Ipswich youth glory
When they beat Bale, Walcott and co.
GARETH Bale, Adam Lallana and Theo Walcott have all commanded big transfer fees after coming through the Southampton academy, but in 2005 they were rendered speechless by a 15-year-old.
Ed Upson’s extra-time strike, in front of almost 15,000 people at Portman Road, saw Ipswich Town win the 2005 FA Youth Cup final, beating a Saints side brimming with talent.
The first leg, which was played at St Mary’s, ended 2-2, with Cathal Lordon netting a brace for the Tractor Boys and David McGoldrick – who nows plays for Ipswich – and Leon Best finding the net for the Saints.
Goal-hero Upson was only selected for the Suffolk side for the second leg because regular midfielder Owen Garvan was rushed to hospital with a virus, but, without him, they may not have won the tournament.
After the game, then-academy coach Bryan Klug said of Upson: “Edward is a boy in our under-15s team and has been doing really well. At 15, to play in front of 14,000 people and Sky television, it could have gone horribly wrong.”
Of the squad used over the two legs, only four of the players went on to make more than ten first-team appearances for Ipswich. Upson, whose now with Millwall, failed to play a single game.
The Tractor Boys’ other second leg hero was goalkeeper Shane Supple. The Irishman, who quit football at 22, kept Southampton at bay, making several key saves. Supple only made 34 appearances for Ipswich, before choosing to retire from football and return to Ireland, where he took up Gaelic football.
The popular shot-stopper admitted that his side’s youth cup win was fortunate.
“It was mainly luck,” he said. “We had a good team spirit, but, on paper, they were the stronger team.
“From the first round to the final we had a lot of luck, but we had some good games in between.”
Southampton’s side that night didn’t just contain Bale, Lallana and Walcott. They also boasted talents like Nathan Dyer, McGoldrick, Tim Sparv and Martin Cranie.
Many of the Saints side have gone on to play professional football across Europe, but the same cannot be said of the Tractor Boys.
Players like James Krause, Stuart Ainsley and Blair Hammond all dropped down in to the non-league ladder. Most of them remain in East Anglia, playing semi-professionally.
A look back through the FA Youth Cup history books will tell you that this fall from grace is not unusual. For the many great names that have graced the youth cup final, more never reach their potential.
For Ipswich Town’s 2004/05 team though, they’ll always be able to tell people the story of how they beat Gareth Bale and co.