Wark backs kids to follow in footsteps

IPSWICH legend John Wark today backed Town's young heroes to bridge a 30-year gap.Wark was 17 when he starred in the club's FA Youth Cup success of 1975 and is rooting for the class of 2005 to stage an action replay.

IPSWICH legend John Wark today backed Town's young heroes to bridge a 30-year gap.

Wark was 17 when he starred in the club's FA Youth Cup success of 1975 and is rooting for the class of 2005 to stage an action replay.

After their semi-final triumph at White Hart Lane last night, Town take on Southampton in next week's two-leg final - the first at St Mary's on Monday and the return at Portman Road on Friday.

Ipswich are out to make it a hat-trick of successes in the most prestigious of youth competitions, having won the trophy for the first time in 1973 when future manager George Burley was in the team.

Wark said: “I will be there to cheer the lads and I firmly believe they can win the trophy to put Ipswich firmly in the national spotlight.

“You are talking about both legs on Sky Sports and, I am sure, a bumper crowd for the home leg.

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“It is going to be a big, big occasion for the club and something the players will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Wark won FA Cup and UEFA Cup medals during his time with Ipswich, as well as playing and scoring in the World Cup finals for Scotland.

But he insisted: “The FA Youth Cup success of 1975 was definitely one of my career highlights.

“We won 3-1 at West Ham and then beat them 2-0 in the second game at Portman Road in front of more than 16,000 fans.

“The club invited our parents to the game and then they laid on a big reception at the Copdock Hotel. My mum and dad came down from Glasgow and it was the first time they had been in Ipswich.

“The chairman, John Cobbold, made his famous speech that night. He told the parents to get upstairs and make a new youth team for 17 years' time!”

Wark also remembers how Mr John, as he was affectionately known, was prevented from turning the semi-final triumph at Huddersfield into a mass celebration.

He recalled: “We were in our hotel and Charlie Woods, our youth coach, had to go and take a call from Bobby Robson, the manager.

“While he was away Mr John ordered a dozen bottles of champagne and we were just about to get stuck into them when Charlie returned.

“He said 'They can't have champagne, they're too young for that' and sent them back. We didn't even get a taste.”

Wark has another reason to remember that night in Yorkshire, because Robson's call was to summon him for his first team debut.

He said: “It was hard to take it all in. Tuesday night I'm playing for the youths and two nights later I'm lining up against Leeds in an FA Cup quarter-final replay that changed my life.

“There will be big times ahead for some of the current youth team as well. From what I saw of the first semi against Tottenham last Friday, there are a lot of good players in the team.

“They play the game the Ipswich way. It was instilled in us as youngsters that there was a right way to play and it still applies.

“You can tell the Ipswich boys have been coached the right way. They are all comfortable on the ball and play in triangles.

“Based on their display against Tottenham I believe they can go all the way and win the trophy.

“It's great news that the second leg of the final is at Ipswich. I hope the fans turn out in force and it proves to be the latest in a long line of big nights for the club.”

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