Terry Butcher, Kieron Dyer and Richard Wright are among the England internationa
Terry Butcher, Kieron Dyer and Richard Wright are among the England internationals who started their careers at Ipswich Town. George Burley, who spent 21 years at Portman Road as player and manager, tells Joe Bernstein of TheFA.com about the club's remarkably successful youth policy...
England has a lot to thank Ipswich Town for over the past 30 years.
The Suffolk club discovered and developed the likes of Kevin Beattie, Russell Osman and Terry Butcher in the 1970s and they are still contributing today with Kieron Dyer, Richard Wright and the two Darrens - Ambrose and Bent - having come through the Portman Road youth ranks.
Yet nobody is in a better position to give an overview of Ipswich's incredible success with young players than a proud Scotsman, George Burley.
Burley was just 15 years and one month when he arrived from Ayrshire to sign apprentice forms for Bobby Robson's Ipswich.
He stayed 13 years as a player - most memorably winning The FA Cup in 1978 - and then returned as manager in the 1990s passing on what Bobby had taught him and ensuring the likes of Dyer and Wright were not only ready for the Premiership, but international football as well.
"Ipswich have always had a good reputation for bringing youngsters through, from the days of Alf Ramsey and Jackie Milburn in charge," says Burley.
"Bobby Robson took it a step further and he set up a scouting network that was nationwide. He discovered John Wark, Alan Brazil and myself in Scotland and Kevin Beattie and David Geddes in the north-east.
"I was 14 when Ipswich gave me a trial. My local clubs Ayr United and Kilmarnock were also interested but there was something special about Ipswich, it was a real family club that helped young players settle in. My parents wanted me to stay on at school but they let me go and I am glad they did.
"When I became manager of the club, it always gave me a thrill to bring young players through, teaching them the Ipswich way which is to express yourself on the ball and not be afraid of making mistakes.
"I made my debut at 17 against George Best at Old Trafford and I gave a lot of Ipswich players their first games at the same age. My motto is if you're good enough, you're old enough."
Burley's eight years as manager was a second golden period for the club's youth development programme. Richard Wright, Titus Bramble, James Scowcroft and Kieron Dyer all played in the Premiership and earned Ipswich £20million when they were eventually sold, with Wright and Dyer gaining full England recognition.
More recently, Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent starred for the Under-21s together last season while the future of the club is in excellent hands with teenagers like Dean Bowditch and Aidan Collins.
Dyer has been arguably the most successful homegrown player, playing in the Champions League for Newcastle and going to the last World Cup. Amazingly though, he was one that Burley nearly turned down.
"Kieron is small now but when he was 15, he was very slight and frail. I remember driving down to watch him in a South East Counties League game at Chelsea and the conversation with my assistant Dale Roberts was dominated about whether we should offer Kieron YTS forms.
"We knew he had ability but there was a questionmark about whether he could make it because of his size and possible lack of strength. He was a good player but not one we considered a potential world-beater.
"In that game against Chelsea, he showed an enthusiasm and energy that convinced us to give him a go. At that age you aren't looking for the finished article but a hunger and endeavour.
"Kieron had that and great movement as well so we took him on. At 17, he was making his first-team debut for us!"
If Burley - who is now manager of another First Division club Derby County - had doubts about Dyer, there are some players who stand out even in their mid-teens.
"I remember seeing Darren Bent as a 14-year-old sub playing in an under-17s game. His power and control stood out immediately, you didn't have to be a genius to see there was something special about him.
"The goalkeeper Richard Wright was another who stood out. You only need to tell him something once and he takes it in and learns straight away."
Burley left the club early last season but left behind a legacy of young talent still at Ipswich.
Among the most notable prospects is 17-year-old striker Dean Bowditch who has scored for England Under-17s.
Burley recalls: "I saw him play in an under-15s trial game and spent the whole second half chatting to his dad trying to get him to sign a contract! Three months later he did sign for us.
"Matthew Richards is another prospect. I gave him his debut against Avenir Beggen in the UEFA Cup, he beat my record as the youngest Ipswich player in Europe.
"I think Ipswich will always attract good young players. It is a smashing place and they try to get their players to compete but in the right way.
"When I first arrived as a boy, I don't think anybody understood me for six months because of my accent!
"But the club gave me the right upbringing on and off the field and I think that's why they've done so well with young players over the years."
IPSWICH TOWN HOMEGROWN XI
Richard Wright - Was still an Ipswich player when he made his England debut against Malta although he has subsequently moved onto Arsenal and then Everton
George Burley - Started by marking George Best. Won FA Cup in 1978 and played for Scotland. Ended up managing the club
Terry Butcher - Veteran of three World Cup campaigns with England, his spirit was typified by finishing a match against Sweden with a blood-soaked bandage wrapped around his head
Russell Osman - Ipswich fans believe his partnership with Butcher was the best central defensive pairing in Europe. It helped Town win the 1981 UEFA Cup
Titus Bramble - Sir Bobby Robson paid his former club £5million to take the England Under-21 international to Newcastle
Kieron Dyer - Another former Ipswich player on Tyneside. He arrived with a £6million price tag but Toon fans regard him a bargain. A regular member of Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad
John Wark - Was voted PFA Player of the Year after scoring 14 goals in Ipswich's UEFA Cup win - a record he held until it was broken by Jurgen Klinsmann.
Kevin Beattie - Until he managed Ronaldo, Bobby Robson called Beattie the best player he ever worked with. Might have won 50 caps but for injuries
Matt Bloomfield - Hard-working midfield player who was called up by England Under-19s last season for their international against Germany at Portman Road. Still only 19 and big things expected from him this season
Darren Bent - Sharp striker who scored England's Under-21 winner against Serbia & Montenegro in front of a capacity 24,000 crowd in Hull in June.
Darren Ambrose - Teenage Under-21 star prised away from Portman Road by Bobby Robson and Newcastle last season. Scored 11 goals last season
George Burley was talking to Joe Bernstein
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