Matt: Teen stars can be silver lining

IPSWICH Town's desperate financial problems during the last 12 months will have a silver lining.That's the bold claim from emerging teenage defender Matt Richards today.

IPSWICH Town's desperate financial problems during the last 12 months will have a silver lining.

That's the bold claim from emerging teenage defender Matt Richards today.

The Harlow-based kid – who will be 19 on Boxing Day – is one of a new breed of players set to help Joe Royle's side make an impact in the First Division this season and then go on and establish the Blues back in the Premiership.

Richards, who has been turning in some mature and consistent performances over the last few weeks, admitted: "If it wasn't for the club's monetary problems I would still be waiting in the wings.

"Twelve months ago I was behind such established stars as Jamie Clapham and Hermann Hreidarsson. If they had stayed I would still be in the reserves, and keeping my fingers crossed for the odd first team match.

"I am now far further forward that I might have been and so are a number of other youngsters who have come out of the Ipswich academy.

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"We have grown up together in the last year and we have a base on which the club can build and regain its rightful place back in the Premiership."

Richards has started 15 matches this term and played in 34 first team games in total – scoring one goal, the winner against Stoke City at Portman Road on October 18.

Since Chris Makin was injured against West Ham on August 30 he has made the left back position his own and shown increasingly competent form.

"A lengthy run in the side has helped a lot," added Richards, who has signed an extension to his Town contract and has no plans to leave Portman Road.

"There was talk of interest from Southampton last summer, but that has blown over. I am under contract to the summer of 2006 and hope to stay with Ipswich much longer than that.

"Last week's shock defeat against Gillingham was just a blip and we are capable of moving up the table and gaining automatic promotion.

"We were not at our best defensively and a fast-running Gillingham midfield caused us problems. Talk of a crisis is way out of context, having won eight of our last 11 games. It was a frustrating day and one that we don't want repeated."

In his short career Richards, who suffered a few niggling injuries at the start of this campaign, has already played in Europe, the FA Cup, Carling Cup and the First Division.

He says that he has benefited from advice given to him by Clapham and Hreidarsson before their departures and current colleagues Makin, Georges Santos, John McGreal and Richard Naylor.

"Georges passes on advice and talks to me during matches," said Richards, who has been joined in the first team over the last 12 months or so by fellow academy products Darren Bent, Ian Westlake, Dean Bowditch, Aidan Collins, Antonio Murray, Gerard Nash, Sam Morrow and Matt Bloomfield.

The huge cloud that was hanging over Portman Road since they were relegated from the top flight has lifted over the last few weeks.

And if Richards and his fellow teenagers come up trumps manager Royle's fortunes could be improved by the earlier than planned baptism of the club's life blood.

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