Turnstile Blues 4 for sale

29/01/2014

TB4cover  A new issue of the Ipswich Town fanzine Turnstile Blues was published on 1st February, prior to the home match against Bolton. It will be on sale again today outside the King Power stadium before the match against Leicester City.

The theme for the fourth issue of Turnstile Blues is co-operation and community: values which have always been closely associated with the club and its supporters. The fanzine focuses on the importance of co-operation and community in building a successful club, both on and off the pitch.

The previous three issues of Turnstile Blues have sold very quickly amongst Town supporters, both at games and online, and have drawn praise from supporters, the local media and ex-Town players alike.

In the new issue, Susan Gardiner, author of the highly successful Ipswich Town – A History which was published last year by Amberley Press, writes a moving and insightful appreciation of Dale Roberts and his importance to the club’s success under his close friend George Burley.

Grant Bage puts forward a lively and humorous argument about why football – despite its essentially competitive nature – is a co-operative enterprise at heart, and Emma Corlett, this issue’s editor, reflects on Town’s role in the local community.

There’s also an enlightening contribution from Hull City fan Mark Gretton, a leading figure in the No To Hull Tigers campaign, as well as the usual satire and silliness.

Turnstile Blues is priced £1.

For those who can’t make it to the game, the fanzine will also be available to buy via download or mail order from www.turnstile-blues.co.uk, soon afterwards.

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Way Out West

24/01/2014

Moving from a club like Ipswich to a “big” Premier League side is one thing, but how do you prepare a young player for a move that could take him across continents? Town fan Nick Ames visits West Africa, and finds that Premier League stars’ involvement in youth development is raising as many questions as answers.

diambars

You don’t get too many casual football supporters in Saly. Its resorts – eerily quiet as the rainy season closes in – are best known for beaches and ‘bumsters’, and the few curious local folk corralled into the stand behind me are matched in number by furrowed brows from the Iberian peninsula and Scandinavia, all of whom have their eyes on a footballing bargain rather than a good time.

I sit on the end of the Diambars bench, two places along from coach Boubacar Gadiaga, as their players slalom around the 3G surface and pass, pass, pass their way through a lumpen Port Autonome de Dakar – proceeding safely to the top of Senegal’s Ligue 2 for the first time. “Vivacity, rhythm, mobility and speed – we constantly preach them,” smiles Gadiaga after precisely those virtues have put Port to the sword twice. The visitors’ average age, he estimates, is about 28 – gnarled semi-pros who’ve been round an attritional dogfight of a domestic game longer than anyone can care to remember. Diambars’ lads – shorter, sharper, struttier – are typically nine years their junior.

Two years pass, and a steady rise has become a force of nature. Gadiaga is now assistant manager of the national team alongside Alain Giresse; the goalkeeper who kept Port at bay, Ousmane Mane, has faced Team GB at Wembley. Most astonishingly of all, Diambars, having narrowly been pipped to the Ligue 1 title – and a place in the African Champions League – in their maiden top-flight season, now sit two points clear with a single game remaining of their second tilt at the big time. An academy whose senior, professional side was created in order to provide a rough-and-tumble finishing school for its most promising late-teens could very well be on the cusp of outgrowing its own domestic league.

Diambars is best known in England for Patrick Vieira’s considerable involvement. Invited on board by inceptors Jimmy Adjovi-Boco and Saer Seck in 2003, the ex-Arsenal midfielder lends kudos, gravitas and no small amount of hands-on assistance to an academy setup that operates sides from Under-13 to ‘professional’ (generally Under-20, in their case) level. Trials are held around Senegal to select each year’s new brood – 20 of around 2,000 hopefuls typically joining – with the lucky few packing their bags before moving into accommodation blocks flanking Diambars’ smart, cream coloured headquarters.

Facilities are as impressive as the grass-verged, tree-lined approach to the main building would suggest. The academy’s stated aim is to promote education through football, and students want for little. Classes rarely number more than ten; multimedia aids are plentiful; students typically study for six hours, finishing at 2pm, before concentrating on their football later in the afternoon. Once a month, they return home to their families.

“School is obligatory here, and bad discipline or poor motivation will not give you a future at Diambars even if you’re our best, most top-class player,” Seck tells me over what turns out to be a lavish dinner with his extended family.

“That’s the situation and we won’t move from it. Each boy’s personal development, his own project, comes before any focus on professional football. If a boy will not make it as a footballer, we’ll give him all the tools we can to help him in business, or whatever career he wishes, after he leaves.”

Diambars tend to keep to Seck’s word. They have sent boys to higher education courses in Europe and elsewhere in Africa. They have sent promising footballers to top-flight clubs in Spain, France, Norway, Poland and several other European countries. Some have succeeded – Kara Mbodj, now at Belgian side Genk via Tromso – and others, some of whom I meet during my visit, return empty-handed to be looked after once again, hopeful of catching watching scouts’ eyes a second time. Some re-establish themselves in Diambars’ professional side – Mignane Diouf, unsuccessful in Norway and Canada, is now 24 and by some way their oldest player, but has picked up full international caps for his work in this year’s title charge. Mane, 22, hasn’t needed to leave at all in order to appear at the Olympics. While Seck is quick to stress that there’s no ambition to be a top African professional side, there’s little doubting that Diambars boast a cadre whose technical quality leaves domestic rivals in the shade.

It leaves them in a slightly ambiguous position. The apex of the academy’s footballing achievements is reached when a product thrives in Europe, but when Seck says that “If Arsenal, for example wanted to sign our star player and we were playing the African Champions League Final the next day, we’d let him go”, his countenancing the very possibility of the latter tells a tale. It leaves them ripe to be shot at on a national level. The lack of a fanbase, of emotional connection to a local area, has drawn plenty of criticism from rivals who are, themselves, clinging onto some kind of meaning amid the often hard-to-watch (literally, as Senegal’s top flight averages little over 1.4 goals a game) decline of the domestic game. The
academy’s name, meaning ‘Warriors’, is little more than an abstract concept – so are they anaesthetising good, honest local competition? Few expected them to be topping Ligue 1 so soon after their ascension – Seck recently told local media that they were five years ahead of schedule – and their current rate of knots breeds the thought that they may, before long, outgrow the competition that was intended as a mere finishing school.

It begs the question, one that will be left open in this short article, of what academies in developing countries are actually ‘for’ in footballing terms. Johnny McKinstry – at 28, the most impressive young coach I have ever met – is currently in charge of the Sierra Leone national side on a short-term contract, assisted by the similarly dynamic Tom Legg. Both men work for the Craig Bellamy Foundation (CBF), whose facilities an hour outside Freetown rival Diambars’ in heart if not yet in scale. In their short time concurrently heading up the national setup, they have sought to implement the high-tech performance analysis with which their young charges benefit on the Monday morning after every match. Sierra Leone’s fully-capped professionals – ex-Norwich forward Kei Kamara among them – can now benefit from a level of attention to detail and rigour matched by few, if any, top-level sides on the continent. The stencil adopted at CBF – one that assists its 16 year-olds in beating youngsters three years their senior week in, week out – is already being replicated at a far higher level, seemingly years ahead of schedule.

Neocolonialism? Carts being set off before horses? CBF and the largely French-funded Diambars have been accused of both, usually by conservative factions with existing regimes to protect. But, with domestic football structures in the region in danger of falling apart (Sierra Leone’s national league started three months late this season) and the scourge of age cheating ruining many an outfit’s credibility, academies can hardly be faulted for coming at the issue at hand – developing outstanding players for the country’s eventual benefit – from a different angle. The rises to primacy of Diambars and CBF in their respective countries are simply a reflection of the failing structures that they have effectively hurdled. The young west African footballer is better set than ever for a fast track to the top – but it will be in their academies’ appetites to help reshape what lies in the middle that the long-term future of this region’s game is defined.

Nick Ames is a journalist and Ipswich fan with an interest in African football development, who’s worked and travelled extensively in Africa. In August 2013, shortly after this article was completed, Diambars won the Senegalese Championship.


Adam Tanner: the one who got away

24/01/2014

Adam Tanner has a place in Town history: at just 21 he became the first player to score a winning goal for Ipswich at Anfield. Five years later, off-field problems led to his release from the club, and by the age of 27 his professional career was over. Emma Corlett wanted to find out how the Ipswich youth system had prepared him for life inside and outside of football, and what help he’d had in dealing with his problems.

Adam Tanner Panini

Adam warmly welcomes me into his smart, modern house on a development on the outskirts of Chelmsford, and I am surprised by how nervous he appears to be. He admits to being a little apprehensive about having agreed to the interview, but is hoping to be open and honest. We start off by talking about how he first got into football…

Adam Tanner (AT): I grew up in Witham and I was into football from a very early age. I was playing for a local team and a Tottenham scout approached my Mum and Dad, so I spent a year training with their schoolboys up at White Hart Lane two nights a week.

I left there to go to Arsenal. I was at Arsenal for two years, right up until I left school. They offered me an apprenticeship, but it would have meant me leaving home and going to live up in Islington, and I wasn’t too keen. The Youth Development officer at the time at Ipswich was Tony Dable. They came up with an offer that meant I could still live at home in Witham, and get the train in every day. At 16 it would have been a massive step to move away. I obviously don’t know how things would have worked out, but I think I made the right decision.

Turnstile Blues (TB): So things went OK for you at Ipswich: you were captain of the Youth Team. Who from your contemporaries made it through to the first team?

AT: Well, there were 2 years. From my year Lee Durant played a couple of games, Neil Gregory was a year above me, then coming through was Tony Vaughan, James Scowcroft the year behind me. From my actual year there was Leo Cottrell from Cambridge and Bam Bam. We certainly weren’t prolific. So nothing like the peak when we had Richard Wright, Kieron Dyer, Scowy, Tony Vaughan, that was quite a peak period.

TB: So then you made the step up to the first team yourself, making your debut in January 1995?

AT: Yes, that started all under John Lyall, he was brilliant. He was a real idol and father figure. I’d been travelling with the squad under John Lyall, helping to carry stuff. He wanted me involved. George Burley took over, and he threw me in at the deep end. He just said to me the day before “you’re starting tomorrow”. That was against Leicester, and I scored. The week after we played Wrexham away in the cup and I gave a penalty away in the last minute, and we went out, then the following week it was the Liverpool game when I scored. That was my first three games!

TB: You mentioned about John Lyall being a fatherly figure. How much do football clubs take an interest in supporting and educating young players through the tricky things, like having more money than your peers, managing relationships, unwanted attention, alcohol, drugs, that kind of thing?

AT: Everything, all that stuff, comes at you very fast. John Lyall was someone you could always go to. He treated everyone similar, from the first team to the youth team. His door was always open. There weren’t any great workshops as such, to give you advice, but if you had a problem you could go to him.

. After talking about the drinking culture during his time at Town, Adam went on to describe the consequences of testing positive for cocaine. Talking about this is clearly still very difficult for Adam, and for the first time in the interview he is visibly emotional, as he talks about the impact on his parents.

TB: How did they react?

AT: They were devastated. Really absolutely devastated. But again, they showed me unconditional love. My biggest fear was that I was going to get the sack. This was different to when I was 17 because I’d been playing and in the team, so there was more press coverage. I had to make a statement outside the front of my parents’ house. The press had been banging on the windows and everything. My mum and dad live in a little cul de sac, and you had all these TV vans with satellite dishes all coming round, and I had to stand outside. It wasn’t good, but it was my own fault.

TB: I guess it’s the impact that it has on other people close to you, and dealing with the guilt?

AT: Yes, but again I got support. It was a Friday, and Sheepshanks rang me. He said “where are you?”, so I told him I was round my mum and dad’s. He advised me not to open the door because he’d heard that the press were on their way round. We compiled a statement between us, that I then read outside Mum and Dad’s front door at about half past five. He was first class, he said “it’s happened, we just need to get on and deal with it”.

TB: What was the local press coverage like?

AT: I remember the Evening Star had the billboards, blacked out with “Tanner Cocaine Shame”, but I decided not to read it all. The club gave me a suspension for two weeks so I was away from Ipswich for two weeks. That paid part of my ban too. The club needed to be seen to be doing something, they couldn’t say we’re backing him but not taking any action against him. It was tough. I hadn’t bought this place and was still living with my Mum and Dad. The thing you love has been taken away from you, and you’re hanging on by your fingertips to not lose it.

TB: What help or support did you get from the PFA?

AT: I think Neil Thompson was our rep. I spoke to the PFA at the time, but because it was an isolated incident rather than a problem and something I was doing all the time they didn’t do much. Gordon Taylor was there at my hearing with Brendan Batson. We went in to the room, and there was three older men. Reg Burr the old Millwall Chairman fell asleep during my hearing. I looked up and he was just asleep. I thought oh god, you’ve got my career at your fingertips here and you’re asleep. Someone gave him a nudge and woke him up. It was a horrendous day to be honest.

TB: Did you have any inkling what the likely outcome would be?

AT: None at all. I was one of the first to get to a hearing. I’ve heard so many rumours about other players, about it getting hushed up but that was definitely a route that Sheepshanks wasn’t going to go down and he made that quite clear. He said “I’ll back you, but we cannot brush this under the carpet”, and you have to respect that. I got a three month ban, and had already done a month so I think it was quite lenient really.

TB: Do you keep in touch with people at the club?

AT: I’ve still got contacts at the club, I speak to Milts, and I speak to Edwina who is the receptionist. …  I gave the club some really bad press, but whenever I go back they welcome me with open arms, and I can’t fault them.

There’s always an ex-players dinner, but I never went. But I went two years ago. Burley and Sheepshanks were there, they shook my hand, I had a good laugh with them. There was no bitterness at all from them. I won’t have a bad word said against Ipswich as a club, or Sheepshanks or George Burley. The club is first-class.

You can read the full, exclusive interview with Adam Tanner in our printed or downloadable fanzine.