Ex-Ipswich footballer opens up on brutal reality of being released aged 18 1 month ago

Ex-Ipswich footballer opens up on brutal reality of being released aged 18

"I would never have left home."

All Lewis Reed ever wanted to do was become a professional footballer. He was so determined to realise that dream, he moved 300 miles across the country for a chance to make it happen. Of course, most people fail in this dream, such is the ruthless nature of professional football. But football has a duty of care towards those who are nurtured through the youth systems before being discarded when they become surplus to requirements at such a young age.

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Reed was released by Ipswich at the age of 18, and has since admitted that had he known "the treatment that myself and fellow teammates would experience, I would have never left home at the age of 16, knowing what I do now at 19."

In a long statement posted to his Twitter account, Reed referenced the recent death of former Manchester City youth player Jeremy Wisten as the event that prompted him to open up about his experience in youth football and more specifically, what came after being released.

"Before starting my scholarship back in 2018, the desire inside me and the passion I had for football at the time was the reason I decided to move nearly 300 miles away to chase my dream as a professional footballer. However, if I was to know the treatment myself and fellow teammates would experience, I would have never left home at the age of 16," he said.

"In my duration at Ipswich, we had boys from Ireland, France, Wales, which meant starting a whole new life living in host accommodation away from your family.

"Being so far away from home, my parents were not able to see me every week like so many of the boys and we couldn't go home to see them very often.

"The football club rarely took an interest to see how you were getting on living away from home."

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Reed says it took a year before someone at the club asked how he was coping with living with other boys in his host family's house. And that was a first team player asking, not a coach.

Reed says he had "more support from the first team players when it came to people asking how I was getting on being away from home as they had experienced the same in their early careers."

Reed says this shows "a lack of care from the club as a whole," adding "nobody was there to take an interest."

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Reed also recalls picking up an injury in his first year at the club, and when the physio informed the coach he wouldn't travel to an away game, he says the coach's response was that "Lewis doesn't fancy a four hour trip to Southampton then?"

The teenager said this was the "start of the downfall of the relationship, or lack of it, I had with my coaches."

Reed claims he would say hello to coaches in the canteen every morning and was never once asked how he was or when he would return from his injury in return.

"Not being in the group made me feel like I was forgotten about completely," he says.

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In perhaps the most shocking revelation in Reed's statement, he claims that a coach told him to "man up and get on with it" after he went down in agony having received a painful stamp on his toe that was already injured with an ingrowing nail.

"This proved there was zero understanding of my welfare," Reed says.

Reed needed surgery on his toe.

Reed was released at the end of his second season at the club. He says a lot of the boys were offered loans to other professional clubs to gain experience but not him. He felt he was there to "make up the numbers in training."

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Following the end of his Ipswich nightmare, Reed embarked on a trial at Colchester, which he said made him "fall in love with football again."

However, the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered the move. After moving back home to Swansea, that is when he was hit with depression, when he began to process everything that had happened in the past two years.

Reed finished his statement by calling on academy football across the board to do more in preparing boys for the brutal inevitability of being released.

"In you have guidance officers who could help you with what you could do when you leave after either year 11 or year 13," he points out.

"There is no such system within academies. The boys are thrown back into the real world without any support or guidance for what could be their next step in life."

Reed says his family helped him find the courage to speak up on this issue, and he has urged any other young players in a similar situation to tell their stories, in his words, "so we don't lose another Jeremy Wisten."

Ipswich Town declined to comment when contacted by JOE.