.30am until 5.00pm.

Prices are adults £3 (£5 on the night), senior citizens and students £1, family ticket £5 in advance (two adults and two children).

England Under 19 squad: Allaway (Leeds United) Ashton (Crewe) Bent, Bloomfield (Ipswich Town) Carter (Birmingham City) Chopra, Offiong (Newcastle United) Clark (Sunderland) Cooke, Hylton (Aston Villa) Fox (Manchester United) Hoyte, Thomas (Arsenal) Johnson (West Ham) Lonergan (Preston) Otsemobor, Welsh (Liverpool) Townson (Rochdale) Morgan (Wimbledon)

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