“We’re obviously delighted that Luke and Armando have both signed long term deals" says Lee who highlights Academy's continuing key role
Lee O’Neill has reiterated the importance of the Club’s Academy after another homegrown product signed a long term deal and also outlined Town’s determination to hang on to ‘wanted’ players.
Ipswich-born Luke Woolfenden has just signed a four year contract until 2024 after progressing through the youth ranks and becoming a first-team regular in 2019/20.
The 21-year-old follows fellow Academy graduate Armando Dobra who has also recently agreed a new three year contract, while another young homegrown Blue, Flynn Downes, is contracted to the summer of 2022 with the Club having a year option on top.
All three were the subject of reported interest from Premier League and Championship clubs in the January transfer window, with Lee, Town’s general manager of football operations, seeing that as a positive.
“If clubs are said to be interested in our young players, then that means they are performing well enough to make an impression and that the potential is there. I’d be more worried if our players weren’t linked with clubs,” he told the Club website.
“We’re obviously delighted that Luke and Armando have both signed long term deals and as a club, we want to hang on to our best players whatever age. I think Marcus [Evans, Club owner] has proved that down the years.
“Like any club though, if an offer comes in for a player you have to look at it. We had that situation in January and we turned down bids for players.”
Lee also stressed the role the Academy continues to have in the Club’s future, with as many as 18 youngsters who have come through - or are coming through - Town’s youth production line representing the first-team in 2019/20.
“The Academy staff take great pride in seeing any young player wear the first-team shirt and what’s important is that we continue to provide a pathway for our homegrown players to progress from our Academy into the senior set-up,” he added.
“We don’t know the financial situation we will return to when the new season starts and we will clearly need a balance of senior players alongside some younger ones but producing our own players remains one of the cornerstones of Ipswich Town.”